John Olerud

Mojo Rising Bracket: First Round Complete

The first round of the Mojo Rising Bracket is complete, and so far, this bracket had the clotsest match-up this far with Benny Agbayani knocking off Todd Hundley by ONE VOTE! With that, Agbayani joins Tommie Agee as the other 10 seed to knock off a seven seed. That means through the first round of three brackets, there have been just two upsets.

This next round will have Robin Ventura and John Olerud not only on opposite ends of the greatest defensive infield of all-time, but also seeing who can advance to the Sweet 16. Agbayani and Edgardo Alfonzo can also see who was the bigger hero in 2000.

In the final bracket, we will lead off tomorrow with David Wright against Jeff McNeil.

Mojo Rising Bracket: (4) John Olerud vs. (13) Lance Johnson

(5) John Olerud – Had the Keith Hernandez like effect where is acquisition was what helped turned the franchise around. His .354 batting average in 1998 is the Mets single season record, and his .315 career average is the best in Mets history. That 1998 season stands as the best season a Mets first baseman has ever had. Holds the Mets first and second best single season records for OBP and is Mets all-time OBP leader. By OPS+ second best hitter in Mets history. Name littered all over single season and career top 10 lists. Hit RBI single off John Rocker in Game 4 of NLCS. First baseman for greatest defensive infield in team history.

(13) Lance Johnson – Had the single greatest season a Mets lead-off hitter has ever had. In 1996, he posted what was then the second highest single-season WAR in Mets history. Now, it is fifth best, and it is still the best any Mets lead-off hitter has ever had. In that season, he set team single-season records for at-bats, runs, hits, total bases, triples, and singles. His hits, triples, and singles records still stand. Was having a similarly impressive 1997 season before being traded to the Cubs in a trade which netted the Mets, among others, Turk Wendell.

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Mojo Rising Bracket: (5) Robin Ventura vs. (12) Todd Zeile

(5) Robin Ventura – Forever known through baseball history for the Grand Slam Single. In his Mets career also became the first player to hit a grand slam in both ends of a doubleheader. Won a Gold Glove in 1999 and was a member of the best defensive infield in baseball history. In 1999, set a then Mets single season record for RBI in a season (surpassed by Mike Piazza in that same season). By WAR, top player on 1999 team which returned to postseason. His rain delay impersonation of Piazza is still one of the most popular rain delay bloopers.

(12) Todd Zeile – Played for 11 MLB teams in his career with the Mets being the only team he played for twice. Came to the Mets originally in 2000 as a replacement for John Olerud. Helped that Mets team win a pennant with a great postseason. By OPS was the Mets best hitter in that World Series and might’ve been remembered differently if the ball obeyed the rules of physics or Timo Perez ran it out. Was the player who spearheaded wearing the first responder caps post 9/11. Returned to Mets to be a post game analyst on SNY.

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Best Mets Of All Time: No. 23 Bernard Gilkey

With 34 different Mets players wearing the number 23, it is one of the more popular player numbers in Mets team history. When you think of the number, you are reminded of how great Pat Mahomes was out of the Mets bullpen in 1999, Mike Baxter‘s catch saving Johan Santana‘s no-hitter, and Bernard Gilkey.

Entering the 1996 season, the St. Louis Cardinals no longer had room on their roster for Gilkey, the hometown kid. He was squeezed out by other outfielders making Gilkey an expensive back-up for a team looking to free up money to address other needs. He was a player entering his prime, which made him all the more enticing for a Mets team looking to turn their franchise around.

While Gilkey could be expected to be an improvement over Joe Orsulak, and a significant one at that, no one could be really prepared for the absolutely great season Gilkey had in store for the Mets in 1996.

That 1996 season was marked by a number of offensive records compiled by the trio of Gilkey, Todd Hundley, and Lance Johnson. Believe it or not, there were eight separate single-season records set that year, and even to this date, the feats accomplished in that season remain in the Mets single-season top 10 lists.

