Roger Cedeno

Jed Lowrie Worst Ever Mets Free Agent Signing

When it comes to the Mets, there have been several bad to disastrous free agent signings. In fact, up until recently, there was a real debate over which signing was the worst.

Players like Bobby Bonilla and Kazuo Matsui never quite fulfilled his promise. Roger Cedeno was nowhere near the player he was in 1999 when he returned to Queens. Jason Bay didn’t hit for power before the concussions happened.

Oliver Perez completely fell apart when he signed his deal. Luis Castillo was terrible, and he dropped that pop up.

As bad as those were, there was Vince Coleman, who was an unmitigated disaster. Aside from his numbers falling off a cliff, he threw firecrackers at fans, injured Dwight Gooden with a golf club, and he was accused of sexual assault (charges never filed).

Looking at it, Coleman was probably the worst of the group. When you consider the long standing animosity Mets fans had towards him prior to the signing and his off the field problems, he may still have claim to that title.

However, when it comes to on the field performance, Jed Lowrie is definitively the worst ever Mets signing. We just need to look at video from the Mets summer camp yesterday to confirm that.

Rewinding back to Spring Training last year, Lowrie was initially described as having left knee soreness. Time and again, the Mets downplayed the injury, and to date, they have yet to really reveal what the injury actually is.

They didn’t reveal it when he had multiple rehab assignments shut down. They didn’t reveal it when he was 0-for-7 as a pinch hitter in September. They didn’t reveal it when he came to Spring Training this year not really ready to play. Even months later, they’re still not revealing it. Worse yet, they’re downplaying it.

New manager Luis Rojas was put in the position today that Mickey Callaway failed far too often. He had to offer an out-and-out lie and make it sound believable. According to what Rojas said, Lowrie is a “full go.”

Later in the day, we saw the video running and realized there’s no way that’s true. Lowrie is not a full go, and to a certain extent the Mets talking about Lowrie ramping up to try to play without a brace is a strawman. All told, brace or no brace, this is simply a player who can’t get on the field.

The more you see the aborted rehab attempts, the lack of explanations for the injury, the mixed messages, and Lowrie’s inability to do anything but swing the bat, the more you’re reminded of David Wright. Before his send off, Wright would make similar attempts to get back, but ultimately his body wouldn’t let him. It seems the same with Lowrie.

Maybe Lowrie is different , but that’s anyone’s guess. Really, that’s all we have. That’s partially because the Mets revealed no news, and it’s because Lowrie didn’t either.

Maybe telling everyone why his knee, left side, or whatever else the Mets want to call it would be more of a distraction than it is already. Maybe it won’t. Whatever the case, when you strip it all down, the Mets gave a two year $20 million deal to a guy who just can’t play.

The Mets didn’t need Lowrie when they signed him. They already had Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Jeff McNeil. What they needed was arms in the bullpen, but they already allocated their budget towards an infielder who would wind up doing no more than a few pinch hitting attempts (without a hit). You could say the Mets not having those extra arms in the pen is what cost them the postseason last year.

Ultimately, Lowrie is getting $20 million from the Mets, and he can’t get on the field. The money allocated towards him could’ve addressed other deficiencies on the roster and helped pushed the Mets into the postseason. Brodie Van Wagenen signed his former client, who was too injured to even start one game, and with that Van Wagenen quite possibly made the single worst free agent signing in Mets history.

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 49 Armando Benitez

When it comes to Armando Benitez, there is so much over-focus on the times he blew a save you almost get the impression he was a bad closer. Really, he was far from it. In fact, he is one of, if not the, most dominant reliever the Mets have ever had in their history.

For the most part, Benitez was an unknown to Mets fans when he was part of the Todd Hundley three way deal which netted the Mets Benitez and Roger Cedeno. He was not an unknown for long as he burst onto the scene.

His Mets career started with nine scoreless outings and 15 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. He was a dominant set-up man for long established John Franco, and when Franco went down to injury, Benitez seamlessly stepped in as a the Mets closer. In fact, Benitez was so great as the closer that when Franco returned from injury he remained in the closer’s role.

