Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 30, 2006
BASEBALL: 25 Least-Favorite Mets, Part II

Continued from yesterday...

(By the way, in noting the pain of watching Mike Piazza play first like a catcher, I forgot the far more horrifying spectacle of Todd Hundley playing the outfield like a catcher)

10. Roberto Alomar .336/.541/.415. 30 steals in 36 attempts. 100 RBI, 113 Runs, 34 doubles, 12 triples, 20 HR. Those were not Roberto Alomar's numbers years before he came to the Mets - they were his numbers in 2001, the year before he came to the Mets. In his three years in Cleveland, Alomar batted .323/.515/.405 and averaged 121 Runs, 103 RBI and 35 steals. A year and a half later, he was traded in a deal in which the best player the Mets got was a AA pitcher who now projects as a LOOGY, and was replaced in the everyday lineup by Joe McEwing. I don't know whether Alomar didn't take good care of himself, didn't care, both, or just lost it, but the explosive player he had been before was completely gone in the blink of an eye at age 34, and the Mets got stuck holding the bag. To cap it off, Alomar's failures led the Mets to fill the 2B hole by moving Jose Reyes and signing Kaz Matsui.

9. Armando Benitez. Yes, he could be higher, but honestly, I loved Benitez when the Mets got him - his numbers in Baltimore were breathtaking, and finally a closer who could throw gas! - and for a long time I was willing to forgive some of his big-game blowups (basically, until Game One of the 2000 WS). Benitez' rap sheet for blowing big games is far too extensive to recount here, but let's say that by the end I was more than ready to cheer at his departure. (Charges that Benitez hit his girlfriend didn't help).

8. Mo Vaughn. Mo is, by all accounts, a nice guy, and it's not hard to see why he was a fan favorite in Boston. But his tenure with the Mets was an unmitigated catastrophe, starting with acquiring a gigantic contract for a player who hadn't played in a year, was demonstrably out of shape, and had no realistic prospect of getting in shape. His time in New York started badly - he didn't hit a lick for two months, least of all hit for power - and when he did get hot, he still couldn't even try to run or field. Then he got hurt again. For this, Mo was the highest paid player in the National League, and after two years with the Mets he still had three more to go on that awful contract. The #2 redeeming feature of the Mo era was that the Mets got rid of Kevin Appier's ridiculous contract, but even that joy was spoiled when Appier helped the Angels win a World Championship, one they likely would not have won with the iron-gloved Mo at first.

The #1 redeeming feature was that Mo's injury finally got his contract to be paid for by the insurance company.

7. Kaz Matsui. I can understand why people thought Matsui could be a major league hitter - his numbers in Japan weren't quite as gaudy as those of Ichiro or Hideki Matsui, but they also weren't so far away, either. .280/.450/.340 was a reasonable expectation for Matsui, and he's done nothing like that. What I could never understand was how anyone thought he could play shortstop in the majors, and well enough to move a tremendous prospect like Reyes off his natural position.

6. Braden Looper. Like Benitez, except without all the good parts - no great fastball, no brilliant seasons. Just a half-season of pretty good pitching followed by a year and a half of fooling absolutely nobody into believing he wasn't pitching hurt. You could tell by looking at Looper's expression when he came into a game if he didn't have his good hard sinking fastball - his primary weapon - that day. Which, in 2005, was most of the time.

5. Kenny Rogers. Tigers fans don't hate Rogers yet, but they will, they will. Rogers wasn't in New York that long, and his stint with the Mets began with a stretch of undefeated pitching (he didn't lose in his first ten starts), but that just set us up for the inevitable fall. I'll never forgive Bobby Valentine for starting Rogers over the red-hot Rick Reed in Game Two of the 1999 NLCS, thus guaranteeing that the team would get stuck in an 0-2 hole they could never climb out of. And that was before Rogers - supposedly a control pitcher - walked in the winning run to end an all-time classic series.

4. Dale Murray. If a relief pitcher is supposed to be a fireman, Murray and teammate Skip Lockwood were the Arsonists. The Mets of the early 80s were a crappy team, but with a Neil Allen/Jeff Reardon bullpen, and later an Orosco-led pen, they at least fared pretty well in late/close situations. But the late 70s were another matter. I was just getting old enough in those years to really follow the Mets regularly, and Murray's meltdowns really sucked the remaining rays of hope out of an already terrible team.

Murray's one redeeming feature: in 1983, the Yankees traded a 19-year-old Fred McGriff and Dave Collins and a young Mike Morgan to get him. Heh.

3. Rey Ordonez. When he first came up and the Mets were still bad, Ordonez was a lot of fun to watch. But Ordonez was wholly unsuited to playing on a team that was serious about winning (it's not an accident that the Mets made the World Series the year he was out hurt) - I don't have time to run the numbers here, but he was basically the worst-hitting everyday player to hold a job for a significant number of years since Bill Bergen. Plus, he wasn't a particularly good guy. Plus, his fielding deteriorated over the years (though he was always an above-average glove man). Plus, the guy couldn't even bunt.

