Carlos Baerga

Mets Blogger Roundtable: The Mets Who Got Away

With Jacob deGrom receiving his contract extension, it appears he is going to be a Mets pitcher during his prime, and it sets the stage for him to join David Wright and Ed Kranepool as Mets for life. With that being the bulk of the list, there is a host of Mets players who got away. The most famous of which was Tom Seaver who headlined the Midnight Massacre. Putting Seaver aside, the Mets bloggers discussed those players who got away:

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Honestly in recent memory John Olerud comes to mind. He had one of the best pure swings I can remember. Other than that I guess you have to bring up Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, but who saw those coming?

Michael Baron

Daniel Murphy is the most recent Met to have gotten away. And, I’ve heard there are people in the front office who would like a mulligan on that one as well. Having him in 2016 and 2017 would’ve been huge, and not having him kill the Mets in DC would have been huge too.

Allison McCague (Amazin’ Avenue)

To me the most egregious example of a Met getting away is Justin Turner, simply by virtue of how little it would have cost to keep him. Of course, it was impossible to know that he would put up the numbers he did after leaving the Mets, but unlike the Murphy situation where it was a choice not to sign the player as a free agent, they non-tendered a perfectly serviceable utility man just because they didn’t want to pay him and trashed his character on the way out for good measure. I think a dark horse candidate in this conversation, however, would be Collin McHugh, who changed his approach after joining the Astros by throwing his fastball less often and his off-speed pitches more often to much greater success than he ever had as a Met. And now he remains a key piece in the Astros bullpen as they head into another season where they will likely make a push for the postseason.

Michael Baron

I’ll give you Justin Turner for sure. What irks me is he’s a good guy and even in the form he was in when he was here, was a valuable piece for the solution. That he evolved thanks to the tutelage of Marlon Byrd while he was here makes it even worse, since this version of Justin Turner would‘ve unquestionably transformed the Mets.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

Darren O’Day … just because we lost the Rule 5 pick because Omar Minaya didn’t want to put Mike Pelfrey on the disabled list. That still triggers me.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

Joe Hietpas! Got to take the field, but then left without ever getting to bat…he’s Moonlight Graham!

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

Olerud; he was a far superior player to Todd Zeile. Just look at his seasons 2000-02; think he would have helped? In my opinion, if Mets have Olerud, they win 2000 World Series. My God, remember the Zeile farewell tour? Infamnia!

Tim Ryder (MMO)

I’m gonna hesitantly go with Melvin Mora. The guy he got traded away for, Mike Bordick, was a fine pickup and helped that 2000 team get over the hump, no doubt. But Mora went on to have a solid little career and Bordick was back in Baltimore via free agency the following season.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

The Mets let 18-year-old Paul Blair go to the Orioles in the minor league draft of 1962. Blair played 18 seasons in the majors, winning eight Gold Gloves as the premier AL center fielder of his generation.

Then again, had the Mets kept Blair, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Tommie Agee prior to 1968, and Agee robbed Blair in the 1969 Series, so all’s well that ended well, perhaps.

Pete McCarthy (OABT)

I thought Nolan Ryan was the only answer to this question, but there are some fun ones in here. Yay Mets!

Mark Healey

Far be it from me to disagree with you Pete but Ryan wanted out as much as the Mets were frustrated with him. It wasn’t so much that they traded Ryan and he became a Hall of Famer after it’s what they traded him for.

Metstradamus

Scott Kazmir would like a word.

Mets Daddy

There is always going to be a part of me who wonders what would have happened if the Mets kept Darryl Strawberry. He would have one good year in Los Angeles before everything fell apart for both him and the Mets. For those who forget, the Mets opted to replace him with Vince Coleman, who was detestable as a Met, and it lead to a series of poor decisions which built as bad and unlikable a Mets team as we have ever seen. For Strawberry, his personal problems were far worse than anything the Mets encountered.

Looking at everything, there are a number of mistakes like trading Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga, but that at least indirectly led to the team signing Robin Ventura. Murphy leaving transferred the balance of power back to the Nationals.

But overall, the one which comes to mind right now is Matt Harvey. For Harvey, it was more than trading him for Devin Mesoraco. It was everything. The 2013 version looked like future Hall of Fame. The 2015 version looked like a staff ace. The ramifications of that 2015 season were far reaching, and we never saw Harvey return, literally and figuratively.

