Mets Hall of Fame: The Roberto Alomar Wing
It’s a little-known fact that the Mets have a special wing of their team hall of fame. It’s reserved for players who meet the following criteria:
A player who puts up awesome numbers every year until the exact moment he puts on a Mets uniform.
It’s called the Roberto Alomar Wing of the Mets Hall of Fame. It’s not for every bad trade or free-agent signing. It’s not for a player the Mets acquired who was obviously past his prime. It’s only for the most dramatic examples of a player whose career takes a nose dive as soon as he dons a Mets jersey.
The committee in charge of the Roberto Alomar Wing of the Mets Hall of Fame will keep a close eye on Jason Bay this year. He’s virtually a lock as it is, but if he happens to pull off a miracle season, the committee might change its mind. It will be one of the more intriguing storylines of 2012.
With that said, here are the current members of the Roberto Alomar Wing of the Mets Hall of Fame.
Roberto Alomar – The inaugural member. Alomar was well on his way to a hall of fame career (he would eventually be inducted into Cooperstown in 2011) when he came to the Mets in 2002. He had hit over .300 9 out of his 14 seasons in the majors up until that point. The only time he finished the season with a batting average under .280 was in his rookie season, when he batted .266. In 2001, he hit .336 with 20 HRs, 100 RBIs, and a career-high .956 OPS.
Then he became a Met.
With no apparent injury problems, he hit .266 in 590 at bats with New York in 2002, 70 points below his batting average from the year before. He also compiled a little more than half the homers (11) and RBI (53) than he had the year before. In the middle of a second disappointing year, New York unloaded him on the White Sox. He was never quite the same again, although he did hit .308 in a part-time role with the Diamondbacks in 2004, before calling it quits after the season.
George Foster – George Foster was one of the premiere sluggers of the late 70s and early 80s. He hit 52 home runs in 1977, a feat that was rare at the time. He continued to put up consistently big power numbers every full season of his career with the Reds. In the strike-shortened season of 1981, Foster hit 22 homers with 90 RBI in only 414 at bats.
Then he became a Met.
When the Mets acquired George Foster before the 1982 season, it was a signal that the new ownership was committed to putting a winning team on the field. After the trade, they signed him to a huge contract, and plugged him into the number 3 spot in the batting order ahead of Dave Kingman.
But Foster struggled in the New York spotlight, and managed only 13 HRs and 70 RBI in 550 at bats with the Mets in 1982. His numbers improved slightly in subsequent years, but he never returned to being the fearsome slugger he was in Cincinatti. He was traded away (also to the White Sox) in the middle of the championship season of 1986.
Vince Coleman – This one caused a little debate among the committee members. His drop off was severe, but he was limited to only 72 games in 1991, his first season as a Met. But his overall dropoff was deemed “in the spirit” of the Roberto Alomar Wing. Then tack on his reputation with small explosives, and his induction was assured.
The speedy Coleman was a thorn in the Mets’ side during their clashes with the rival St. Louis Cardinals throughout the late 80s. He stole over a hundred bases in each of his first three years in the bigs (1985-1987). As his career went on, his stolen base numbers leveled out, but he appeared to develop into a better hitter. In 1990, he put up career highs in batting average (.292) and slugging percentage (.400). All while swiping 77 bases.
Then he became a Met.
In only 313 at bats, Coleman stole 37 bases and was caught stealing 14 times. The previous year he was caught only 17 times in a full season. His base-stealing strategy was called into question, which led to an ugly argument with coach Mike Cubbage. He had a similar argument with manager Jeff Torborg in 1992, which led to Coleman’s suspension.
In 1993, Vince continued his wave of destruction by whacking Dwight Gooden‘s arm with a golf club while practicing his swing in the clubhouse. Gooden had to go on the DL as a result. Later that year, he threw a lit firecracker into a crowd of fans waiting for autographs in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. The explosion injured three children, including a two-year-old. He was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for the incident. He never played for the Mets again.
Bobby Bonilla – Throughout the late 80s into the early 90s, Bonilla had developed himself into one of the National League’s premier hitters. He and Pirates teammate Barry Bonds formed a devastating 1-2 punch in the middle of Pittsburgh’s batting order. Since 1987, Bonilla had never had an OPS lower than .832. He didn’t hit home runs like Bonds, but was known as a gap-to-gap hitter with some HR and extra base power. In 1991, he had a career-high .883 OPS, 44 doubles, and a .302 average.
Then he became a Met.
New York signed him as a free agent for a then-impressive 5 years and $29 million prior to the 1992 season. The heretofore durable Bonilla amassed 174 fewer plate appearances than he did the year before, and his OPS dipped to .779. In 1993, he threatened to “show [author Jeff Pearlman] the Bronx” in response to Pearlman’s book, The Worst Team Money Can Buy.
Like Foster, his numbers improved over the next couple of years, culminating with a .984 OPS first half in 1995. With his value high, he was traded to the Orioles at the deadline.
He returned briefly in 1999, and contributed little, except for a late-inning clubhouse card game with Rickey Henderson during the playoffs.
Jeromy Burnitz – Burnitz is one of those players whom the Mets had before and after he was good – kind of similar to Jason Bay, although Bay never played on the big league club during his first go-around.
Burnitz was a prospect for the Mets who had a taste of the majors in 1993 and 1994. He had a .814 OPS in 306 plate appearances in ’93. He had much less success in ’94, and the Mets gave up on him. He found his way to Milwaukee in 1996, and promptly hit over 30 HRs 4 times, and knocked in over 100 runs 3 times in his 6 seasons with the Brewers. In 2001, he had 34 homers, 100 RBI, and an .851 OPS.
Then he became a Met. Again.
In 550 plate appearances in 2002, Jeromy’s OPS fell to .677. He made a comeback in 2003, putting up a .925 OPS in half a season, and he became a fan favorite. But he was moved to the Dodgers, in an effort to reduce salary, at the trade deadline. He had one more great year in the rarified air of Colorado, before retiring after the 2006 season.
So, will Jason Bay become the latest member of this distinguished group? For his sake, the committee hopes not. Bay has been a model citizen, and has worked and played hard every day for the Mets. The production just hasn’t been there. The committee hopes that, perhaps now, with visions of the Great Wall of Flushing no longer dancing in his head, he’ll return to his pre-Met form.