While the narrative changed in subsequent years, Benitez was great when the Mets needed him most. Over the final month of the season as the Mets were desperately fighting for the Wild Card, he was 1-1 converting 6/7 save attempts with a 0.64 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 14.0 innings. He would be the winner of game 162 which forced the tiebreaker game against the Reds.

In that season, he was the second best reliever in all of baseball trailing just Billy Wagner in K/9, ERA, FIP, and WAR. While overlooked, he carried that into the postseason.

In that 1999 postseason, Benitez was 1/2 in save opportunities with a 1.00 ERA in 9.0 innings pitched over seven appearances. He would strike out 11 batters. Many remember him for blowing a save in Game 6, but they forget his save in Game 4, and they forgot his pitching a scoreless 10th in Game 5. After allowing that run in Game 6, he rebounded to get the final out of the inning to send that game into the 11th.

In 2000, Benitez was arguably even better than he was in 1999. Benitez had battling gout that year, but he spent most of that time inflicting the pain on batters setting what was then a Mets single-season save record with 41 saves. He led the league with 68 games finished, which is still a Mets record to this day.

When focusing on his struggles in the postseason this year, it is still important to remember he helped pitch the Mets to the postseason. He would also be the last Mets pitcher to ever record a World Series save at Shea Stadium.

Benitez would again set the Mets single-save mark in 2001, and he would set the Mets mark for saves over two seasons. From 1999 – 2001, Benitez had the fourth most saves in the majors, and he struck out more batters than any other reliever in baseball. Arguably, this made him the most dominant National League reliever over this time frame. Inarguably, he was instrumental in the Mets success during this period.

Really, why many fans don’t want to accept it, Benitez was a great closer, and he is one of the best in team history. His 11.8 K/9 is best among all Mets relievers, and his 2.70 ERA is ninth best. By WAR, he is the fourth best reliever, and saves, he is the second best Mets closer of all-time. By WPA, he is the fifth best pitcher to ever don a Mets uniform. Ultimately, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 49.

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
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom

 

2000 Game Recap: This Is The Mike Hampton The Mets Traded For

When the Mets sent Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel to the Houston Astros, they did so thinking they were getting an ace in return, the type of ace who could take this Mets team over the top and help them win the World Series. Over the first month of the season, Mike Hampton was definitively not that.

For the second straight start, Hampton has shown himself to be the ace the Mets hoped he would be. Part of being an ace is being a stopper who comes up with big time pitching performances when the team is struggling. Hampton did exactly that pitching a complete game against the Marlins. Really, he did it all.

After five-and-a-half scoreless innings, Hampton, who nearly hit a walk-off homer yesterday, dropped a perfect bunt down to start a one out rally. He would then score on Joe McEwing‘s RBI double.

It should be noted McEwing got the first crack at replacing Rickey Henderson batting lead-off and playing left. McEwing would look nothing like Henderson out there, which is to say, he played defense and hustled. For example, in the first, Hampton was in trouble allowing the first three batters batters to reach via single.

On the third single by Kevin Millar, McEwing charged hard and came up throwing. His aggressive defense led to the Marlins holding Mark Kotsay at third where he would stay after a Preston Wilson strike out and Derek Lee GIDP.

The Mets were up 1-0 after McEwing’s double, but they were not done there. On McEwing’s double, the throw from Danny Bautista got away allowing McEwing to go to third. Brad Penny would walk Derek Bell, and then on the second pitch of the at-bat to Edgardo Alfonzo, Bell stole second. That’s where you saw one of the most bizarre decisions you will ever see. Marlins manager John Boles ordered Alfonzo be intentionally walked in front of Mike Piazza.

No one is going to deny Alfonzo is clutch and a great hitter, but intentionally walked Alfonzo after a 2-0 count to face a future Hall of Famer is beyond a dubious decision. Piazza would make the Marlins pay for their disrespect by hitting a grand slam to give the Mets a 5-0 lead.

That was all the help Hampton needed.

The Marlins couldn’t get anything going against Hampton until the eighth. In fact, after the three singles in the first, the Marlins didn’t get another hit until the eighth inning. The Marlins again had three straight singles to start an inning only this time, the third single would drive home a run. Hampton then recovered by getting the next three outs and retiring six of the last seven batters he faced.

Suddenly, the Mets are back to a game over .500, and things look the way the team drew them up before the season . . . even if those plans no longer call for Henderson leading off and playing left.

Game Notes: The Mets have replaced Henderson on the roster with Mark Johnson. He is wearing John Olerud‘s old number 5.

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: Mets Can’t Beat Giants Or Umpires

So far, Mike Hampton just isn’t the ace the Mets thought they were getting when they paid the hefty price of Roger Cedeno, Octavio Dotel, and minor leaguer Kyle Kessel. This game against the Giants was just the latest example.

The Mets have lost two in a row, and their bullpen has been a bit taxed of late. They are without their best player in Mike Piazza. For the first time this season, the team needed a big start from him. He just wasn’t up to the task with walks once again being a big problem for him.

For the second time in as many days, the Mets gave their starter a 1-0 lead. This was courtesy of a Jon Nunnally lead-off homer off of Russ Ortiz. Then, for the second time in as many days, a Mets starter immediately gave back the lead.

Hampton gave up a bunt single to Marvin Benard in the first. Bernard then stole second and scored on a Jeff Kent RBI single. Just like that, the score was tied.

The Mets manufactured their own run when Nunnally walked in the third, stole second, and scored on a Derek Bell RBI single. The rally ended there when Edgardo Alfonzo hit into the inning ending double play. Like in the first, Hampton gave that run right back.

The trouble started when Hampton walked the opposing pitcher to start the inning. After a Robin Ventura error, there was two on and no outs. Hampton did his job by getting Bernard to hit into a double play. However, he could not get that last big out when he allowed Barry Bonds to hit a game tying RBI single.

Again, the Mets would pick up their ace and not the other way around. Jay Payton reached via fielder’s choice and stole second. After a wild pitch, he was on third, and he scored easy on a Todd Pratt RBI double. That’s where the game was until Hampton completely unraveled in the sixth.

It started with Hampton issuing a lead-off walk to Kent. Things really fell apart quickly from there for Hampton with him walking four batters in that inning. It should be noted here the Mets were frustrated by the umpiring during this game (more on this later), and they have been over the past two games.

Still, Hampton didn’t adjust and locate well. Even Bobby Valentine making a rare mound visit did little to get him back into the game. Ultimately, Hampton would wind up walking the last three batters he faced in the game with the last two walks forcing in runs. Dennis Cook would have to come into the game to get Hampton out of the inning, but he would not do so before allowing an RBI single.

Hampton’s final line was an uninspiring 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 2 K. Yes, he was squeezed, and there was an unearned run, but frankly, Hampton just needs to be better than this. The Mets an ill afford for their purported ace to pitch like a fourth or fifth starter. That goes double when you consider they don’t exactly have a fifth starter right now.

Hampton would not get the loss because his teammates picked him up. In the top of the seventh, Melvin Mora hit a two RBI triple to tie the game. Despite his standing on third with less than two outs, he would be stranded there. That would cost the Mets as the game would go into extra innings.

One of the reasons it went into extras was the Mets again failed to capitalize on opportunities in the eighth. After Alfonzo led of the inning with a single, Ventura hit into a double play. Piazza came off the bench in his first at-bat since his home plate collision in Colorado.

Piazza nearly hit one out. Given the dimensions and wind in PacBell, it’s very likely that ball goes out in the other 29 parks. Just not here. Piazza was then stranded on second when Todd Zeile struck out looking to end the inning. To be fair to Zeile, neither strike two or three were in the strike zone. Again, this was a matter of an inconsistent strike zone which frustrated the Mets all game and series long.

Extra innings would be more of the same. After Benny Agbayani and Bell led off the tenth with back-to-back singles, no one could push them home. Turk Wendell did a tight rope in the 10th to send it into the 11th. That’s where the umpire problems really came to a head.

Zeile led off the the 11th with a single. Pratt hit a ground ball to Kent who threw wide to Rich Aurilia. Despite Aurilia not touching second before his relay to first, the umpires ruled it was a double play. Instead of a runner on second with one out, the Mets had two outs.

That bad umpiring decision loomed large when Wendell did not record an out in the bottom of the inning. After Bernard led off the inning with a single, Wendell wanted no part of Bonds effectively pitching around him to set up first and second with no outs.

