The Mets will be honored on the franchiseís 50th anniversary at the Baseball Assistance Teamís annual fund-raising dinner Tuesday in Manhattan. B.A.T. helps former players and baseball employees who have fallen on hard times.
The Hall of Famer Tom Seaver will be among the many former Mets and other players at the dinner. Seaver, 67, holds the teamís career records for pitching victories (198) and strikeouts (2,541). He and his wife, Nancy, own Seaver Vineyards on Diamond Mountain in Calistoga, Calif. In a recent phone conversation, he spoke about wine, baseball and the Mets.
How do you spend your time now?
Iím in the vineyard every day, and I do a lot of the grunt work. I donít do real technical stuff, but my learning curve has been rather good in understanding what goes on. But thereís certain things I do not do, from a pruning point, etc.
Q. How is the business going?
A. Four vintages have come out now; 2005 was the first. The í08 got 97 points from The Wine Spectator. The decisions are made by my vineyard manager, Jim Barbour, and my winemaker, Thomas Brown. And Thomasís uncle was Bobby Richardson, the former Yankee. All the people at the vineyard and at Outpost, where my wine is vinified, are big baseball fans. So itís kind of a marriage made in heaven.
Q. What wine would you recommend for Mets fans to help make the season more palatable?
A. We just put out our í08, and it essentially sold out. But to get on our buyer list, Karen Seaver will help you. And itís kind of a family affair. Karen Seaver is running the business. She is married to my nephew, my brotherís middle boy. There is some í07 left. But theyíre all very good.
Q. How will the Mets do?
A. They have to have a game plan. And when they hired Sandy Alderson, Iím sure he brought a game plan with him. You have to hand that responsibility to someone who has been in the arena and Sandy has been there. Iím sure heíll do a good job. And any time you rebuild, you have to have patience.
Q. What do you think about their pitching prospects, including Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler?
A. Iím a huge advocate of pitching. You have to have good pitching as the solid core, the foundation. It keeps you in every game.
Go back to í69. We were in every game we played. That raises the level of play of everybody else on the ball club. Because youíre going to win by one run, or two runs. So that makes you hit the cutoff man, move the runner over and do the things that fundamentally make the ball club win. Iím sure that Sandy will be very strong at that.
Q. The Mets are looking for investors.
A. Hopefully, they can get the right people to be able to do it. I donít know the timeline. You would think you want try to get it done as quickly as you possibly can and then get the focus off that and get it back on the field.
Q. Do you have any interest in getting back into baseball?
A. I have no interest. I got very tired of the travel. I like being home with my wife, my three Labrador retrievers and the vineyard. But I have the same kind of stimulation that I had with baseball. I canít wait to get to the vineyard. Iím usually in the vineyard by 7 oíclock, seven days a week.
Q. What do think about the success that your former teammate Nolan Ryan has had as the president of the Texas Rangers?
A. Heís done a wonderful job. But prior to that, he did a good job putting his cattle business together and a few other things. We were very close. He came light-years from where he was on those early Met teams we were on. He had the best talent of anybody on the club. I always knew he was going to do it. Hereís a guy from Alvin, Tex., and you put him in the middle of New York City. My God. And he did not have college. Then he figured it out after they traded him. And I couldnít believe that they did trade him.
The story is he went to Anaheim and they said: ďHereís the ball, and youíre pitching every time your slot comes up. We donít care if youíre 0-20. Youíre pitching.Ē They took all the pressure off him. And thatís how you do it. You get in the pool, swim the laps and get it done. Like the way Rube Walker used to put it: if the ballís in your shoe, that means youíre pitching today. All the disciplines he had in pitching heís transferred to his work with the Rangers. He knows the game.
Q. Ryan has campaigned against pitch counts. Do you agree?
A. Thereís nothing wrong with pitch counts. But thereís an addendum to that. I presume Nolan thinks the same way. But it isnít a blanket pitch count. People say, ďI bet the pitch count drives you nuts.Ē Heck no. I had a pitch count. My pitch count as a general rule was 135. And I knew how many pitches I had when I went to the mound for the last three innings. And I wasnít going to spend eight pitches on the No. 8 hitter. On the second or third pitch, he should be hitting a ground ball to shortstop. It might not work like that all the time. But theoretically, you have an approach about how youíre spending your bullets.
Thereís nothing wrong with pitch counts. But not when itís spit out by a computer and the computer does not look at an individualís mechanics. And you canít look at his genes. It should come from the individual and the pitching coach and the manager.
Q. What do think about the extra wild-card team?
A. I think itís all financial. I understand about the salaries today and theyíre looking to generate as much income as they can. I donít blame them. Itís a business; thatís what the job of ownership is. But it dilutes everything. You get rewarded for how you play in the postseason. You might have the best record, but you donít get to the World Series necessarily.
Q. What pitchers do you enjoy watching?
A. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain with San Francisco. Once a year I take my whole wine team down to see the Giants and we meet the players. Iíve never seen anyone pitch like Lincecum that can throw the ball and get through the front leg. He has that stiff front leg. In essence, his throwing arm does not bull whip or backlash. So he doesnít put all the secondary energy into his shoulder and his elbow. Heís got a chance to pitch for a long time. I donít like the mechanics from the standpoint of what they do. But heís learned to compensate and finish with the correct motion.
Q. Is there a pitcher who reminds you of yourself?
A. Cain is very similar mechanically to the way I threw. Very similar.
Q. What hitter who was not a star or a Hall of Famer gave you the most trouble?
A. I had a lot of trouble getting Tommy Hutton out. A lot of times you look at the hitter and you can see. Well, I can get him here, I can get him there, I can get him in that spot. I never figured him out.
Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
A. Pitching well consistently over long periods of time. And I love what I did. I adored what I did.
Q. A player you faced many times, Ron Santo, was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. What do you remember about playing against him?
A. I donít think I ever saw anybody so enthusiastic about playing every day and about being a representative of his ball club. He loved the Cubs. It was a romance made in heaven. He was a proís pro. And I didnít necessarily like him for that reason. But did I appreciate him? Youíre darn right I did.
Q. Will your former manager Gil Hodges, a former Dodger, ever get into the Hall of Fame?
A. I donít know. Everybody in the New York area wonders why heís not in. His numbers are high middle. But what else did he do? He was the leader on that ball club that went to the World Series and beat the Yankees. He was the leader of a ball club and franchise that went to the World Series. If you look at his body of work, I say yes. Absolutely.
Q. Should steroid users be allowed into the Hall of Fame?
A. The commissioner and baseball has to figure that out. Theyíre going to have guys that have great numbers not in the Hall of Fame. They have to figure that out.
Q. Any regrets in your career?
A. None. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was totally exciting. And the road trips didnít bother me until I had children. Thatís part of the deal.
I never met Seaver, but I heard that fans that have met him say he is a jerk. To me its hearsay, so I putting it out there for people to confirm or deny.
He confronted a friend of mine back in high school who was working at a Country Club that Seaver went to. He basically told him to keep his eyes off of his daughter. This guy was a bit of a player, but swears he did not hit on her in any way. Came across as uptight and overprotective.