We would get a sense of how special a year it would be from the Mets new lineup when Hundley and Gilkey homered on Opening Day against Gilkey’s former team. That was the first RBI in 117 total for the season. That would tie Howard Johnson for the Mets then single-season record.

Overall, he would hit .317/.393/.562 with 44 doubles, three triples, 30 homers, and 117 RBI. Those were great numbers which were part of his season long onslaught of the Mets record books.

In addition to the RBI title, he would have the second highest SLG and OPS. He finished just behind his teammate Johnson for the most total bases in a season. His OPS+ was fourth best. His 44 doubles still remains a team record, and his extra base hits were then second only to HoJo.

When all was said and done, Gilkey’s 8.1 WAR would be the best season a Mets position player ever had. Really, it obliterated the record with Cleon Jones‘ 7.0 in 1969 being second. That mark would only be passed in future years by David Wright and Carlos Beltran.

For some reason, Gilkey didn’t make the All-Star team that year even though he was the second best player in the National League that year. Despite that, Gilkey still received some notoriety not just for his hitting prowess, but also for how wide his eyes opened when he saw a pitch he could drive somewhere. That would actually lead to him getting a memorable cameo in the summer blockbuster Men in Black.

Gilkey would not be able to replicate his 1996 success, but then again, there are very people in Major League history who could. Still, Gilkey was an important player for the Mets who did help take them from their last 90+ loss season in the aftermath of the great 1980s Mets teams to the next era of winning Mets baseball.

Even though he never replicated that success. Gilkey had some real big moments during the 1997 season. One of the big moments came in the first ever Subway Series. With his first inning double off of Andy Pettitte, Gilkey became the first ever player to record a hit in a regular season game between the Mets and Yankees. When John Olerud doubled, he scored the first ever run. Thanks to Dave Mlicki, it would prove to be the game winning run.

On the following day, even though the Mets lost, his homer off of David Wells would be the first homer in the Subway Series.

This was part of a fun and surprising year where the Mets won 88 games. They would be in the pennant race late in the season. Late in that season, Gilkey would hit a pinch hit three run homer to give the Mets a late season win to keep them alive in the Wild Card race:

While the Mets fell short that season, Gilkey did all he could do to power the Mets into that 1997 postseason. In fact, he would hit .329/.404/.600. Still, the Mets could not catch the Braves or the eventual World Series Champion Marlins that year.

Unfortunately for Gilkey, he struggled in 1998. Those struggles were partially related to a vision issue, and those issues eventually led to the Mets trading him to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Gilkey’s Mets career lasted just short of three full seasons. Still, in that timeframe, he was an impactful player. He had an all-time great season in 1996. He forever etched his name in the Subway Series record books. Finally, he helped turn the Mets from a 90 loss team to a postseason contender. For his efforts, he is actually the Mets fourth best LF by WAR, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 23.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter

2000 Game Recap: Valentine’s Wharton Speech Hangs Over Team

It was a day game after a night game, so Mike Piazza was not there to again single-handedly lift the Mets offense. However, to be fair, it is difficult to know how much of a difference Piazza could’ve made (sacrilegious, I know) with the Pirates having Jimmy Anderson dealing the way he did.

It really was a surprising pitchers duel between Anderson and Glendon Rusch, who was making his 2000 debut for the Mets. What is also interesting is both pitchers had beat out other former Mets pitchers to get their spot in the rotation.

With Rusch, he battled with famed Generation K pitcher Bill Pulsipher for the last spot in the rotation. Anderson, on the other hand, battled with Pete Schourek. At least for today, both pitchers proved their teams right in the decisions they made. In fact, both pitchers worked fast, and they each put up zeros for six innings.

Between the two pitchers, Rusch was arguably the better pitcher. In his complete game, he allowed just one run on four hits while walking one and striking out five. Entering the seventh, Rusch had allowed just one Pirate into scoring position. Really, the only reason he didn’t get the win was he made one mistake to Kevin Young, which turned into a two run homer which was all the difference in the 2-0 loss.

It was a shame for him as Anderson lived by the adage it is better to be lucky than good. The Mets had a few rallies fall completely short.

