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My Personal Tribute to Bob Ojeda

Mike SteffanosMonday, August 13, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

In September of 1988, left-hander Bob Ojeda almost severed the tip of one of his fingers while using an electric hedge trimmer. Many Mets fans who are too young to remember the 80s don't realize what a great pitcher Ojeda was before arm injuries and this little faux pas eroded his skills. I, however, both remember and revere Bob Ojeda as one of the most underrated pitchers who plied their trade in Flushing.

Approaching the 19th anniversary of Ojeda's gardening misadventure, I struggled to come up with a way to commemorate it. Yesterday the answer came to me quite unexpectedly as I was trimming the hedges in my own back yard. Yes, that little jolt of pain in my left index finger meant that I, too, managed to cut into a body part while trying to trim up the greenery. Although not as dramatic as Ojeda's injury, I managed to cut about a quarter inch into the tip of my finger through the nail. Needless to say, my dreams of being a world-famous pianist are over. It's okay, though -- never actually learning how to play the piano probably held me back almost as much.

Although I am grateful that, unlike Bob, I injured my non-pitching hand, it's playing havoc with my already poor typing skills. Therefore, I won't waste a lot of words on the last two games of the Marlins series.

I thought that Ron Darling and Gary Cohen were remarkably candid about the Mets during Sunday's telecast. Darling in particular said the Mets were using their continued run in first place as a crutch, and it was time for the team as a whole to take responsibility for their season. Darling thought today's off day was a good time for the club to individually look in the mirror and decide that they were going to play the final six weeks of the season in a much different manner from the last 2-1/2 months. I find myself neither optimistic nor pessimistic as to how the season may play out, but agree that a solid stretch run can erase the frustration of watching this team underperform for so long.

The disappointing 2-4 homestand more or less cancelled out the great road trip that began August. The Mets now stand at 6-5 for the month after posting a 12-15 record in June and a 13-14 mark for July. The Mets are 31-34 since June 1, and if anyone really believes that playing .500 ball the rest of the way will net them a playoff spot, I think they're sadly mistaken. Going .500 the rest of the way would put them at 87-88 wins, and there's no playoff guarantee there. Stumble a couple of games under .500 and it gets less likely.

The Mets have had more than their share of misfortune this season, but seemed a little too quick at times to credit their struggles to the injuries -- seemingly more concerned with who wasn't in the lineup than with who actually was. I like the things that players like David Wright are saying now. There is an accountability that wasn't around a month ago. I'd like to see this club make the playoffs, and believe they will if everyone plays to their capabilities.

Some quick thoughts on the games:

Marlins 7 - Mets 5
Played Saturday, August 11, 2007

Whatever you believe the reason to be, Guillermo Mota is beginning to look like a lost cause in 2008. I know many attribute his struggles to not being on the juice, but his velocity is fine. When he flounders, it's atrocious location that sinks him. He can still look great at times, but seems to lose confidence whenever he runs into trouble.

Aaron Heilman earned himself the wrath of fans again, but it's fair to note that he has been the most dependable reliever for the past month. Like it or not, he's the best eighth inning option right now.

Box Score

Mets 10 - Marlins 4
Played Sunday, August 12, 2007

It wasn't the loveliest of games, but when you desperately need a win you can't afford to be too picky. I know many choose to focus on the continued struggles of Oliver Perez, but I actually took some solace in the fact that he was able to limit the damage rather than blow up. It was never destined to be smooth sailing straight through with Perez and Maine this year, but the media is now once again focused on the negative, and that's too bad. Every pitcher goes through rough spots, but in this endless struggle of a season everything is magnified.

If the Mets can keep Moises Alou healthy and Carlos Delgado can avoid month-long slumps, this team can score some runs. The key to me is Carlos Beltran. When he's patient and not getting himself out by chasing breaking pitches down and inside, he makes this lineup rather formidable. When he goes into his funks they're a lot easier to pitch to.

The finger is throbbing. More tomorrow.

Box Score

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (5)

Ouch Mike. Sorry to hear you have followed the Ojeda path in life. But hey, at least you weren't traded for Calvin Schiraldi!

Getting back to the Metropolitans, there's really no reason to get riled up anymore Mike. We've yelled and screamed about who should bat where, who should pitch when, who should be traded for, and who should be traded away. Yet nothing has really changed since early June. This team has continued to play consistently at what appears to be about 50% effort.

