Mets Card of the Week: 1980 Kevin Kobel


1980 Kobel

This date in Mets history found a franchise in need of a comeback scoring a big one.

The 1980 Mets sit directly in the middle of that painful period from 1977 to 1983, when it felt to a fan as if a fifth or sixth place finish and a .400 winning percentage was a birthright.

By 1980, a Mets follower held no real hope in April, and lived on the grace of the rare strong individual performance or the stray memorable game.

The May 28 tilt against the struggling Cardinals did not start out with any great potential for either. Starter Ray Burris was betrayed by his defense, and found himself pulled from the game with one out in the sixth inning, having allowed five runs (only two of which were earned).

At the same time, John Fulgham was silencing the Mets bats, yielding two hits over the first seven innings, and handing a 5-0 lead to Jim Otten.

Otten struck out Jose Moreno to start the eighth, but then walked Lee Mazzilli and Frank Taveras. After Mike Jorgensen popped out to Keith Hernandez at first base, Otten loaded the bases by issuing a free pass to Joel Youngblood.

Cardinals skipper Ken Boyer had seen enough, and called on Mark Littell to face Mets catcher John Stearns.

After a Stearns single plated two runs, Littell– in the apparent spirit of the inning– walked Steve Henderson to again load the bases. Boyer countered by bringing in George Frazier to face Elliott Maddox, who responded with a bases-clearing, game-tying double.

Ron Hodges was walked intentionally, setting up Moreno for his second at bat of the inning. And this time he came through, knocking in the go-ahead run with a single to right. Jim Kaat then relieved Frazier and put a merciful end to the inning.

The potential beneficiary of all these runs was Kevin Kobel, who had recorded the final three outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Neil Allen closed out the win for the Mets with two shaky innings of relief, and Kobel was awarded the victory.

As fate would have it, this would be Kobel’s final big-league win, and one of his last appearances in the majors. He was traded to the Royals a few weeks after this game, and never again made it out of AAA.

3 comments for “Mets Card of the Week: 1980 Kevin Kobel

  1. May 28, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Kevin Kobel was a player that few remember from a Mets era we’d all like to forget. From his picture, you can see that he was a lefty. In 37 G as a reliever, he threw 67.2 IP and had a 3.46 ERA, all while facing 3X as many righty batters as lefty ones.

    And now the game is played to maximize the number of chances a lefty reliever has versus LHB. Scott Rice has faced over twice as many LHB as RHB. In his career, he’s played in 98 games (more than 2.5 times as many as Kobel) and has thrown fewer innings – only 62.1

    And Rice’s ERA is 4.04

    Here’s the run environments for their Mets careers:

    Kobel — 1978 (3.99), 1979 (4.22), 1980 (4.03)
    Rice — 2013 (4.00), 2014 (3.96)

    Kobel threw more innings, he faced overhwelmingly RHB and their run environments were nearly identical.

    Yet Kobel was considered fungible and somehow Rice is a sacred cow.

    One day sanity will return to bullpen management.

  2. Patrick Albanesius
    May 28, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Haha, man you really want Rice gone! Can’t blame you really.

  3. Jim OMalley
    May 28, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    At least it doesn’t have “Deceased” typed on the card.

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