We all knew Tom Seaver was close to death the minute he was diagnosed with dementia last year.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised he passed away on Monday, especially since everyone continues to keep dying in 2020 whether it’s COVID-19, cancer, or natural causes.
Still, it’s hard to accept that he died at the age of 75. We prayed he would fight off dementia and keep ticking for another few years at least. We hoped to see him stay alive at least until he is 80, which would be the right timing for anyone’s death. We thought he would beat dementia because of the character and talent he possessed on the mound when the Mets handed him the ball. With his presence as bigger than life, we felt anything is possible.
It did not happen. Maybe it was for the best because he was not functioning anymore, and it’s hard to live that way. Still, it depresses the soul that a person like him is dead.
I wished I saw Seaver pitched, especially in his prime. I only know about him through stories and anecdotes. My memories of Seaver come from watching him do Yankees and Mets games on television as an analyst. He offered nothing as an analyst, but we liked him because he was the best pitcher this franchise ever had, so he could do no wrong no matter what.
Seaver was the best pitcher in franchise history for a reason. He won big games, and he knew how to lead. The Mets knew they would win when he was out there. His starts turned out to be the main event because he was so good.
He represented an identity of the 1969 Mets of knowing how to win and having guys follow his lead. He instilled that winning aura toward others with his presence. He was the Mets’, Pied Piper. He was Mets baseball.
Matt Harvey could have been Seaver, but injuries destroyed him altogether.
Dwight Gooden could have been Tom Terrific, but drugs and personal problems broke him.
Jacob deGrom could be as close to Seaver. The only problem is the Mets are so bad that deGrom’s starts do not exactly inspire anyone to watch. It’s a crime the Mets wasted his performances by being an awful team. He may have to be traded elsewhere for him to achieve personal success and win a championship.
Yes, Seaver benefited by being at the right place at the right time, which everything clicked for the ‘69 Mets aka the Miracle Mets. But still, his success provided an infusion of hope for a franchise gaining a footing in Major League Baseball after being an expansion team in 1962. He started his career with the Mets in 1967, setting the foundation of the Miracle Mets. One great player makes all the difference for a team, and Seaver played that role so well.
Playing in New York can make or break a player. Yes, there wasn’t much pressure for anyone to win in 1969. No matter. Seaver embraced wanting to be the guy in New York. He relished being the guy that put the Mets into relevancy in a rich baseball market that used to have three baseball teams before the Giants and Dodgers moved to California. He set the bar in showing how it’s done in playing in New York.
For 16 straight seasons going back to his rookie season in 1967, he won 15 straight double-digit games. That’s unheard of now with most starting pitchers these days.
He won at least 20 or more games twice in his decorated career. He won 311 games with a 2.86 ERA in 20 seasons he pitched.
Anyone that watched him in the 60s and 70s should feel blessed and lucky. Guys like him don’t come often. Yes, Mets fans of this generation saw deGrom, but there’s no way he can ever be Seaver. Seaver was just a different breed back then.
Stats told how good he was. Eyes made it so much better. Anyone that watched him can paint a different and better story of how good he really was. For people that never saw him, YouTube videos and stories do not do justice. Watching him in person enhances his legacy even more.
Just looking back, it amazes me that the Wilpons never erected a statue of him when Citi Field opened in 2010. He was only the best pitcher this franchise ever had. For whatever reason, there’s nothing about him when one enters Citi Field. Not even a mural. It shows again why the Wilpons will never get it.
Whoever owns the Mets whether it’s Steve Cohen or anyone else, erecting a statue of Seaver should be a priority. He earned it. It’s a tragedy that he won’t ever see that happen. This itself makes his death so tragic. At 74 years old or whatever the age, no one should suffer dementia. No one should die in their 70s just yet.
He does not need to suffer anymore, but it does not change that it’s tragic, especially to a pitcher who was bigger than life. When we watch greatness in their prime, we always think people like him can live forever and ever.
We could not prepare for the worst because we thought Seaver could survive for a few more years just for being imposing.
We celebrate and mourn him way too soon, even in the year of death in 2020.
Featured Image: Kathy Willens/Associated Press