2. Carlos Baerga. Before there was Alomar, there was Baerga, an allegedly 27-year-old lifetime .305/.454/.345 hitter entering 1996. The Mets traded Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino to get him; Kent could still be their second baseman, having outhit the Mets' actual second baseman every year since then except 1999. Baerga is higher on the list here than, say, Alomar because the Mets gave up for him and suffered through him for longer, 2 1/2 years. In 2003 with Arizona, Baerga batted .343.

1. Juan Samuel. It took an awful lot of bad decisions, injuries and bad luck to bring down the Mets juggernaut of the mid-1980s, but the watershed moment of the collapse - the first time I really felt management had no clue what it was doing - was when the Mets traded Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel in 1989. Recall that Samuel was a poor-fielding second baseman whose main virtue was that he hit well for a middle infielder; the Mets moved him to center field, where his bat even at its best would have been unremarkable, and his glovework was not much better.

In 1988, Samuel hit .243/.380/.298; Dykstra (a good defensive center fielder two years younger than Samuel) hit .270/.385/.321. In 1989, when they made the trade, Samuel was hitting .246/.392/.311, while Dykstra was hitting .270/.415/.362. Granted, the 1988 season had raised some questions about Dykstra's patience, and granted he did not hit well in Philly the rest of the year, but Dykstra was a real talent and would go on to bat .325 in 1990 and score 143 runs as one of the leaders of a pennant winning team in 1993. McDowell, too, remained effective on and off for several years. But Samuel was already done as a productive regular, as his performance to date in 1988-89 had shown; with the Mets, who ended up six games out of first place, Samuel hit just .228/.300/.299. (Eventually, several years later, Samuel became a fine hitter as a bench player, batting .274/.502/.350 from 1994 through 1997. But that was after years of futility as a regular).

In the fall of 1989, I went off to college and turned 18. I met my wife on August 20, 1989, the day Willie Randolph hit a homer off Don Aase that - I felt at the time - basically signified that the Mets would not catch the Cubs, who then held a 2.5 game lead. It was inevitable that I would move out of the stage where baseball in general and the Mets in particular were by far the most important thing in my life. But the ugly unraveling of that team made the process a lot more painful, and the Samuel deal was when it really became visible that the wheels were coming off. Which is why he remains my least favorite Met.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:16 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

As a Phillies phan, Benitez is a favorite. I recall Memorial Day 2001 well. :)

Posted by: Bob at June 30, 2006 10:35 AM

Great piece, Crank. Especially enjoyed the final paragraph of the Samuel part.

To this day, even with Myers-Franco, Baerga-Kent, and (I can't say it, I can't say it!) . . . Kazmir-Zambrano sitting on my palate like rotting meat, nothing comes anywhere the nausea I feel regarding the McDowell/Dykstra-Samuel debacle.

Like Crank, I was still at a point where the Mets held juuuuuuust a bit too prominant a place in my life, and that trade blew the budding sabermetrician in me out the freakin window.

I really can't talk rationally about this 17 years later.

* * *

I posted on the Mets today, but as you might guess, not an awful lot on the Boston Massacre. But some fun stuff (or so I think) on the Three Headed Announcer we know as Garoneith Conanding (or something like that), plus some ramblings on Everlastings Milledge, the '86 Mets Special after last night's game, and more.

Click on my name. Enjoy.

Posted by: Mike at June 30, 2006 10:45 AM

I think I still give the edge to Rogers for that one shining moment, but that last paragraph was very poignant My first season of watching baseball was 1984, so I had actually never known bad Mets baseball until the Samuel era.

This is somewhat off topic, but I can't think of too many trades the Mets have made where the other team deeply, deeply regretted it and their fans stewed about if for years. Maybe Howard Johnson for Walt Terell?

Posted by: paul zummo at June 30, 2006 11:04 AM

I would guess Blue Jays fans did not love dealing John Olerud for Robert Person. And I would imagine the David Cone for Ed Hearn trade is still a sore spot in Kansas City.

Posted by: Jerry at June 30, 2006 11:07 AM

The Mets have had their share of heists. Just off the top of my head: Neil Allen for Keith Hernandez. Robert Person for John Olerud. Carlos Diaz for Sid Fernandez. Lee Mazzilli for Ron Darling and Terrell. Schiraldi et al for Bobby Ojeda.

Posted by: The Crank at June 30, 2006 11:10 AM

I would guess the Ojeda-Schiraldi deal is much-cursed in Boston, for obvious reasons.