As an aside here, Wendell would not typically be used in this situation. With the left-handed Bernard and Bonds due up to start the inning, that is a spot where Valentine would have normally gone with Cook. However, Cook was unavailable because he was needed to bail out Hampton earlier in the game. Also, Valentine could not go to Rich Rodriguez because he was coming off an extended outing, and more than that, he has been completely ineffective this year.

The end result was a rally started by the Giants, and once again, it was the former Met Kent there to do the damage. Kent would hit a walk-off three run homer to give the Giants an 8-5 victory.

There were a number of things wrong in this game including the umpiring. However, if the Mets aren’t going to take advantage of opportunities, and Hampton isn’t going to pitch like a top of the rotation starter, the blame will ultimately fall upon them.

Game Notes: With Piazza available to pinch hit, he appears set to start tomorrow’s matinee. Rickey Henderson was held out of the lineup, and he requested to speak with Steve Phillips about how he has been used this season.

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: Mets Happier With Bell And Benitez Than Griffey

The last time we saw Al Leiter on the mound against the Cincinnati Reds, he was pitching a complete game two hit shut out to send the Mets to the NLDS. Today, Leiter was not nearly as sharp against the Reds, and he would fatigue late in the game.

Heading into the top of the sixth, the Mets had a 4-1 lead over the Reds. The first run came on back-to-back doubles by Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura to lead off the second inning. Two innings later, Edgardo Alfonzo hit a two run homer driving in Rickey Henderson. Later that inning, Ventura hit a solo shot.

For Leiter, he was fighting it hitting the first batter he faced, Pokey Reese. Entering that sixth inning, he did not have a clean 1-2-3 inning. Fortunately, he was the beneficiary of double plays in the second and fourth. However, he could not get that double play ball in the third.

That inning, Reese doubled off of Leiter, and he advanced to third on a wild pitch. Former Mets prospect Alex Ochoa drove in Reese with an RBI groundout. The wild pitch was indicative of how much Leiter was fighting it on this brutally cold day. Overall, he would hit two batters, throw the wild pitch, and issue three walks.

Leiter’s wildness and ineffectiveness caught up to him in the sixth. He would load the bases with one out after walking Dante Bichette, allowing a double to Dmitri Young, and hitting Aaron Boone. Benito Santiago drove in a run with an RBI groundout. After a Travis Dawkins RBI double and Mark Lewis RBI single, the Reds had a 5-4 lead.

At that point, Leiter was chased from the game with Turk Wendell getting the last out of the inning to end the rally. This was the second straight game Wendell entered during a jam, and he would get out of it keeping the Mets chances in the game alive. Today, he would be rewarded with a win for his efforts.

In the top of the seventh, the Mets tied the score on a lead-off homer by Derek Bell. After that homer, Alfonzo singled, and Piazza doubled to set up second and third with no outs. The Reds then brought in Scott Sullivan. He apparently wasn’t quite ready as he first issued an intentional walk to Ventura before issuing an unintentional bases loaded walk to Jon Nunnally to give the Mets a 6-5 lead.

With the bases loaded and no outs, the Mets seemed primed to blow this game wide open. Instead, Sullivan went from throwing eight straight balls to striking out Jay Payton and Melvin Mora with ease. Matt Franco grounded out to end the rally.

This game would get a little more interesting. It was interesting not in the fact that it was a crazy back-and-forth affair. It wasn’t. Rather, it was interesting because we got early returns on the Mets offseason.

Before the Mets obtained Mike Hampton from the Astros, they had first attempted to get Ken Griffey, Jr. away from the Mariners. In that deal, the Mets were rumored to be parting with Roger Cedeno, Octavio Dotel, and Armando Benitez. When Griffey refused a trade to the Mets, Steve Phillips moved Cedeno and Dotel to the Astros.

In that Astros trade, the Mets not only netted Hampton, but also Bell. Bell has been a revelation for the Mets not only with his terrific right field defense but also for his big hits. One of those big hits came today with the game tying homer to lead off the seventh.

The failed Griffey trade also meant Benitez remained on as the Mets closer. Today, the Mets were happy with that.

