Baseball Crank
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 2000 [d'oh!] 1999, culminating in the famous card game with Rickey Henderson in the clubhouse during the dramatic ending of Game 6 of the NLCS. Oh, and the Mets won't be done with the installment payments on his last contract for 30 more years.

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).

14. Victor Zambrano - Like Ishii, plus he concealed the extent of his injuries, plus the Mets traded a future ace starter for him. Zambrano will only grow more despised with the years.

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.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:08 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Great list. Now you've got me thinking about what my list should be. I think Sisk was the first Met I ever hated.

Very slight correction: Bonilla came back in 1999. That was the year of the card-playing incident with Rickey during the NLCS.

Posted by: paul zummo at June 29, 2006 10:26 AM

Sorry, hate to be a tool, but one other correction. It was Timo who made the baserunning gaffe on a ball Zeile hit in game One.

Okay, I'm done being the Baseball Crank's public editor. (Takes a Crank to correct a Crank)

Posted by: paul zummo at June 29, 2006 10:31 AM

Can't wait for the top 10. Ill go out on a limb and guess Mo Vaughn is in the top 5.

Posted by: Nate at June 29, 2006 11:00 AM

A little known fact about Mr. Union rep Glavine: he's an admitted righty. During the last negotiations that almost resulted in a strike/lockout (don't recall the year) but was avoided, he even gave a long interview with the left-wing AJC about his politics and how he was going against the grain by being so active as a rep (in short, it was "they elected me and I believe in the union so I'm going to do the best I can in this situation".

The headline of the article, front-page sports section, was Mister Conservative.

I've liked him ever since.

Posted by: RW at June 29, 2006 11:02 AM

Good list. I agree with many of those.

A few of my own (some of whom will show up in 1-10 I assume) in no particular order:

1. Dave Kingman II (he was a d**k his first time around too, but back-to-back 35+ HR seasons on a team that couldn't hit was fine by me as a little kid).

2. Ron Gardenhire. Took 3 straight Todd Worrell strikes pinch hitting in the third game of the epic Mets-Cards series in Sept. '85 in St. Louis (after Darryl-Dayley/Darling-Tudor in game one, and Doc beating Andujar in game two). I've never forgiven him for this.

3. Mike Torrez. Got rocked early in '84. Even though those Mets had no business competing with a powerful Cub team that year, Torrez, along with Swan, Leary, Tidrow, et al., gave away some games in April & May.

4. Lima Time.

5. Calvin Shiraldi. Would be the clear number one, but . . . well, you know why he's ok in my book.

6. Armando

7. Johnny Franco. Hated when the Mets traded Myers for him. Hated him when he sucked down the stretch in '90. Hated him when he joined up with Armando & you-know-who to blow game 6 against the Braves.

8. Kenny Rogers. See #7.

9. Juan Samuel. I can't talk rationally about this.

10. Roberto Alomar

Posted by: Mike at June 29, 2006 11:28 AM

From the Retrosheet play by play of Game 1:

METS 4TH: Piazza singled to center; Piazza was picked off and caught stealing second (pitcher to first to shortstop); Zeile grounded out (third to first); the ball was 2 feet foul and then rolled fair; Zeile did not run at first; Ventura grounded out (pitcher to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Mets 0,
Yankees 0.

I believe, if I recall correctly, that he also failed to hustle out of the box on the play where Timo got called out.

Posted by: The Crank at June 29, 2006 11:28 AM

Wow! I forgot how many chances they had to win that game.

Like many, I remembered only Timo-Zeile-Jeter and then Armando-O'Neill.

Damn.

Posted by: Mike at June 29, 2006 11:30 AM

Yes, some of those will be in the top 10. Franco won't, but I did hate the Franco-Myers trade when it was made.

Posted by: The Crank at June 29, 2006 11:30 AM

Doug Sisk was an excellent reliever in '83 and '84, and a decent one in '86. But unfortunately, he was the single largest culprit (along with Darryl injuring himself in a rare bout of excessive hustle) in the team losing the race in '85, and that's how he's remembered.

Posted by: Jerry at June 29, 2006 11:46 AM

Oh, that play. Forgot about that. Nevermind then.

Can't hate Lima because his time was insignificant, but the rest of Mike's list was pretty good, though Franco would probably not make my list.

I know you'll get to it tomorrow, but are non-players going to be included? CoughPhillipscoughDuquettecoughTorborgcough.

Posted by: paul zummo at June 29, 2006 11:48 AM

My predicted top five:
5) Armando Benitez
4) Kaz Matsui
3) Roberto Alomar
2) Mo Vaughn
1) Rey Ordonez

Posted by: Jerry at June 29, 2006 11:58 AM

Jerry-

How was Sisk a culprit in '85? He sucked early, got sent down, and McDowell was excellent. Did Sisk actually cost them many games early on? My recollection is that he struggled, but didn't cost them much.

But 21 years being 21 years I could be way wrong.

Jesse wasn't as good in ;85 as he was in '83, '84 or '86.

The main culprit for the Mets losing that year was a great Cards team that won (and deserved to win) 101 games.

Posted by: Mike at June 29, 2006 1:19 PM

Well, the Cards were an excellent team, and I'm not trying to slight them, but I think the Mets were a bit more talented. The biggest difference-maker was obviously the fact that Strawberry missed 50 games due to his thumb injury. But if I was looking for others, the two that stand out were Sisk's inability to pitch anywhere near his expected level (he pitched 73 innings with a 5.30 ERA, which was very high for that era) and an enormous hot streak by the Cards late-season acquisition, Cesar Cedeno.

Posted by: Jerry at June 29, 2006 1:48 PM

My own list would also include Ron Hunt and Rich Rodriguez. Also Nolan Ryan, because he didn't want to be here. And when you don't want to be on a team that had Gil managing (At the time of course), and a staff that included Seaver and Koosman (and Grote was great with a staff), well, the only thing you are interested in is the mirror.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at June 29, 2006 3:10 PM

Somehow, I forgot Rodriguez. He was horrendous.

Posted by: The Crank at June 29, 2006 3:25 PM

I stand corrected. Ain't memory a bitch sometimes.

I thought Sisk spent most of '85 in the minors. But with 42 games and 73 innings, I guess not.

He was actually ok (not good) as a mop-up guy, along with Niemann, in '86.

Incidently, a lot of folks talk about Mookie likely beating Bucks to the bag. I agree. But then Knight's on third, and HoJo's facing Stanley.

And Sisk and Niemann are the Met bullpen. No one else. Except maybe El Sid who would then have been unlikely to blow everyone away in game 7.

It's a good thing Bucks made the error.

Posted by: Mike at June 29, 2006 4:09 PM

As far as Ryan goes, I think his problem was just the situation. He needed to work regularly, and the Mets liked to bump everyone else to keep Seaver and Koosman pitching every fifth day (as well they should). Ryan blossomed in California when he got the ball every fourth day, which was never going to happen with the Mets.

Posted by: Jerry at June 29, 2006 9:13 PM
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