Posted by: Jerry at June 30, 2006 11:18 AM

Calvin Schiraldi comes in 3rd on my Most Disliked Sox List. Topped only by Mike Torrez (no explanation needed) and Bob Stanley (see previous). If we could have included managers John McNamara would have some number more significant than #1. Maybe the sign for infinity or something like that. The site of him still makes my head feel like it will explode.

Yeah, thanks for Calvin. I swear to god that trade made me believe in the Manchurain Candidate.

Posted by: jim at June 30, 2006 1:21 PM

The Cone-Hearn deal was a particularly good one. I guess an Expos fan could be ticked they traded away a Hall-of-Famer and got almost no value in return, except for Hubie Brooks I guess.

Oh, and I had to go and compile my own top 20 on my blog. Similar to yours, though I don't have Baerga on my list.

Posted by: paul zummo at June 30, 2006 2:16 PM

On a more current note I would presume that the 3 game beat down you just took would make you think about what the Mets need to do if they are really going to be a top team. Right now I would say that while Glavine and Pedro are a nice duo they aren't in the same class of #1 and #2 as either of the Sox, Tigers, Yankees, Twins, A's and maybe even Toronto. Milledge is clearly not ready to be in the bigs right now. After that big posting about how great the Mets are at scoring by moving guys around they score 7 of 8 runs on HRs, get thrown out stealing once (out of 1 attempt) and get picked off twice. I think they were more frazzled than top AL teams by the Sox defense and pitching. Given that the AL is (I think) 141-79 in interleague play this year being the top dog in the NL isn't such a special place to occupy.

Please kick the Yankees ass though.

Posted by: jim at June 30, 2006 3:34 PM

Yes, the Mets are just not in the class of the Twins, A's, and Blue Jays (whom they beat 2 out of 3 in their stadium). Obviously a single three-game series absolutely proves they are not ready for prime time. Because, as we know, head-to-head regular season series are determinitive of how they'll do in the post-season. Just ask the 1988 Mets how they obliterated the Dodgers in the NLCS after winning all 11 regular season games, or how the Cards dismissed the Mets in the 2000 NLCS right after sweeping the Mets in a September series.

Posted by: paul zummo at July 1, 2006 8:50 AM

I think it's legitimate to point out that the Mets starters don't match up well with those of the White Sox, the Tigers (if the Tigers young pitchers hold up well, and they can afford to not depend on Kenny Rogers well-documented clutch abilities), and the Red Sox (if Schilling and Beckett are pitching at the top of their games). The Twins, I would consider irrelevant, because their outstanding starters will watch the playoffs the same way I do. And I'd be more than willing to take my chances against the rest of the AL staffs, especially the Yankees.

Posted by: Jerry at July 1, 2006 12:49 PM

I have to say, I don't hold the same animus towards Kenny Rogers that every other Met fan does about walking in the winning run. (Not that I like the guy or anything.) First of all, he was a starter, not a reliever, so I give him a bit of a break for being in an unfamiliar situation. More importantly, he wouldn't have been in that spot if Benitez and Franco hadn't blown leads already in that game. Rogers is well down on the list of people I blame for that one.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at July 1, 2006 1:12 PM

Paul,

If after watching that series with the Red Sox you cannot conclude that the Mets have issues you need to step back. It is not just that they lost 3 games it was the nature of those games and the feel of them. That was a big boy club against a not ready for prime time club.

Stranger things have happened than the Twins coming back. I still think the Tigers are shaky.

Posted by: jim at July 1, 2006 3:08 PM

Jim:

I am not contending the Mets are immaculate, nor that they are as good as the White Sox or Red Sox, but I'm also watching them whoop the Yankees, so I'm also not about to say that just about every AL team with a winning record is better than they are. Teams have bad series - the Mets had an awful one against the Sox. But I also don't expect Pedro to pitch as poorly as that on a regular basis down the stretch. You're basing an evaluation of a team on ONE three-game stretch. That's incredibly silly.

As Jerry said, the Mets' staff is just as good as any AL staff EXCEPT the Sox (both of them). Considering I picked the Red Sox to beat the Mets in the Series before the season began, that's not exactly news to me.

Posted by: paul zummo at July 1, 2006 4:05 PM

To me blaming Rogers is like blaming Buckner. Valentine brings hiim in to walk somebody first, then to throw strikes in the highest pressure situation of is career. So Rogers is not on my "you know what" list.

And let us never ever ever forget or forgive the least favorite Met in history, he who should not be named without spitting or cursing: M. Donald Grant. May he be forever cursed with finding pitching staffs for the Rockies.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 1, 2006 8:25 PM

As a Phillies fan, I can honestly say, Samuel would make my least favorite list too! The Phillies had 2 other middle infielder prospects that they traded away because they thought Samuel was better. You may have heard of them... Ryne Sandberg and Julio Franco.

Posted by: Mark T. Dietrich at July 5, 2006 2:23 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg