Mets Through the Years: Opening Day Pitchers
April 5th, 2012 by slangon

This is the third post in this series. So far we’ve covered the men who have served as the manager of the Mets and the men who’ve caught the pitches. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the guys who have thrown those pitches.

Initially, I was toying with the idea of showing the whole pitching staff throughout the team’s history, but then I realized the ridiculousness of that. Just showing a 4 or 5 man rotation for 50 years worth of teams is crazy enough, but then you factor in all the guys who only lasted half the season or got a spot start here or there and multiply that by 50 and you’d be looking a hundreds of cards in one post. That’s not even counting the bullpen. Since today is Opening Day, we’ll just look at some of the pitchers who’ve toed the rubber for the Mets on the first day of the season, in cardboard form, of course.

Roger Craig had the honor of making the first ever start for the newly formed Metropolitains on April 11, 1962. The Mets began the year on the road, where they lost 4-11 against the Cardinals. Craig gave up 5 runs in 3 innings and took the loss. He also pitched Opening Day in 1963 and he didn’t fare much better. That year he gave up 7 runs in 5.1 innings and once again was pegged with the “L”. Opening Day Record: 0-2.

Al Jackson took over Opening Day duties for the 1964 and 1965 seasons. His numbers are slightly better than Craig’s, but not good enough for a “W”. In 1964, he went 7.1 innings, allowing 5 runs. The following year, he allowed 6 runs in 5 innings. Opening Day Record: 0-4.

Jack Fisher took a turn at trying to get the team their first Opening Day win in 1966. He pitched pretty well, throwing a complete game while only allowing 2 earned runs. unfortunately for him, the Braves scored a third unearned run that was the difference as the final score was Atlanta 3, New York 2. Opening Day Record: 0-5.

Despite the fact that this is a 1968 card, Don Cardwell tried his luck on Opening Day, 1967. Much like Jack Fisher before him, he fell victim to the Mets sloppy defense (something I fear will be a common occurrence in 2012). He went 8 innings, allowing 5 runs, only 3 of which were earned. Final score – Pittsburgh 5, Mets 3. Opening Day Record: 0-6.

Tom Seaver took over Opening Day duties in 1968. He left the game with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th with the Mets clinging to a 4-3 lead. Danny Frisella was brought in to relieve the ace and immediately gave up the tying and go ahead runs. Seaver went on to pitch every Opening Day until 1977, with the Mets winning 7 out 10. Opening Day Record: 7-9.

After the notorious Midnight Massacre of 1977 saw The Franchise head to Cincinnati, Jerry Koosman got the Opening Day call in 1978. He threw a 9 inning gem against the Expos, only allowing a solo homer to future Met and Hall of Famer Gary Carter (R.I.P.) while fanning 7 and walking none. Opening Day Record: 8-9.

Craig Swan took the hill for the 1979 and 1980 Opening Day games. He picked up both wins and combined for 15 innings pitched, a 3.33 ERA, 1 walk and 6 strikeouts. Opening Day Record: 10-9.

Pat Zachry was next up for the Mets, earning them another Opening Day win. Although he only went 5.2 innings and walked 4, he didn’t give up any runs against the Cubs. Opening Day Record: 11-9.

Veteran lefty Randy Jones defeated veteran lefty Steve Carlton and the Phillies on Opening Day of 1982 by only allowing 1 unearned run over 6 innings. Somehow the anemic 1982 Mets lineup was able to score 6 times off of Carlton over the same number of innings. Opening Day Record: 12-9.

Tom Seaver found his way back to the Mets in 1983 and pitched his 11th Opening Day for the team. Once again the team beat Steve Carlton, but they did all their scoring after Tom Terrific left the game. Opening Day Record: 13-9.

Mike Torrez got the Opening Day nod in 1984, much to the chagrin of Mets fans everywhere. He gave up 6 runs in just 1.1 innings for an unsightly 40.50 ERA. The Mets, unsurprisingly, lost to the Reds. It was their first Opening Day loss in 9 years. Opening Day Record: 13-10.

1985 was the beginning of the on-again, off-again Dwight Gooden era. He started on Opening Day in 1985 and 1986, but missed 1987 after entering rehab for cocaine addiction. He didn’t pitch particularly well in ’85, but he threw a 9 inning, 2 run gem in ’86. The Mets won both games, however. Opening Day Record: 15-10.

Bobby Ojeda took the mound for the first game of 1987 while Doc was busy getting his nose clean. Although he gave up 10 hits over 7 innings, only 1 Pirate crossed the plate. The Mets hung on to win 3-2. Opening Day Record: 16-10.