In the first, the Mets had runners on second and third with one out. Todd Zeile lined out, and Jay Payton would strike out. In the second, Robin Ventura would have a lead-off single, and he would ultimately be stranded at third base.

A two out rally in the fourth left runners at first and second stranded as Rey Ordonez flew out. There were runners at the corner with one out in the fifth when Edgardo Alfonzo hit into an inning ending double play. That was it for the Mets, who just couldn’t get the big hit.

What was left was a very good Mets team, or at least is supposed to be one, losing to a bad Pirates team. The one unknown here is how much Bobby Valentine‘s comments at Wharton about the Mets offseason, which including his problems with the team not re-signing John Olerud, had on this game.

Whatever the case, comments like those from Valentine aren’t going to help him or his team. The lame duck manager who was almost fired last year is going to find himself further on the hot seat for his outspokenness. Mostly, he will be on the hot seat if his team continues underachieving this way.

Game Notes: One of the players Valentine indicated he didn’t want was Derek Bell, who had a diving grab in the sixth inning. He also said he would rather play Matt Franco or Jorge Toca at first over Todd Zeile.

Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 10 Rey Ordonez

If we were to take the totality of Rusty Staub‘s Mets career, he would be here, but he doesn’t get the nod here because he did most of his damage when he wore the number 4. While having a very good year in 1975, he wore 10 primarily as a pinch hitter extraordinaire for the Mets in the early 1980s.

Looking past Staub, when you look at the number 10, you may think of Endy Chavez robbing Scott Rolen of a homer in what was the greatest catch made in NLCS history. While Chavez isn’t the best Mets player to ever wear the number 10, the number is defined by defense.

Rey Ordonez defected out of Cuba when he was in the United States as part of the 1993 Summer Universiade tournament held in Buffalo, NY. He’d sign on with the Saint Paul Saints before the Mets signed him to a deal. Three years later, he would be at Shea Stadium showing himself to be the best defensive shortstop in team history.

Ordonez was great defensively literally from day one. On Opening Day, Ordonez fielded a throw from Bernard Gilkey, and from his knees, he would throw out Royce Clayton at home plate. It was the first of many unbelievable defensive plays in his career:

Orodonez was never a hitter, but really, he never needed to be. First off, his defensive greatness more than offset his bat. Second, the Mets were smart in building teams which focused on allowing him to do what he does great. That started a stretch from 1997 to 1999 where he won three straight Gold Gloves.

In Major League history, there are only five National League shortstops to accomplish that feat. Ordonez was the fourth to do so following Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Barry Larkin. If nothing else, Ordonez’s defense was Hall of Fame caliber. Really, it was the stuff of legends. As noted by SABR, Bill Pulsipher once said Ordonez’s Mets teammates called him “SEGA” due to all the video game plays he would make in the field.

Really, good luck trying to find his greatest defensive play. Out in the field, Ordonez was a human highlight reel who could make even sure base hits into outs.

There are so, so many more plays than this. If he played during the age of YouTube, his defense would have been an absolute sensation.

The best season for Ordonez came in 1999 when he was the best defender on the best infield in Major League history. On that team, he and Robin Ventura both won Gold Gloves with John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo deserving them as well. That year, Ordonez would set the Major League record for errorless games/innings at shortstop.

That 1999 season, he would also have some personal offensive highlights with his hitting his first career grand slam. In Game 1 of the NLDS, he would get the bunt down against Randy Johnson to score Ventura from third. In the ninth, with the game tied, he hit a one out single moving Ventura to second in advance of Alfonzo’s grand slam off Bobby Chouinard. Due to a Rickey Henderson fielder’s choice, Ordonez would actually score the winning run of that game.

In Game 3, Ordonez actually delivered the Mets first run of the game in what would prove to be a Mets 9-2 win which put them on the precipice of the NLCS.

The 1999 season would be the last of Ordonez’s Gold Glove seasons. In the following year, Ordonez would suffer a season ending broken forearm. In typical Ordonez fashion, he broke his arm on a truly spectacular play. Al Leiter picked F.P. Santangelo off first, and Todd Zeile made an offline throw to Ordonez. Ordonez leaped and spun himself to put the tag down on Santangelo, but he broke his arm in the process. With his arm not healing, he was not a part of the run 2000 pennant run.

