Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 29, 2006
BASEBALL: 25 Least-Favorite Mets, Part I
Ken Arneson at Catfish Stew discusses his 25 least-favorite A's of his lifetime of baseball fandom, and Alex Belth adds his 25 least-favorite Yankees. (This Red Sox fan offers up a partial list as well). Interestingly, a large number of players on each list played for both teams - Ken Phelps makes both lists, and Kenny Rogers, Johnny Damon, Luis Polonia, Greg Cadaret, Ruben Sierra, Esteban Loaiza, Don Baylor, Scott Sanderson, Jim Spencer, and Jay Witasick all make appearances.
So, who are my 25 least favorite Mets of the past 30 years? Why, funny you should ask. Today, we count down numbers 25-11:
First, the honorable mentions:
*Mike Piazza, first baseman. I never got down on Piazza throughout his Mets career, but it was hard to watch a first baseman whose natural reaction to throws in the dirt was to block them with his shins. Ouch.
*Hubie Brooks, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedeno Part II: All three of these guys were favorites of mine the first time they played for the Mets, but all (and, to a lesser extent, David Cone) were painful to watch the second time around, and in Cedeno's case he was also unmotivated, out of shape and a huge waste of money.
*Willie Montanez and Richie Hebner. I wasn't really old enough to know better, but I probably should have disliked Montanez and Hebner for their listless performances with the Mets in the Joe Torre era.
*Joe Torre. I'm not listing managers here, plus I didn't really hate Torre at the time, but the fact is that he managed a bad team as badly as he has managed the Yankees well.
25. Tom Glavine - Around May of last year, Glavine would have been near the top of this list; now, he's close to pitching himself off it. Besides a contract he didn't come close to justifying the first 2 1/2 years - and which I opposed at the time - Glavine was a guy who killed the Mets as part of the staff of their arch-nemesis the Braves, then killed them some more whenever he pitched against the Braves in a Mets uniform (he hasn't been effective against the Phillies either). Plus, he's a long-time Players Union activist. More honorable mentions here for other guys who went from Met-killing opponents to Met-killing Mets, including Tommie Herr and Kevin Bass.
24. Don Schulze - Schulze was only a Met for 5 games, but he fairly symbolized the disaster of 1987, when the Mets had 7 top starting pitchers but wound up scraping the bottom of the barrel due to a bizarre series of injuries and personal problems. Plus, how can you root for a guy who once sued the San Diego Chicken?
23. Bill Almon - Almon was a two-time offender. His first tour with the Mets, in 1980, he inexplicably decided to take up switch hitting, and batted .170. His second tour, in 1987, he was ineffective again off the bench, and whiffed to end the 10th inning in the Mets' last chance to win a crucial September 30 game against the Phillies, preventing them from having at least a chance to tie things up in the season-ending 3-game set against the White Rat and his Cardinals. Davey Johnson should have sent up Gregg Jefferies in that situation.
22. Bobby Bonilla - I know a lot of people would rank Bonilla much more highly, but after his first season he did hit outstandingly well, and I did feel at the time that he got a raw deal from the press. Still, Bonilla was constantly unhappy as a Met, he stank his first year, and to top it off he was largely a useless malcontent when he returned in
21. Vince Coleman - Coleman's first two years with the Mets (1991 & 1992) were actually two of his best with the bat (OBPs of .347 and .355), but he couldn't stay healthy and had declined to mere mortal on the bases (61 steals and 23 caught in 143 games). He, too, had some unpleasant issues off the field, including throwing a firecracker that injured some fans, a few of them kids. Plus, to top it off, Coleman was - like Glavine and Bonilla - yet another guy whose problems with the Mets contrasted with his stardom on prior teams that beat up on the Mets.
20. Kaz Ishii - Ishii was a pointless and futile acquisition last year, and a frustrating pitcher to watch, with terrible control but lacking the overpowering stuff to compensate for it.