Before you go away from this piece, please sure you click on the links and visit the sites of those who have taken their time to contribute to this roundtable.

Also, a very special congratulations to Pete McCarthy and his wife on the birth of their baby girl!

 

Mets Should Never Hold Onto Prospects, Make Trades, Or Sign Free Agents

Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.

There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.

To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .

Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.

That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.

Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:

There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.

With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.

Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.

Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.

So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.

Put Bobby Valentine in the Mets Hall of Fame

It has been almost 15 years since Bobby Valentine has managed the Mets, and because of how history works, the enduring image we have of Bobby V is the time he came back into the dugout with sunglasses and a fake mustache made with eye back after he had been thrown out of a game.  Bobby V was much more than that.

After a disappointing player career that included two forgettable seasons with the Mets, Valentine became a coach.  In 1983, he was named the third base coach for the George Bamberger led Mets.  Despite Bamberger not lasting the season, and General Manager Frank Cashen cleaning house, the Mets decided to keep Valentine when Davey Johnson was hired.  From 1983 – 1985, Valentine was generally regarded as a very good third base coach, who helped in the development of a young Mets team from cellar dwellers to contenders.  He would be hired as the Texas Rangers manager, and he would miss all of the 1986 season. 

After his stint in Texas, a brief stop in Norfolk, and one in Japan, the Mets brought Bobby V back to the organization for the 1996 season.  Initially, he was named as the manager of the Tides.   However, after Dallas Green had finally run through all of the young arms on the team, Valentine was named the interim manager for the final 31 games of the season.  In the offseason, the interim tag would be removed, and he would start the 1997 season as the Mets manager.

The 1997 Mets were THE surprise team in all of baseball.  Despite a starting rotation that was comprised of Rick Reed, Dave Mlicki, Bobby Jones, Mark Clark, Brian Bohanon, and Armando Reynoso, the Mets would go from a 71 win team to an 88 win team.  Now, there were good seasons for the turnaround.  There was the acquisition of John Olerud.  There was also another strong season from Lance Johnson, and Todd Hundley proved his record setting 41 home run 1996 season was no fluke.  However, there were other factors at play, and they were directly related to the manger.

First, Edgardo Alfonzo was made the everyday third baseman instead of the utility player he was under Green.  Also, while Reed had started the season coming out of the bullpen, Bobby V moved him into the rotation.  Additionally, whereas Green’s calling card was to abuse his starters’ arms, Valentine protected his starters’ arms (his starters averaged six innings per start and less), and he used the bullpen to his advantage.  On a more subjective note, this was a team that played harder and was more sound fundamentally.  It was a team that probably played over their heads for much of the season.

One important note from this season, Mlicki threw a complete game shut-out against the Yankees in the first ever Subway Series game.  While the Mets were overmatched in terms of talent in that three game series, Bobby V had that group ready to play, and they very nearly took the three game set from the Yankees.

With the Mets having overachieved, the front office led by General Manager Steve Phillips gave his manager some reinforcements.  The team would acquire Al Leiter and Dennis Cook from the Marlins.  The Mets would also add Japanese pitcher Masato Yoshii from Japan.  However, this team was struggling due to Hundley’s elbow injury and Bernard Gilkey and Carlos Baerga having yet another disappointing season.  Bobby V and the Mets kept the team above .500 and competitive long enough to allow the front office to make the bold move to add Mike Piazza.

From there, the Mets took off, and they would actually be in the thick of the Wild Card race.  They were in it despite the Hundley LF experiment not working.  They were in it despite getting nothing offensively from left field and their middle infield.  They were in it despite the fact the Mets effectively had a three man bullpen.  The latter (I’m looking at you Mel Rojas) coupled with the Braves dominance of the Mets led to a late season collapse and the team barely missing out on the Wild Card.

The Mets re-loaded in 1999 with Rickey Henderson, Robin Ventura, Roger Cedeno, Armando Benitez, and Orel Hershiser (no, Bobby Bonilla is not getting lumped in here).  Things do not initially go as planned.  After blowing a late lead, the Yankees beat the Mets, and the Mets found themselves a game under .500.  Phillips responded by firing almost all of Bobby V’s coaching staff.

