Tag: lee mazzilli

The Endy Chavez Encore and 10 Other Double-Duty Mets

A recent NYDN article indicated that the Mets have “discussed” a reunion with OF Endy Chavez. FWIW, I am in favor of this deal and hope it gets done. One of my reasons for this is that if Endy dons the orange and blue again, he becomes an interesting part of Mets History—players who have had two tours of duty with the Mets.

Technically, this would be Endy’s third go round with the Mets. First he was in their farm system from 1997-2001. He returned and played for the big club from 2006 through the end of the 2008 season before departing to Seattle in the massive three-team, twelve player deal that December.

So how have other encore performances worked out for the Mets? We’re glad you asked!
1. Rusty Staub (1972-75, 1981-85): This is the best recycled player the franchise has had to date. After a four year stint with the Mets where he hit 62 homers and drove in 307 runs, the Mets shipped Le Grande Orange to Detroit for Mickey Lolich after the 1975 season, easily one of the worst deals in franchise history. Six years later, Frank Cashen undid that move and Staub returned to the Mets as a free agent. In 1983, he tied an NL record with eight straight pinch-hits and in that same season also tied the Major League record of 25 RBIs by a pinch hitter. He lasted until 1985, providing veteran leadership for a team on the rise. One of the more beloved Mets, he was later elected into the Mets Hall of Fame.
2. Lee Mazzilli (1976-82, 1986-89): Boy, I seem to blog about Maz often and for good reason: he has a fascinating history as a Met. His first stint from 1976 through 1981 coincided with one of the worst periods in team history. He was dealt to Texas before the 1982 season for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, a deal largely credited (by me at least) in sparking the franchise’s resurgence. In 1986 the Mets picked him back up on waivers from the Pirates and he played an important part of their championship team. He hit .306 the next year and his career with the Mets continued until 1989.
3. Dave Kingman (1975-77, 1981-83): Dave clubbed 62 home runs for the Mets, some of them legendary, during his first two and a half seasons with the club. He also struck out 344 times in 1,208 ABs, couldn’t field a lick and was a surly clubhouse presence. He was shipped to San Diego as part of the June 15 1977 “Midnight Massacre.” The Mets re-acquired him before the 1981 season for Steve Henderson, another one of the trade principles from that fateful June evening. It was more of the same: Kong hit 52 homeruns and struck out 334 times in 1,136 at bats. His personality hadn’t changed and the Mets were glad to see him go after the 1983 season.
4. Tom Seaver (1966-76, 1983): The Worst Trade in Mets History (a.k.a the Midnight Massacre) sent their Franchise Player to Cincinnati in 1977. (Kingman went to San Diego in a separate deal that same night). Cashen undid that move by trading back for him in 1983. Tom lasted a season with the Mets, going 9 and 14 before being exposed a free agent compensation draft and getting claimed by the White Sox. I will always wonder why the Mets couldn’t have traded a prospect or two to the Sox instead and kept him. Seaver later moved to Boston and created a “what if” scenario, as an injury kept him off the Bosox active roster during the 1986 World Series.
5. Kevin McReynolds (1987-1991, 1994): Forgot this one? Kevin came to symbolize all that was wrong with the late 1980’s Mets and was run out of town in 1991. His replacement was Vince Coleman, who came to symbolize all that was wrong with the early 1990’s Mets until he was run out of town after the 1993 season—to Kansas City for McReynolds. K-Mac hit .256 during the strike-shortened 1994 season and then called it a career.
6. Jason Isringhausen (1995-99, 2011): Nice story last year, but is probably moving on again. His first go round with the Mets is worth a post in itself.
7. Tim Foli (1970-71, 78-79): Ah, Crazy Horse. Traded for Staub and then had his contract purchased by the Mets from the Giants in 1978. Later traded again, this time to Pittsburgh in early 1979 for Frank Taveras; a move that I loved at the time. He helped Pittsburgh win a World Series the next year.
8. Mike Jorgensen (1970-71, 1980-83): Traded with Foli and Ken Singleton for Staub prior to the 1972 season. Came back to the Mets in 1980 with Ed Lynch in a deal for Willie Montanez (not a bad trade!) The Mets sold his contract to Atlanta in 1983 on the same day they acquired Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals. Nice Upgrade.
9. Bill Pulsipher (1995-98, 2000): Can’t miss prospect that missed. Twice.
10. Bobby Bonilla (1992-95, 1999): Hard to believe, but his second stint with the Mets was worse than his first. The Mets are now paying him a million a year until around 2025.