It was a play only he could make, and it was the reason his season ended. To a certain extent, that was the end of Ordonez’s Mets career. In Mets history, Ordonez has the third highest defensive WAR. To put that into perspective, Ordonez accumulated his 10.2 over seven years. The two players ahead of him, Bud Harrelson (13 years) and Jerry Grote (12 years) had much longer Mets careers.

As such, it is very fair to say Ordonez is the best defensive player in Mets history, and ultimately, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 10.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Ordonez was the tenth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 10.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley

Best Mets Of All-Time: No. 5 David Wright

Aside from Tom Seaver, David Wright is quite arguably the best Mets player to ever don a Mets uniform, let alone the number five. Wright was so great during his career, John Olerud‘s named doesn’t even come into consideration.

The Mets drafted Wright with the compensation pick they received from the Colorado Rockies signing Mike Hampton. With Wright, the Mets drafted a player who grew up a Mets fan and would do everything he could do to ensure he would only wear a Mets uniform in his career.

No matter what you say about Wright isn’t enough. He was a real five tool player who was a seven time All-Star, two time Gold Glove winner, and a two-time Silver Slugger. The Gold Glove may be a misnomer as it was his hands that were pure gold.

Really, Wright did whatever he could do to improve as a player. He worked with boyhood idol Howard Johnson to put together the last 30/30 season in Mets history. On that note, he has just about every offensive record in Mets team history. That includes his putting together one of, if not THE best, ever campaign in Mets history in 2007.

While the story of the 2007 Mets was collapse, that was not Wright’s story. In September of that year, he hit .352/.432/.602. In the ensuing year, he hit .340/.416/.577. That was Wright in a nutshell. He was always there when his team needed him, and his contributions were overlooked across baseball. Still, even as a young player, he was a leader and the type of player you built your team around.

While Wright was a known commodity and superstar, many finally took notice during the 2013 World Baseball Classic that everyone seemed to take notice of what every Mets fan had known for nearly a decade. David Wright was clutch and a great baseball player who was the one of the absolute best players in the game.

During that WBC, he would become known as Captain America. It was not too long thereafter he would simply be known as Captain. Seemingly days after, he was named Mets captain joining Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, and John Franco as the only Mets to receive that honor.

Mostly, when we look at Wright he was the player who stayed. After it was him and Jose Reyes igniting the Mets in 2006 and taking this team to the precipice of a World Series, it was just him as the Mets rebuilt around him. He would still play at a high level, and he would join Matt Harvey as starters for the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field.

After all the losing at Citi Field, he appeared ready to lead the Mets to their first postseason in nearly a decade. Instead, he suffered what was effectively a career ending injury. While it effectively ended his career, it would not take 2015 away from him.

Wright overcame the spinal stenosis to homer in his return to baseball in an August 24 game against the Phillies. He would slide home pumping his fist scoring a key run against the Nationals in a huge comeback victory. He was there in Cincinnati celebrating with his teammates as they won the sixth NL East title in team history.

In Game 1 of the NLDS, he had the game winning two RBI single off Pedro Baez in the seventh to help Jacob deGrom and the Mets take the first game in what would be an epic five game series. Aside from Game 3 of the NLCS, Wright’s bat mostly went silent after that game, but it would come alive again in the first ever World Series game played at Citi Field:

This side of Mike Piazza, that was about as uplifting and dramatic a home run you will ever see. Even with the Mets losing that series and with him being unable to play more than 37 games in 2016 before really shutting it down forever, even if he did desperately try to return, Wright would have one last Citi Field moment.

Mets fans came out and sold out Citi Field in a completely lost season to say good-bye to Wright. Everything he did was cheered loudly. He was so loved that Pete O’Brien will forever be scorned by Mets fans for not letting a foul pop up drop in Wright’s final plate appearance.