The Mets and Bobby V responded by becoming the hottest team in baseball.  From that point forward, the Mets were 70-37.  At points during the season, they even held onto first place for a few days.  The Mets were helped by Bobby V being judicious with Henderson’s playing time to help keep him fresh.  Like in year’s past, Bobby V moved on from a veteran not performing to give Cedeno a chance to play everyday, and he was rewarded.  Again, like in previous seasons, Bobby V had to handle a less than stellar starting rotation.

In what was a fun and tumultuous season, the Mets won 97 games.  The team nearly avoided disaster again by forcing a one game playoff against the Reds for the Wild Card.  Not only did the Mets take that game, but they upset the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.  The NLDS performance is all the more impressive when you consider Piazza was forced to miss the last two games due to injury.  In the NLCS, they just met a Braves team that had their number for the past three seasons.  Still, even with the Braves jumping all over the Mets and getting a 3-0 series lead, we saw the Mets fight back.

In Game 4, it was an eighth inning two run go-ahead Olerud RBI single off John Rocker.  In Game 5, it was a 15 inning game that was waiting for the other team to blink first.  While, the Mets blinked in the top of the 15th with a Keith Lockhart RBI triple, the Mets responded in the bottom of the 15th with Ventura’s Grand Slam single to send the series back to Atlanta.  The Mets would be ever so close in Game 6.  They fought back from a 5-0 and 7-3 deficit.  Unforutnately, neither John Franco nor Benitez could hold a lead to force a Game 7.  Then Kenny Rogers couldn’t navigate his way around a lead-off double and bases loaded one out situation in the 11th.

In 2000, Bobby V finally got the rotation he needed with the trade acquiring Mike Hampton and the emergence of Glendon Rusch.  However, even with the much improved rotation, it still was not an easy year for the Mets.  It rarely ever was during Bobby V’s tenure.

First, the Mets had to deal with the Henderson and Darryl Hamilton situations.  Henderson became a malcontent that wanted a new contract.  Hamilton lost his starting job due to a toe injury and had become a part time player.  The result was the complete transformation of the outfield with Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton becoming everyday players.  In the infield, the Mets lost Olerud to free agency and had to convert free agent third baseman Todd Zeile into a first baseman.  Additionally, the Mets lost Gold Glove shortstop Rey Ordonez to injury leading the team to have to rely on Melvin Mora as their shortstop for much of the season.  In what was perhaps Bobby V’s finest managing job with the Mets, the team made the postseason for the second straight year.  It was the first time in Mets history they had gone to consecutive playoff games.

In the postseason, the team showed the same toughness and grit as they had in prior years.  In the first game of the NLDS, they overcame an injury to Derek Bell and saw Timo Perez become a folk hero.  The Mets outlasted the Giants in Game 2 despite a Benitez blown save.  In Game 3, Agbayani hit a walk-off homer in the 13th, and Game 4 saw the Jones one-hitter.  With the Mets not having to face the Braves in the NLCS, they steamrolled through the Cardinals en route to their first World Series since 1986.  While the team never gave in, the balls did not bounce in their favor.  That was no more apparent than when Zeile’s fly ball hit the top of the left field wall and bounced back into play.

From there, Phillips lost his magic touch.  The team started to get old in 2001, and by 2002, everything fell apart.  After what was his first season under .500 with the Mets, Bobby V was fired after the 2002 season.  With one exception, it was the end of a forgettable and disappointing two seasons for the Mets.

One thing that cannot be lost with the 2001 season was how the Mets dealt with the aftermath of 9/11.  Every player did their part.  So did their manager.  After 9/11 happened, Bobby V was a visible face of the Mets franchise visiting firehouses and helping relief aid at Shea Stadium.  When it was time to return to playing games, he was able to get his players in a mindset to play baseball games.  That is no small feat when your captain was a local guy who lost a friend on 9/11.  Also, while it was the players who spearheaded wearing the First Responders’ caps, it was their manager who stood by their side and encouraged them to wear them despite requests to take them off from the Commissioner’s Office.

Through the roller coaster ride that was the 1,003 games of the Bobby V Era, the Mets were 536-437.  During that span, Bobby V managed the second most games in Mets history while earning the second most wins in Mets history.  His .534 winning percentage is the third best in Mets history just behind Johnson and Willie Randolph.  In all but his final season as Mets manager, the Mets either met or exceed their expected (Pythagorean) record.