After walking Sean Casey to lead off the inning, Benitez responded by striking out Reese and Michael Tucker. That brought Griffey to the plate as the go-ahead run. With the game on the line, the Shea Stadium crowd who let him have it all day continued to let him have it. They then got to celebrate when Benitez blew a fastball by Griffey to end the game.

With the win, the Mets winning streak is now nine games, and more than that, it appears as if the Mets got lucky by having Bell in right instead of Griffey. Of course, Griffey is a future Hall of Famer, and the Mets may still wish they got him, but for now, this is a Mets team who appears to be World Series contenders, and we will all take that.

Game Notes: The Mets wore their 1969 throwbacks. Before the game, Rey Ordonez and Cookie Rojas left the ballpark to protest the Elian Gonzalez deportation. This was part of a nationwide one-day work stoppage. Mora started at short in Ordonez’s place.

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. 9 Todd Hundley

When it comes to the number 9, there are some fan favorites and good baseball players who have worn the number in Mets history. There was J.C. Martin who paired with Jerry Grote to backstop the 1969 World Series champions. Gregg Jefferies accomplished the rare feat of twice finishing in the top six in Rookie of the Year voting.

Todd Zeile probably came an inch and Timo Perez hustle to claim this honor himself, especially with his spearheading the Mets players wearing the caps in the wake of 9/11. Brandon Nimmo is an on-base machine who already has the Mets single-season HBP record. Ultimately, this honor may one day belong to him, but for today, the best Mets player to wear the number 9 is Todd Hundley.

The son of former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley was born to play catcher. While there were questions about his bat, Hundley was known as a good defensive catcher. After Gary Carter was released, and Mackey Sasser struggled with the yips, he was rushed to the majors as a 20 year old.

While he got his first call-up in 1990, it took him a few seasons to stick on as the Mets starting catcher. Even with him being a good backstop, it was not until the 1995 season where Hundley truly established himself as a real everyday Major League catcher. That began from the first game of the 1995 season where he hit the first ever grand slam in the first game ever at Coors Field:

In that 1995 season, Hundley would deal with some injury issues, but he would put together his first real year as a player who could catch and hold his own at the plate. That 1995 season was an important year for him, but it was the following season which would define him.

The 1996 Mets were not a very good team, but they were a team with some of the best seasons in team history. In that year, Lance Johnson set the Mets single season record for triples. Bernard Gilkey set the Mets single season mark for doubles. Finally, Hundley would set the Mets single season mark for homers. It was actually much more than that.

Hundley’s 41 homers in 1996 would not only have him break Darryl Strawberry‘s single-season record for homers by a Met. It would also break Roy Campanella‘s single-season mark for homers by a catcher. Hundley would set the record with a homer off future teammate Greg McMichael:

For a Mets team with so much losing and with so many low points since that stretch in the 1980s, it was an important moment. It was so important to the team, they had a hologram picture of Hundley breaking the record on the 1997 year book.

That was an important moment for the Mets not only because of the record, but also because it was their first real sign of hope in years. With Hundley, they had a homegrown budding star to build a team around. In that year, he would make his first All Star team.

While Hundley didn’t set any records in 1997, he did something possibly even more important. He backed up what he did in 1996 by hitting 30 home runs the following year. He would once again be an All Star. More than that, he was a key part of a Mets team who was suddenly good. In fact, that team won a surprising 88 games, and they looked like an up and coming team.

More than that, Hundley and the Mets delivered the first blow in the first ever Subway Series game when baseball introduced Interleague Play. In the first inning of that game, Hundley would actually steal home. More important than that, he would catch every pitch of Dave Mlicki‘s complete game shutout which culminating in his framing a Mlicki curve to strike out Derek Jeter to end the game.

The Mets would take another step the following season emerging as real postseason contenders. Unfortunately, Hundley was not much a part of that. He missed the beginning of the year with reconstructive elbow surgery. That team got off to a slow start without him, and in an effort to save the season, the Mets obtained the shockingly available Mike Piazza, who was moved earlier in the season to the Florida Marlins.

That meant when Hundley came back there was nowhere for him to play. He tried left field, but he struggled out there, and for the good of the team, he told Bobby Valentine the team needed to reduce his role. That request did not come with a trade demand. Still, even though he was relegated as a back-up and pinch hitter, it did not mean he would not contribute.