19. Todd Zeile - Zeile had half a good year the first half of 2000, but otherwise was an emblem of the Mets' decline from the days of John Olerud. His futility with the bat also led directly to the Mo Vaughn deal. And then there was his blunders on the basepaths in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series (granted, he did hit well that postseason). Zeile also had a hopeles second act with the Mets in 2004, and ended up getting nearly 400 plate appearances.
18. Rafael Santana - Santana was a nice enough guy, but he was never more than an average glove man, wasn't a particularly fast baserunner, and couldn't hit his way out of the proverbial paper bag. The Mets have had many such infielders over the years, but on a team with no other significant weaknesses, he drove me nuts. He drove Davey Johnson to play Howard Johnson and Kevin Mitchell at shortstop whenever possible.
17. Dan Norman - Norman's high in at bats for the Mets was 110, but of course it was his lack of accomplishment that made Norman so frustrating. When the Mets traded Tom Seaver for three other players, none of them stars (Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry and Doug Flynn), the management (specifically, M. Donald Grant) justifed the deal by touting Norman as a prospect and saying it would be remembered as "the Dan Norman trade." Indeed. If you ever wonder why Mets fans always call in to WFAN believing the Mets should trade an assortment of expendable loose ends for someone else's franchise player or best prospect, it's because we have been on the other end of so many deals like this one.
16. Tony Fernandez - Fernandez was a fine player before the Mets got him, but he stunk and made clear he didn't want to be around, batting .225 and slugging .295 in 48 games in 1993. Dumped by the Mets when many Mets fans had concluded he was finished, Fernandez immediately turned it on with his old team in Toronto, batting over .300 and driving in 9 runs in a 6-game World Series.
Only consolation: Fernandez did the same thing to the Yankees two years later.
15. Mel Rojas - In August 1997, while still hanging around the pennant race, the Mets dealt Lance Johnson, Mark Clark and Manny Alexander for Rojas, Brian McRae and Turk Wendell. I hated the deal at the time; as it turned out, McRae did have one good year (1998) for the Mets after playing poorly in 1997, and Wendell wound up being the best player in the trade. But Rojas, formerly an effctive reliever in Montreal (and well-paid, with a $4.5 million contract), was appallingly bad, with a straight-as-an-arrow low-90s batting practice fastball as his only pitch. In 84.1 innings as a Met setup man - including the 1998 season, when the Mets only narrowly lost the Wild Card race - he allowed 92 hits, 13 homers, 36 walks and posted an ERA of 5.76. (The ultimate Rojas moment came the next year with Detroit, when he managed to allow 9 earned runs on his first 11 pitches).
13. Garry Templeton - Formerly an obnoxious, overrated underachiever, Templeton by the time of his appearance with the Mets as a 35-year-old in 1991 was finished in all aspects of his game, batting an anemic .228/.306/.257 and playing a poor shortstop. The Mets responded to the discovery that he could no longer hit well enough to play shortstop by trying him as a first baseman for 25 games. Aaaaargh!
12. Doug Sisk - As was true of Santana, Sisk's failures were magnified by pitching for a team with few other weaknesses. The Mets in 1985 won 98 games and lost the pennant by 3. The 5 starters had a combined ERA of 2.65. The Mets' other top 3 relievers (McDowell, Orosco and Leach) had a combined ERA of 2.82 - in total, 1270.1 innings of a 2.69 ERA. But the team ERA ended up at 3.11. Much of that was guys throwing a few bad innings here or there, but the rest was Sisk - previously a key setup man - and Tom Gorman. For his Mets career, Sisk walked 210 batters and struck out 165. He was a constant irritant to watch.
11. George Foster - A disaster from the day of his arrival in 1982, Foster partly redeemed himself as a good RBI man, if one with no other useful skills, from 1983-85. But then he spoiled it when he batted .227/.429/.289 in 1986, and then accused the Mets of racism when they cut him to hand the left field job to Mookie Wilson and Kevin Mitchell. As a fielder, either Bill James or Jim Baker (I forget which) said that Foster "raised aloofness to an art form".
Tomorrow: The Top 10.