As Wright left the field that day, Mets fans teared up a bit and reminisced about a great career. There were the big hits including the walk-off against Mariano Rivera. There was his rise to stardom in 2006 finishing second to just Ryan Howard in the Home Run Derby. He wore that ginormous helmet after being beaned by Matt Cain. Again, he did anything to play.

Through it all, Wright had a Hall of Fame caliber playing career making him easily the best position player the Mets ever developed. He’s easily the best player to have his entire career with the Mets. He will soon have his number retired. With a little luck, he will be inducted into Cooperstown.

But for now, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 5.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Wright was the fifth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 5.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra

2000 Game Recap: Mets Offense Still Doesn’t Know Season Began

Last year, the Mets torched Woody Williams in their three games against him. They hit .258/.355/.468 off of him, and they scored 15 runs off of him in 17.1 innings pitched. If ever there was a game for the Mets offense to wake up this year, it was going to be this one, and yet, Williams would shut out the Mets over his six innings pitched.

It wasn’t like the Mets had chances. The Mets had at least one on in five of the six innings Williams pitched, and they had a runner in scoring position in four of the six innings. Still, they couldn’t muster one run. The worst of it was in the fourth inning.

With the Mets already trailing 4-0, they loaded the bases with no outs. Even with Williams being wild on the mound walking consecutive batters, Rey Ordonez went up there hacking, and he popped up the first pitch. With the pitcher’s spot due up, again Bobby Valentine went to Jon Nunnally instead of Benny Agbayani, and Nunnally would strike out looking. Finally, Rickey Henderson grounded out to end the inning.

It wasn’t like this would be their last chance in the game. In the bottom of the eighth and facing Padres reliever Carlos Almanzar, Edgardo Alfonzo would hit a lead-off double. After a Mike Piazza ground out and a Robin Ventura walk, Derek Bell and Todd Zeile both struck out looking to end the rally.

While the Mets offense wasn’t taking advantage of opportunities, the Padres offense did just that against Bobby Jones. Jones actually entered this season as the fourth starter after an injury plagued 1999 season where he was left off the postseason roster. Unlike Octavio Dotel, he wasn’t even given an opportunity to prove his worth in what was a crowded and dominant bullpen.

Things did not get off to a good start for him in 2000. In the second inning, he broke the golden rule by walking Phil Nevin to start the inning. After an Eric Owens flyout, back-to-back doubles by Bret Boone and Ruben Rivera gave the Padres a 2-0 lead. That grew to 3-0 when Carlos Hernandez, who the Mets simply cannot get out right now, hit an RBI single.

In the third, the Padres would load the bases with two outs, Jones walked Boone to force in the fourth run of the game. At that point, Jones’ pitch count was already at 73, and Valentine was not about to let this game out of hand. He brought in his long reliever, Pat Mahomes, who got the Mets out of the jam.

If you’re looking for a silver lining in this game, it is the bullpen. Starting with Mahomes pitching 1.1 scoreless innings, the bullpen pitched 6.1 scoreless. That included Rich Rodriguez who did the yeoman’s work of pitching 3.0 innings.

So far, it is only the fourth game of the season, and it may be too early to panic. However, this is a Mets team who had a great offense last year, and now without John Olerud and Roger Cedeno, they are having some difficulty scoring runs. It also doesn’t help Henderson isn’t happy.

Still, the pitching and defense are still there, and as long as they are working well, we should have time for the Mets offense to wake up, as it usually does when we hit the summer months. Until then, the Mets have a favorable enough April schedule to allow this team to get into a groove.

Game Recap: The Mets used Nunnally, Jay Payton, Matt Franco, and Kurt Abbott off the bench. All signs right now are even with his grand slam, Agbayani will lay dormant until he is sent down for Glendon Rusch.

Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.

2000 Game Recap: Mike Hampton Walks Through Japan

For the first time in Major League history, the Cincinnati Reds are not hosting the first MLB game of the regular season. No, that tradition had to die so Major League Baseball could begin the 2000 season in Japan. That led to the Mets and Cubs playing the first two games of the season in the Tokyo Dome.

