Sunday, March 16, 2014

1973 Mets Fantazy Card Opening Day Line-Up

The New York Mets would face off against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium on opening day 1973. It would be a classic pitching match-up of Tom Seaver vs. Steve Carlton. The Mets would keep their opening day winning streak going, taking their fourth such contest in a row.
1) Bud Harrelson led off for the Mets on opening day.
Buddy was 28 years old and in the prime of his career. He was not a great hitter, but a smart a skilled batter who found ways to contribute. Fielding wise he was one of the best shortstops in the game. In '73 he only made 10 errors and his .979 fielding percentage was his best as an everyday player..
In 1973 Harrelson would bat lead-off for the Mets twenty-two times.
Buddy led off the Mets season by drawing a walk and was then erased as Felix Millan hit into a double play. All told Harrelson had three at bats and no hits.
2) Felix Millan would bat 2nd and play 2nd base.
New York acquired Felix Millan in November of 1972 along with pitcher George Stone for pitchers Gary Gentry and Danny Frisella.
After hitting into a double play his first time up as a Metropolitan, Millan's second at bat had better results. Felix ripped a gapper for a two base hit and came around to score on Cleon's 4th inning homer. That was his only hit of the game as he grounded out in his last two trips.
3) Willie Mays would bat third and play centerfield.
Tommie Agee had been traded to the Houston Astros right after the end of the 1972 season. If anyone else had started in center this day I would have been ticked off. Agee was my favorite New York player. But this was Willie Mays who was my favorite non-Mets player for years. So it made the transition much easier.
Mays opened the season going 0 for 3.
4) Rusty Staub would bat clean-up and play right field.
After Staub's injury abbreviated 1972 season New York needed a full, healthy and productive Rusty in '73. And they got one.
This opening day Rusty did nothing to speak of at the plate (0-3)but he did in the field. After Larry Bowa singled in the 6th Philly right fielder(& future Met) Willie Montanez came to the plate with two out. He hit a rocket to deep right that Staub tracked down in full flight, grabbing it and smashing into the wall for the third out. Rusty fell and lay on the warning track with the wind knocked out of him. He soon recovered, rose and trotted to the dugout, no worse for the wear. At the far end of the season in the NLCS, Staub would make a similar catch that he wouldn't trot away from without injury.
5) Batting 5th and playing left field for New York is Cleon Jones.
Injuries would limit Jones to 92 games in 1973.
Cleon Jones enjoyed facing Steve Carlton. It's no wonder. He owned a lifetime .303 average against the southpaw. On opening Day 1973 Cleon was the player of the game. He was 3 for 3 with 2 home runs and drove in all three New York runs.
6) John Milner would bat 6th and play first base.
Milners 17 gophers in 1972 gave him the inside track in the first base department. He would play 95 games there. He also would play 29 game in left field.
On opening day Milner had three at bats and no hits.
7) Jim Fregosi would play third base and bat 7th.
Fregosi could not have been having a good time of it. After being traded for Nolan Ryan (& a bunch of other Mets) Fregosi had an absolutely horrible year at the plate in 1972. He was brought in to be a prime offensive addition. Now he was starting the '73 season batting 7th. It didn't help that Ryans '72 season was his breakout year in which he struck out 329 and 9 of his 19 wins were shut-outs. Mets fans were already crying in their beer over the trade, that even after 40 years is considered by some the worst trade in the history of baseball.
Fregosi would play in 45 games in '73, and on July 11th he was sold to the Texas Rangers.
Jim singled in the 5th, popped out to second and struck out on opening day 1973.
8) Batting eighth and catching for the Mets is Duffy Dyer.
Dyer had his best season in 1972. He played in a career-high 94 games and achieved career bests with eight homers and 36 RBIs. He led the National League catchers with 12 double plays and threw out the majority of runners that tried to steal (40 of 79). Injuries to Jerry Grote gave Duffy more playing time and he took advantage of it. When Grote returned in '72 Yogi continued to use Dyer, and considered him his starting catcher at the start of 1973. After an awful start which saw him batting .114 going into May, Duffy found himself backing up Grote once again. On May 11th Grote suffered a broken arm after being hit by a pitch and Dyer would again be the Mets starting catcher until Jerry returned in July.
Dyer had no hits in three trips tom the plate to start the '73 season.
9)Batting 9th and pitching for the New York Mets, George Thomas Seaver.
Seaver pitched a beautiful game to start the season. Up against Phils ace Steve Carlton, Tom held up his side of the duel. Both all-stars gave up only 5 hits but Carlton could not keep Cleon in the park. The Franchise was cruising when Jose Pagan doubled in the 5th. The threat was quickly stifled as Seaver struck out the side. In the 8th inning Tom looked to be running out of gas. The Met righty gave up a double to pinch hitter Bill Robinson and walked Phils centerfielder Del Unser. With two out Tom made way for Tug McGraw, who came on for the 4 out save.
After defeating the Phillies on Opening Day, Seaver’s consistency outshone that of his teammates. On May 29, he struck out 16 San Francisco Giants and was named National League Player of the Week. The Mets were 30-35, Seaver was 9-4. When Berra rhetorically asked sportswriter Terry Shore where the Mets would be without Seaver, the writer replied, “In last place with a 17-game losing streak and certainly out of any division race.”

Honorable Mention: Reliever Tug McGraw

Tug came on with 2 out in the 8th to extinguish Toms flare up. He faced Willie Montanez with runners on first and second. Tugger got the Phils slugger to line out to third and ended the threat. Then he set Philadelphia down in order in the 9th and picked up the 4 out save.

Tug had a real nice April. In 7 appearances he compiled 5 saves with a 1.59 ERA.

>Hank M for his game memory post regarding this game (Rusty's catch) at the Ultimate Mets Data Base

>Adam Ulrey of the SABR provided the info used for Duffy Dyer.
>Maxwell Kates of the SABR wrote the closing bit on Tom Seaver.

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