Honorable Mentions: Kelly Stinnett, Alex Trevino, Ray Sadecki, Al Jackson, Bob L. Miller and David Cone.

Did I miss anyone?

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Spilled Milk Part 2: Missed Trades Since 1986

We’re back after a brief interruption on our look at deals the Mets didn’t make and what those deals could have meant to the franchise if they had actually been consummated. This week, we’ll take a look at some near misses in the modern era, which for our purposes span the last 25 years of Mets History, beginning in 1986. Speaking of that magical year…

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6 DUPACR: Wally Backman

With 6 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, I chose former #6 Wally Backman to represent the day.

Are you surprised? If so then you don’t come by here often.

Wally — like many of the ’86 Mets — was considered an “old-school” player in the 1980s … which means, in today’s game, he’d be REALLY old-school … in fact I’m not even sure that schools existed in cro-magnon times.

25-30 years ago, old school meant hustling all the time; getting the uniform dirty by sliding head-first and diving for balls; taking out the pivot man on a double play as a rule; leaning into a pitch to get on base; stealing signs; barreling the catcher; playing with injuries; and doing everything else (without cheating) to win a ballgame. This may sound similar to what “old school” means today, but there is one more factor that you rarely, if ever, see from today’s old-schooler: hatred for the opponent. There was no fraternizing back then — not before games, not during games. OK, there was an occasional chatty first baseman, but for the most part, opponents genuinely hated each other. And in 1986, NL teams genuinely hated the Mets — and vice-versa. Three players in particular — Wally Backman, Ray Knight, and Lenny Dykstra — epitomized the “old school” way, and despite not being the most gifted or highest-profile players, were driving forces of the character of the last Mets World Championship club.

There are many things I remember vividly about Wally, beginning with his distinctive, squatting batting stance. He did everything he had to do to get on base, be it by hit, by getting hit, by walking, or, my favorite, via a drag bunt. His drag bunting from the left side was spectacular; he would push it hard past the pitcher, but too far away from the first baseman and more or less at the second baseman, who was usually playing too far back to field the ball in time. Both Backman and Mookie Wilson turned that execution into an art form, and seemed to always get a hit as a result. To this day I don’t understand why the Mets haven’t sent Jose Reyes to work with Wally and/or Mookie during spring training to learn how to bunt like this; Reyes might hit .350 if he bunted for a hit more often.

But I digress …

Of course I remember Wally’s hard-nosed play and passion on the field. Though, one other incident that sticks with me was off the field: his run-in with Darryl Strawberry in 1987. For years, Straw was chronically late for games and/or would beg out after partying too much the evening before. The Straw that broke the camel’s back came in early July ’87, when Darryl recorded a rap song on a Monday night, then came up “ill” on Tuesday night before an important game against the Cardinals. He sat out that game and the next for “low-grade fever and headache”; his teammates translated that to mean, “I don’t want to face the Cards’ two tough lefty starters Joe Magrane and Mike Mathews”. Lee Mazzilli and Wally Backman called out Darryl in the press, with Backman saying, “From the stuff I heard from the trainer’s room, Straw should’ve been out there. Nobody in the world that I know of gets sick 25 times a year.” This prompted the 6’6″ Strawberry to respond, “I’ll bust that little redneck in the face”. When reporters relayed that to the 5’8″ Backman, Wally said, “If that’s the case, do you think I’m going to back down?”. Gotta love it.

There were many, many others to wear #6, so I’m sure you have your own choice to represent this day. Just a few of them: Jose Cardenal, Al Weis, Mike Vail, Alex Trevino, Daryl Boston, Joe Orsulak, Melvin Mora, Timo Perez, Mike DiFelice, Ruben Gotay. What #6 do you remember most and why? Share your memories in the comments.