Everything about the game was bizarre. There were the players wearing advertisements on their jerseys to be reminiscent of NPB players. There was the the slightly expanded rosters to accommodate the teams traveling to Japan and having a slightly shorter Spring Training. There was also fans having to get up for a 6:00 A.M. first pitch.

Really, in terms of baseball, Bobby Valentine, who had managed the Chiba Lotte Marines before coming back to the US, was probably the only person comfortable. That would not be true for long as he would quickly become rather uncomfortable with the Cubs hitters looking very comfortable at the plate against new Mets ace Mike Hampton.

Before you could blink, it was 1-0. Hampton walked Eric Young to start the game, and he would quickly steal second allowing him to score on a Damon Buford (who previously played in Japan) RBI single. Mark Grace was hit by a pitch, and suddenly, you were cringing at the prospect of a Sammy Sosa homer.

While much changed about the Mets this past offseason, most of the greatest infield of all-time remained in tact. We saw that as they turned a 6-4-3 double play helping Hampton and the Mets get out of the inning without further damage.

This is pretty much how it went for the Mets all day. Hampton would walk the ballpark, nine in total over five innings, and the infield defense would bail him out.

After a lead-off walk to Shane Andrews in the second, he was immediately erased as Jose Nieves hit into a 6-6-3 double play. In the fifth, things would have been much worse after Hampton walked Andrews to force in a run had he not induced Nieves to hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth.

After that pitch, Hampton was done. He had thrown 103 pitches over five while allowing four hits and nine walks. He’d also throw a wild pitch while striking out two. If you are looking for a bright side, he was getting a lot of groundballs in front of what is still an amazing infield defense, and he did not allow one extra base hit.

While Hampton was fighting it throughout the game, Jon Lieber cruised through seven innings.

Believe it or not, the Mets real offensive threat early in the game was Rey Ordonez. He had a lead-off single in the third, and after Hampton bunted him over, and Rickey Henderson singled, he’d score on a Darryl Hamilton sacrifice fly.

The following inning, the Mets had an opportunity to break the 1-1 tie to take the lead with Ordonez drawing a two out walk to load the bases, but Hampton was not able to help his own cause.

Things were interesting and close into the seventh due to Dennis Cook bailing out Turk Wendell in the sixth. Unfortunately, Cook could not get out of his own trouble in the seventh as Andrews hit a two run homer to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. That lead would grow to 5-1 when Grace homered off Rich Rodriguez in the eighth.

With Lieber out of the game in the eighth, Edgardo Alfonzo drew a lead-off walk off of Brian Williams, and Mike Piazza homered to pull the Mets to within 5-3. Unfortunately, this was not the start of a huge comeback as six of the last seven Mets recorded outs to end the game.

It was one day, but the moves made by Steve Phillips to take this Mets team over the top did not do much. Hampton took the loss while walking nine over five innings. Derek Bell, who also came in that trade, was 1-for-4, and Todd Zeile, who was signed to replace John Olerud, was 0-for-4.

Still, it is just one game, and it was an odd one by all accounts. We shall see how the next game goes as well as the rest of the 2000 season.

Game Notes: Bobby Jones and Al Leiter did not make the trip as they are preparing for their starts at Shea. This means Rick Reed will start the second game of the season. Henderson isn’t exactly endearing himself to fans as he followed playing cards with Bobby Bonilla with a demand for a new contract. He was, however, 1-for-4 with a walk.

Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.

Should Mets Fan Rethink Their Mike Hampton Hatred?

On August 21, 2001, Mike Piazza hit an RBI single in the first inning, and Shea Stadium went crazy. They went crazy again when he homered in the second extending the Mets lead to 4-0 in a game they would eventually win 5-2. To be fair, Mets fans always went crazy whenever Piazza did anything, but this was heightened over what is usually was.

The reason for that was the hits came off of Mike Hampton, who had become public enemy number one among Mets fans. That’s an impressive feat when you consider at that time the Atlanta Braves had players like Chipper Jones and John Rocker.