Doc was healthy and ready to go for Opening Day of 1988, and stayed that way for the next 4 of seasons. The Mets went 3-1 on Opening Day during that stretch. Opening Day Record: 19-11.

David Cone got the Opening Day start over Doc in 1992. Although he didn’t get the win, Cone pitched really well, only giving up 2 runs over 8 innings, while striking out 9. Opening Day Record: 20-11.

Doc was back on the scene for the next 2 Opening Days, the final 2 Opening Day starts he would ever make. Doc had already started a serious decline at this point, but he still managed to pick up the Opening Day wins in both ’93 and ’94. Opening Day Record: 22-11.

1995 marked a clear change in the Mets as any vestiges of the ’86 Championship team were finally gone. Gooden, Kevin McReynold and Howard Johnson were the last remaining players from 1986 and they were all gone. Bobby Jones got the nod for the 1995 and 1996 Opening Day starts. The Mets lost in 14 innings in ’95 but bounced back to win in ’96. Opening Day Record: 23-12.

Just to illustrate how bad the Mets were during the early to mid 90’s, their Opening Day “Ace” in 1997 was Pete Harnisch. What was extra strange about that was that as far as I remember, Bobby Jones was healthy and ready to go and he had a great year that year, going 15-9. Either way, they lost 5-12 to the Padres. Opening Day Record: 23-13.

Fortunately, the Mets brass wised up and gave Bobby the nod for the ’98 Opening Day start. He didn’t get the “W”, but he did throw 6 innings of shutout ball against the Phillies and the Mets got another First Day win. Opening Day Record: 24-13.

One of my personal favorites, Al Leiter, toed the rubber on Opening Day of 1999. My personal feelings toward Al didn’t help him that day, though. They lost 2-6 to the Marlins (ugh). Opening Day Record: 24-14.

The team chose newly acquired ace Mike Hampton to start on Y2K Opening Day. Maybe not such a wise choice as the Cubs bested them that day, 3-5. Opening Day Record: 24-15.

Al was back at the top of the rotation in 2001 and 2002. The team won both games, with Al getting the win in 2002. Opening Day Record: 26-15.

One time Mets nemesis Tom Glavine was the Mets Opening Day starter in 2003 and 2004. He got pretty well shellacked in ’03 by the Cubs, giving up 5 runs in 3.2 innings. Of course it didn’t help that reliver Mike Bacsik came in an inning later and poured 9 runs worth of gasoline on the fire. Tommy righted the ship in ’04, beating his old club, Atlanta, 7-2. Opening Day Record: 27-16.

2005 was the start of the Mets ill-fated “Buy Up All the Big Names” era. One of those big names they bought that year was their Opening Day starter, Pedro Martinez. He threw a “quality start” but one Braden Looper blown save later and they lost the Reds 6-7. Opening Day Record: 27-17.

Due to the injury bug that took a bite out of Pedro, Tommy G. was back as the Opening Day starter in 2006-07. He pitched well both times, totaling 12 innings, 2 ER and 7 K’s. Opening Day Record: 29-17.

2008 saw the Mets making a huge splash during the offseason by winning the Johan Sweepstakes. He instantly became the true ace of the staff (not that he had much competition) and went on to pitch the next 3 Opening Days. Like a true ace, he picked up the win all 3 times. Opening Day Record: 32-17.

Unfortunately for the Mets (and Mike Pelfrey) a shoulder injury to Santana forced Terry Collins to officially name Mike Pelfrey as the team “ace” in 2011. He let up 5 runs in 4.1 innings on Opening Day to the Marlins, capped off by a John Buck grand salami in the 4th inning. Opening Day Record: 32-18.

Thankfully, Johan will be taking the hill once again for the Mets today. I know he’s coming back from a pretty serious shoulder surgery and he hasn’t pitched in the Majors in forever, but still. Knowing he’s on the mound, even if he’s not 100% makes me feel at least a little bit better. Opening Day Record: ???

So there you have it. Fifty years. Fifty Opening Days. 21 pitchers. Let’s play ball.

2 Responses to “Mets Through the Years: Opening Day Pitchers”

  1. Ooooh, excellent post. Wish I’d thought of this. I’d normally wish your team luck, but I’m still a nervous wreck after last season so may your hopes and dreams be crushed under Tommy’ Hanson’s hobnail boot.

  2. Update: Opening Day Record: 33-18. See everyone thought the Mets were going to be so bad this year. Here they are Undefeated and tied for first.

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