We have less than a week, folks!

The countdown thus far:

#6 Wally Backman
#7 Hubie Brooks
#8 Gary Carter
#9 Gregg Jefferies
#10 Rusty Staub
#11 Lenny Randle
#12 John Stearns
#13 Edgardo Alfonzo
#14 Gil Hodges
#15 Jerry Grote
#16 Dwight Gooden
#17 Felix Millan
#18 Darryl Strawberry
#19 Anthony Young
#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd

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16 DUPACR: Dwight Gooden

With 16 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we honor the day with former #16 Dwight Gooden. This was a fairly easy choice, though I did for a moment consider Lee Mazzilli, who made the number famous in Flushing in the 1970s and early 1980s. If you weren’t around back then, you might think it preposterous to consider “Maz” — but back then he was the closest thing the Mets had to a star (and matinee idol, believe it or not). Mazzilli was annually the Mets’ lone All-Star representative and usually the only guy in the lineup hitting over .250. Plus he had a great baseball name.

Funny, in high school (1984-88) I used to wear a gray #16 “Property of New York Mets Baseball Club” t-shirt under my football and baseball game jerseys for good luck. People used to think the #16 was for Gooden, but it was actually for Mazzilli — a too-large gift for my 11th birthday. The timing for when I finally grew into it was impeccable.

But I digress … this is about Duh-wight (as Ralph Kiner used to say), who electrified Shea Stadium with the lightning bolts that screamed from his right arm.

Like Darryl Strawberry, we knew Dwight was a superstar the moment he stepped on the field. It was hard to separate the two in our heads — if you thought of Dwight, you thought of Darryl, and vice-versa. Ironically, this is the way it went for most of each of their roller-coaster careers.

Dwight and Darryl were supposed to make the Mets a “dynasty” — something the Yankees were called in the late 70s — leading the team into the World Series every year for the next 10-15 years. Darryl was going to some day break both the single-season and career homerun records, and might even win the Triple Crown. Dwight was going to pitch the first no-hitter in Mets history — we were sure of it! — and win 300 games easily. In their early 20s, they were sure-fire Hall of Famers — barring injury or some other incredibly unfortunate mishap.

But we won’t go there; we know how things turned out. As with Darryl, no matter what turns “Doc” took off the road to greatness, I still vividly remember that greatness, and cherish it — however brief it was.

For three years — 1984-1986 — Dwight Gooden was the best pitcher in baseball, hands-down. He accomplished this status while being too young to drink (legally), which when you think about it, is all the more amazing. Starting from a violent, intimidating, high knee lift and hip coil, he threw a blazing, 96-98 MPH fastball that moved laterally and vertically; an overhand curveball with such tight spin and sudden drop it was deemed “Lord Charles” (curves were called “Uncle Charley” in the old days); a wicked slider that dashed furiously away from waving lumber; and just for fun, he’d toy with a change-up that he didn’t even need. Dwight was so dominant, it didn’t seem fair that batters had to face him — particularly at night, when his fastball seemed to speed up just a bit more, and his curve dropped a little harder.

That curve was something else. Nolan Ryan was the only other pitcher I ever saw with a curve like that, but he didn’t have the same control of it, and it didn’t drop as dramatically. Doc’s deuce would seem to start two feet over the batter’s head, then dart straight down into the strike zone at his buckling knees. With the image of the yellow hammer now firmly entrenched in the batter’s head, Dwight would follow up with a rising fastball that started toward the strike zone at a level near the batter’s belt buckle, and wind up at shoulder height — past the breeze of a too-slow bat.

What was nearly as unbelievable as Gooden’s talent was the fact he didn’t throw a no-no in a Mets uniform. With his dominating stuff, a no-hitter seemed inevitable every time he made a start. How anyone ever made contact remains a mystery to me.

What are your memories of #16? And are they of Gooden, Mazzilli, or someone else? Share in the comments.

The countdown thus far:

#17 Felix Millan
#18 Darryl Strawberry
#19 Anthony Young
#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd

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