With it being 20 years later, perhaps we should revisit exactly why Mets fans hate Hampton.

Things weren’t always this way with Hampton. Mets fans rejoiced when he was obtained from the Houston Astros. Even with the high price of Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel, Mets fans were envisioning a World Series with a pitching staff headed by Hampton and Al Leiter.

Hampton delivered on that promise. In 2000, he was 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.346 WHIP. Overall, he was a top 10 pitcher in the National League with his having the fifth best ERA+, seventh best FIP, and the 10th best WAR. When you combine how good a hitter the 2000 Silver Slugger was, Hampton was everything the Mets hoped he would be.

He would then pitch the Mets to the World Series being the NLCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 0.813 WHIP in his two starts. It was Hampton who was on the mound when Rick Wilkins flew out to Timo Perez.

No, Hampton wasn’t particularly good in the World Series, but he wasn’t bad either. In his lone start, he took the loss in Game 2 after allowing four earned over six innings in the game forever known for Roger Clemens throwing a bat at Piazza.

In the offseason, Hampton was a free agent, and he did what almost every player did. He took the best offer given to him. In the end, it was a huge eight year $121 million deal from the Colorado Rockies. Hampton tried to spin it as being for family reasons, but it was a bit much to take for everyone. For example, Sandy Alderson, who was then a executive vice president for Major League Baseball said, “He’s an outstanding pitcher. It’s a lot of money. Case closed. I don’t want to hear about the Wheat Ridge (Colo.) school system.” (ESPN).

Hampton going to Colorado proved to be bad for him and the Mets. Hampton predictably struggled pitching in Coors Field, and the Mets never could quite assemble a roster which could take the Mets over the top. In fact, that offseason was one of the more disappointing in Mets history.

What began with visions of Alex Rodriguez and/or Hampton ended with Kevin Appier, Steve Trachsel, and Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Sadly, that is not an exaggeration. To hear the Mets tell it, A-Rod was a 24+1 player, and Hampton chose the Rockies not because they didn’t offer enough, but rather, for lifestyle reasons.

As Mets fans, knowing all we know now, should we continue to hate Hampton?

By now, we know better about how the Mets spend money. After all, it was prior offseason where Bobby Valentine called into question about the real reason John Olerud left. We also can’t begrudge Hampton for taking the most money, and when we look at his brief tenure with the Mets, he did everything we could have expected him to do.

Looking back, it does go back to that World Series game.

After the game, Hampton questioned Piazza’s reaction to Clemens saying, “I think we should’ve fought, to be honest with you. But that’s not my call. You can’t make something happen if guys aren’t going to defend themselves. Different people react differently. Mike’s a little calmer. I’m more hot-tempered. I would’ve reacted a little different.” (NY Post).

He wasn’t the only Met to feel that way with Lenny Harris also questioning Piazza’s reaction or lack thereof. What made it harder to take from Hampton is he didn’t exactly pitch lights out in that game, and he also didn’t exactly respond by going head hunting in the ensuing inning.

Since that game, Hampton has gone from beloved to hated. The switch flipped that fast. Aside from games he has appeared as a visitor, especially with the hated Braves, Hampton was stayed away.

That is until now. With this being the 20th anniversary of that pennant, Hampton has appeared at Spring Training with fellow members of that team like Turk Wendell and Glendon Rusch. By all accounts, the once detested Hampton has been welcome back at Port St. Lucie.

Perhaps, now, it is time to move on from out hatred of him. After all, the Mets not doing what was needed to keep him and replace him wasn’t his fault. That’s on the Mets. More to the point, no fan should be ever upset at a player for taking the best contract and situation for his family.

As for the World Series, well, it was massively disappointing for us all. Hampton and Piazza included. For any comments between the two, Piazza more than got his revenge hitting .294/.357/.569 off of him with two doubles, four homers, and 12 RBI.In the end, Hampton got it, and Piazza went to the Hall of Fame.

It’s been 20 years, and when you think about it, Hampton has a special place in Mets history. It’s now time to remember, honor, and celebrate it. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to cheer Hampton this year and welcome him with open arms.