Now that the trade deadline has passed, and the key members of this team are getting healthy, we can take a deep breath and finally see the 2007 New York Mets. They are what they are. This is the cast of characters that the Mets are going to war with in the final push for a championship.

So in a sense, the Mets are in a great place. For the first time all year everyone knows their role. Every player now knows how they fit into the grand scheme of things in Flushing. All they need to do now is wake up, get energized and play like they're capable of playing.

All 25 men on that roster have to come to the park everyday with that hunger that creates champions. Despite all their troubles, they have a 3 game cushion. We're 7 weeks from October, and I have to believe that harsh memories of how 2006 ended will begin to resurface in the minds of each player who was a part of that nearly magical run. If that doesn't motivate these guys, well, then nothing will.

Basically Mike, if you recall a you wrote before the season started, many of us were going to make a conscious effort to sit back and enjoy this 2007 season without going crazy when things weren't going great. It's now time to hold true to that. The season will play itself out one way or another. I plan to enjoy the run.

I agree both with Mike and Salman.

I wanted to say a bit on Bob Ojeda. It got overlooked at the time, but Bobby O had one of the worst hard luck seasons ever in 1988.

If one thinks at all about hard luck pitchers in the 1980's, one will cite Nolan Ryan's '87 season, and with good reason; that year Ryan led the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA, fewest hits per nine....and finished with a record of 8 and 16. Pretty awful, but it is worth noting that the Astros as a team finished 78-84 that year; they suffered a general decline from their terrific '86 season and Ryan got the most of it.

But check out Bob Ojeda's line for the 1988 season: he was 3rd in the league in fewest hits plus walks per nine, led the league with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 4, pitched five shutouts, and had an ERA of 3.94 in games when he DIDN'T pitch a shutout. Take a pitcher's five best games out of his record, and if he isn't Johann Santana you're going to be surprised at the numbers you get; but Ojeda was plenty respectable across the board.

So, his numbers don't compare with Ryan's '87 season; few years do. But Bobby pitched very well that year, yet he managed a record of only 10-13 for a team that won 100 games! Even a modicum of non-awful luck and his Mets numbers would look very different; and if he hadn't chosen to trim the hedges that day Bobby O might have snuck into some of these All Time Mets discussions. But it was not to be.

Get better, Mike. I had a similar accident years ago. Now I have no feeling in the end of my ring finger of my left hand, but I can still play the guitar as poorly as ever.

Mike - That's one of the perils of home ownership. Heal that finger, wouldja? You can't be blogging without using the letters "T", "G", and "B".

I remember the Ojeda clipper incident vividly. But whenever I think of Bobby O and accidents, my spine shivers at the thought of Ojeda in a boat in Winter Haven, Florida, with Tim Crews and Steve Olin, both of whom lost their lives in what amounted to a drunk driving accident.

I echo Salman's sentiments about the half-cast, half-assed effort we've been watching since the end of May, but I can't just sit back and enjoy it (I'm suppressing the urge to quote Tex Antoine here). However, key members of this team have been "getting healthy" for the past two months now. The problem is, as you say, Mike, the performances of the nine guys that ARE in the lineup.

Their destiny is all in their hands now. I hope they wake up soon.

You brought up something I wanted to mention. At the time SNY hired Ronnie D, I assumed it was just another 'hire the beloved former player' affirmative action program. I didn't even realize he'd been working for the Nats.

Now I hope he's going to be on. I like Keith OK, but I've been greatly impressed by the job Ron's done. I figured he'd be articulate; he's also very knowledgeable and fun to listen to. I started with Lindsey, Murph & Ralph so I didn't just fall off the truck... but it seems like every game he points out something (especially about pitching) that I hadn't thought of.

Salman - What bothered me about this team wasn't the struggles, it was the lack of accountability of the players for playing beneath their capabilities for a long time. They seem to be past that now, and I find it much easier to watch games -- even though they're still not playing great ball.
dd - I agree on Ojeda. He was really snakebit in 88.
Nostra - I was merely doing my best Al Bundy imitation to amuse Lisa. As I said to Salman, at least the team seems to be accountable for their play now.
Mark - I like when they do all 3 of them in the booth and Ron and Keith are bouncing things off each other.

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