Hundley’s last hurrah as a member of the Mets came in Houston. The Mets were a game out in the loss column for the Wild Card, and they needed every win they could get. In the top of the 12th, Hundley would hit a go-ahead homer helping the Mets keep pace. Unfortunately, it would not be in the cards for the Mets that year, and it was time from the team to move on from their homegrown star.

The Mets re-signed Piazza necessitating they trade Hundley. They did so moving him to the Dodgers in a deal which netted them Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson, who was flipped to the Orioles for Armando Benitez. With that, even Hundley gone, he again helped make the Mets a postseason team.

In the ensuing years, he’d be one of the players named in the Mitchell Report putting an asterisk on some of his accomplishments. He’d also be long forgotten with the rise of Piazza, and he would see his record fall to Javy Lopez. Still, when he was with the Mets, in terms of the numbers, he was the best Mets player to ever wear the number 9.

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 Hundley was the ninth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 9.

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

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 7 Jose Reyes

With all due respect to Ed Kranepool, an original Met who held many team records, there is no doubt whatsoever Jose Reyes was undoubtedly the best player to ever wear the number 7 for the New York Mets.

From the moment, Reyes was called up to the majors, he was one of the most exciting players who ever donned the Mets uniform. He had this rare combination of speed, hustle, and a rifle of an arm. Really, the best word to describe him was “electric.” That was evident in his first ever game hitting an infield single to second in his first ever at-bat against John Thomson and then scoring from first on a Roger Cedeno double.

Not too long after that was his first injury, triple, homer, and stolen base. On the triples and stolen bases, no one in Mets history would have more. On the homer, it showed how Reyes was just a dynamic lead-off hitter who was this incredible combination of speed and power.

For some reason, the Mets didn’t quite know what they had in him, and they went out to sign Kazuo Matsui to be their shortstop, and they moved Reyes to second. Ultimately, as would be the case many times in his career, his talent would shine through, and he would eventually overtake Matsui and force him to second.

However, due to injuries, he wouldn’t have his first full season until 2005. In that year, the once injury prone player would play all but one game. That year would be the first year of a two year stretch where he would lead the league in both triples and stolen bases. It was the next year which would be year he figured it out.

Working with Willie Randolph, Reyes finally harnessed himself, and he would become an All-Star. Mostly, he was a dynamic threat atop the lineup. He drove that powerful Mets lineup, and he would be just about as important as any player in the league. We saw an example of that when he had a great Game 6 in the NLCS when the Mets were in danger of elimination:

That game could have been the best game of his career. He led off the game with a homer to help get the Mets an early lead. He was 3-for-4 with two runs, a homer, and an RBI. He was also a perfect 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts against Yadier Molina. After his second stolen base in the seventh, he put himself in scoring position for Paul Lo Duca‘s two RBI single to seal the game. In Game 7, he would be absolutely robbed of a series winning hit.

Really, it was during this 2006 season Reyes established himself as the best lead-off hitter in the game, and he was on his way to becoming the best lead-off hitter in Mets history. In 2007, he beat Cedeno’s record for stolen bases in a year, and by the end of 2008, before the Mets moved out of Shea Stadium, he surpassed Mookie Wilson for the Mets all-time record.

While Citi Field seemed ill-suited for the Mets, it wasn’t for Reyes. The ballpark seemed designed just for him. When he wasn’t dealing with injuries, he was hitting the ball hard into the gaps. Finally, in 2011, he did what no other Met had ever done by winning the batting title. For a moment, his bunt single to ensure the title on the last game of the season would seem to be his last moment as a New York Met:

There was a war of words over whether the Mets offered Reyes a contract or not, and for some reason, Reyes was actually booed when he returned to New York as a member of the Miami Marlins. From there, he would go to Toronto, and then Colorado. Things took a completely unexpected turn when Reyes was arrested for domestic violence on the same day the Mets blew a lead in Game 4 of the World Series.

Reyes found himself suspended and without a team as the Rockies used the incident as an opportunity to release Reyes to hand over the shortstop duties to Trevor Story. With his friend and longtime teammate David Wright unable to play due to spinal stenosis, the Mets came calling to bring him back and begin his redemption.