Bobby V stands as just one of two managers to go to consecutive postseasons.  His 13 postseason wins are the most by any manager in Mets history.  He’s the only Mets manager to win a postseason series in consecutive postseasons.  He’s managed in more postseason series than any other Mets manager.

Overall, Bobby V is an important part of Mets history.  Out of all the managers in Mets history, it is fair to say the Bobby V consistently did more with the talent given to him by his front office.  For some, he is the best manager in Mets history.  Most will certainly agree he is at least the third best manager in Mets history.  For all of this, and how he represented the Mets organization during 9/11 and the aftermath, Bobby V should be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

 

Mets Magic Number is 8

I’ve alluded to who my selection for number 8 would be. After looking over the candidates and my self-imposed rules, the pick is Carlos Baerga:

  
When the trade was made in 2006, Baerga switched to number 8 for the 1997 and 1998 seasons. We all know by now it was an awful trade. Baerga provided the Mets with a triple slash line of .267/.302/.373 with 18 homers and 116 RBIs. 

The man he replaced, Jeff Kent, turned out to be a career .290/.356/.500 hitter with 377 homeruns and 1,518 RBIs. He was the 2000 NL MVP. He is the all time leader for second baseman in homeruns (351), RBIs (1,389), slugging percentage (.509), and doubles (560). I remember my Dad was angry when the trade first took place, and he would become more irritated each and every passing year. 

Now, record wise, 1997 and 1998 were pretty good. However, 1998 was heartbreaking. For all the fans looking for a repeat of 2007 and 2008 after a couple of losses to the Marlins, they forgot about the original collapse. 

The Mets had a one game lead over the Cubs and four games over the Giants with five games remaining (seven for the Giants). The Mets lost all five of their remaining games. They were home as the Cubs and Giants had a play-in game for the Wild Card featuring future Met Steve Trachsel, and former Met, Jeff Kent. 

In those final five games for the Mets, Baerga went 2-13 (.154) with no walks, one RBI, no extra base hits, and one game on the bench. He wasn’t the only one responsible for that collapse, *cough* Mel Rojas *cough*. However, the Mets were stuck with Baerga while Kent was in the play-in game. It just shows you how changing one player for another can have a profound impact on your season. With this year’s flurry of trades, it’s something Mets fans know well. 

So let’s tip our cap to Magic Number 8, Carlos Baerga, who shows us, in part, our fears of collapse are behind us. 

Also, take this time to remember the late, great Gary CarterJe me souviens. Rest in peace. 

Magic Number is 12

Yesterday, the problem was finding out who to pick for 14 in this series with the paucity of choices. Today’s selection was an abundance of good choices. 

There was Roberto Alomar‘s disappointing tenure. I’m sure there are Mets fans that would’ve picked Willie Randolph, but he was decent with the Mets in the last year of a good career. Furthermore, I was higher on him as a manager than most people. I remember that Jeff Kent was hated by Mets fans, except the ones in my household. 

When fans booed Kent, my Dad was baffled. When he saw Kent, he saw a terrific player. My Dad was right. Kent played well in his five years as a Met. Kent would win the 2000 NL MVP and finish his career with the most homeruns by a second baseman. However, all of that happened elsewhere. Why elsewhere? Well, the Mets made an idiotic trade including him and Jose Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga and today’s selection, Alvaro Espinoza:

  
Espinoza was not a great major league player, but truth be told, he was at his best in those 48 games with the Mets. So, why pick him?  He was part of a trade that ditched a possible Hall of Fame second baseman for a player fading fast in Baerga. Neither player was of much help, especially in a 1996 season when the Mets finished 71-91. 

Baerga’s numbers dropped steadily his three years in New York, and he couldn’t stay on second base.  He would be gone before the glory years of 1999 and 2000, but you know who would reappear in 2000?  Vizcaino. The man who put an end to Game 1 of the 2000 World Series. He was in that position due to Timo Perez‘s lack of hustle and Armando Benitez once again caving in from the pressure. 

So I picked Esponiza more as a symbolic gesture as a reminder that the trade for the star usually doesn’t work in the Mets history. I think that reminder is quite aprospros this season. 

With that in mind, please join me in offering a hat tip to Magic Number 12, Alvaro Espinoza.