Even with all that happened, Reyes would be greeted with open arms by the fans, and he would be welcomed again with the “Jose!” chants. It was during this run, Reyes would have his truly last great moment as a member of the New York Mets homering in the bottom of the ninth against the Phillies in one of the games which propelled the Mets to the top Wild Card spot:

From there, Reyes would not be able to replicate the type of success he had in his brief 2016 stint, but he would stick around to mentor Amed Rosario. He would also be there for one last time to play alongside Wright in 2018 in what would prove to be the final game they’d play beside one another in what was the final season for both players.

Overall, Reyes is not just the best shortstop in team history, he is on the shortlist of the best players in team history. He is undoubtedly the best lead-off hitter they have ever have with team records in triples and stolen bases. While his story is as complicated as they come, he is undoubtedly the best Mets player to ever wear the number 7.

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 Reyes was the seventh best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 7.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman

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.

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.

Jed Lowrie Had The Debilitating Knee Injury Wilmer Flores Never Had

It was officially one year ago today reports surfaced of Jed Lowrie‘s knee injury. When it first occurred, we assumed this was probably nothing more than one of those early aches some players feel during Spring Training. As is usually the case, the Mets really had no idea of the severity of the injury, how to properly manage or diagnose it, or how to get the player back on the field.

By and large, this injury kept Lowrie from playing in the field, and it limited him to just eight pinch hitting appearances in 2019. In those appearances, he had no hits, drew one walk, and struck out four times.

Fast forward to this year, and Lowrie is wearing a leg brace to help him participate in Spring Training. At the moment, no one knows if Lowrie will be able to effectively play with the brace, if he can only play with a brace, or for that matter when or if he will be able to ever play.

With all due respect to Jason Bay, Luis Castillo, Roger Cedeno, Vince Coleman, and George Foster, Lowrie is shaping up to be the absolute worst free agent signing in Mets history.

What makes this signing all the more troubling is Lowrie’s agent was Brodie Van Wagenen. If there was any GM in baseball who was well aware of the health issues of Lowrie, it would be his agent. Looking back, instead of the enthusiasm for the signing, perhaps there should have been more inquiry why a player coming off an All-Star season and had an 8.8 WAR over the previous two seasons could do not better than signing with the Mets to split time with Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Amed Rosario.

The Mets have completely and utterly wasted $20 million on a player who cannot play due to knee injuries. What makes this ironic is the Mets purportedly non-tendered Wilmer Flores partially due to knee injuries which never really existed.

While it was initially reported Flores had arthritis, subsequent reports indicated that was a misdiagnosis. In fact, Flores had tendonitis. Instead of paying him less than $5 million, or working out a team friendly extension he might’ve been inclined to sign, Flores would go to Arizona.

While he had his usual health issues, Flores had a productive season with the Diamondbacks. While continuing to improve against right-handed pitching, he had a 120 wRC+, which was the best of his career. He mostly held his own at second with a -2 DRS and a 1 OAA. That’s right, according to OAA, Flores was a positive defender. Overall, he was worth a 0.8 WAR in 89 games.

Lost in that was Flores’ clutch gene. The same player who is the Mets all-time leader in game winning RBI came up huge down the stretch for the Diamondbacks. From August to the end of the season, he hit .368/.410/.623. His 166 wRC+ over this stretch ranked as the fifth best in the majors.

While this was not enough for Flores’ option to be picked up by the Diamondbacks, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants to a two year $6.25 million deal. In total, that’s $10 million over three years for Flores. Put another way, that’s what Lowrie made in 2019 alone for his eight pinch hitting attempts.

Going forward, the Mets attempts to get another team to take on Lowrie’s contract so they could make another move failed. Meanwhile, Flores is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. Seeing the continued improvements he has made against right-handed pitching and OAA rating his defense much better, Flores could out-play his contract.

In the end, the Mets had a player in Flores who was popular, had a right-handed bat which complimented their heavy left-handed hitting lineup, was comfortable and effective on the bench, and could backup at all four infield positions. Rather than keep him around, Van Wagenen opted to sign his former client who cannot play to a $20 million deal.