Tag: david cone

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?


Adios Jose? Five Free Agents Who Left The Mets

The Mets are heading towards their first potential major free agent defection since the end of the 2000 season. In fact, throughout the entire 35 years of free agency, only a handful of key players ever left the team for greener pastures. This does not include a plethora of bad trades, bungled roster moves or the like, but players the team wanted to keep but couldn’t. Should the Mets re-sign Jose Reyes? Perhaps history will serve as a guide. For clarity the player’s last year with the Mets appears in parenthesis.

1.Darryl Strawberry (1990): Until recently the best offensive player the Mets have ever produced, Straw’s contract expired at the end of the 1990 season. At the time he was at the pinnacle of his career: at age 29 he was on pace the break the all time home run record and was coming off a 37-home run season. Darryl spurned the Mets, instead inking a lucrative five-year $22.25 million contract with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers. He proved to be a bust in LA, hitting only only 38 home runs in three years there before being released. He drifted to San Francisco and then later to the Yankees where he enjoyed a revival of sorts, but his sure-fire Hall of Fame career when he left the Mets was lost in a haze of injuries and drug abuse. He has since reconcilled with the Mets and recently surfaced, warning Reyes to stay in New York. Hard to envision what could have happened had he stayed (many blame the influence of hometown friends on his demise in LA) but the cost of replacing him—first Vince Coleman and then Bobby Bonilla—ushered in a Mets Dark Age that lasted from 1991 to 1998 and the arrival of Mike Piazza.

2.John Olerud (1999): This one hurts. Ole revitalized his career in New York after then-GM Joe McIlvaine stole him from Toronto for Robert Person. Ole hit .354 for the Mets in 1998 and was the first baseman for “the greatest infield ever” in 1999. He departed after that season for his hometown of Seattle where his offensive revitalization continued. He also logged time with Boston and the Yankees before retiring with a .398 career OBP. To replace him, the Mets signed Todd Ziele, who did an acceptable job at first for a few years before departing via trade to Milwaukee after the 2002 season. The Mets could have used Olerud’s bat in the Subway Series and in their failed defense of the NL title in 2001.

3. Mike Hampton (2000): Mike arrived two days before Christmas in 1999 for Octavio Dotel and Roger Cedeno. He helped anchor the rotation in for 2000 NL Champion Mets, going 15–10 with a 3.12 ERA and winning the MVP of the 2000 NLCS. Then he departed for Colorado, making the infamous “the schools in Colorado are better” remark. Injuries derailed Mike’s career and his 8 year, $121 million dollar contract is widely regarded as one of the worst free-agent signings in MLB history. As compensation, the Mets received Colorado’s pick in the draft and took an infielder you may have heard of: David Wright.

4. Sid Fernandez (1993): By the end of 1993 season all of the shine was gone from the 1986 championship team. One of it’s last remaining links was El Sid, who’s pitching performance in Game Seven of the 1986 World Series is still one of the most underrated efforts in team history. McIlvaine told reporters he wanted to keep Sid, but instead the Baltimore Orioles signed him to a three year deal. Sid was clearly done by this time, lasting parts of two seasons with Baltimore and one season each in Philadelphia and Houston. As compensation, the Mets used Baltimore’s pick in the draft to get Jay Payton. One of the most enigmatic players in Met history, Payton overcame several years worth of injuries to hold the starting CF position for the 2000 champs.

5. David Cone (1992): OK this one doesn’t really count, as Cone was traded to the Blue Jays right at the end of August. But he was in the last month of his contract and it was generally assumed that he would not resign with the Mets. GM Al Harazin realizing Cone was leaving, went into panic mode and moved him quickly to the Jays. Backing up the old adage that even a blind squirrel finds a nut occassionally, part of the haul included an unknown second baseman named Jeff Kent. Unfortunately, the Mets didn’t know what they had in Jeff and watched as he fueded with teamates, the press and the fans until they shipped him to Cleveland in the ill-fated Carlos Baerga deal. Later Kent developed into a Hall of Famer with the San Francisco Giants. Cone went on to spectacular career: winning a World Series with Toronto and a Cy Young Award in Kansas City. He then went to the Yankees (they do have a fetish for ex-Mets, no?) where he won four rings, pitched a perfect game and got Mike Piazza out in a crucial spot in Game Four of the Subway Series.

Honorable Mentions: Al Leiter, John Franco and Mike Piazza. In all cases the Mets let these long-time stalwarts leave without an arbitration offer, meaning they had no intention of keeping any of them.
Epilouge: In all but one case (Olerud) the Mets guessed right in letting their big ticket players go. The haul in return was a franchise player (Wright), a useful piece (Payton) and the One That Got Away (Kent). The real lesson is the Strawberry situation. Just a hunch, but Jose Reyes’ .337 season and the NL batting crown is going to be as good as it gets with him. However, if the Mets are going to let him walk, it had best be as part of a plan for a rebuilding instead of a makeover. No trying to replace him with expensive pieces that they reward for their previous efforts with another team. They shouldn’t worry about what the fans think. The hard core fanbase will accept a rebuilding with a purpose. The good news for the Mets is that the hard core fanbase is all that is left them.


17 DUPACR: Guess Who?

There are 17 Days Until Pitchers and Catchers Report to spring training at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida. So today I honor a former player who wore New York Mets uniform number 17.

But which #17 do I bestow this honor?

I’ll give you a few hints:

– he was an infielder
– he was known for his outstanding defense on the right side of the infield
– he wore a distinctive, memorable mustache
– he was a great contact hitter who rarely struck out
– he was more of a line-drive / singles hitter than a homerun threat
– he led the Mets in hits in multiple seasons
– he played with plenty of passion, and had a fiery temper
– he was of Latin descent

Can you guess what #17 I’m honoring today?


Comparison: 1990 Mets and 2011 Phillies

The 1990 Mets looked great on paper, headed by what looked like the best starting rotation seen in Flushing since the days of Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack.

It looked like this:

1. Dwight Gooden
2. Frank Viola
3. David Cone
4. Ron Darling
5. Sid Fernandez
6. Bob Ojeda

Doc was 100% healed from a shoulder injury that marred his 1989 and at 25 years old, and primed to regain dominance as the most feared righty in baseball. Viola was only 30, two years removed from a Cy Young Award, and considered the top lefthanded starting pitcher in MLB. Cone was coming off a so-so year (for him), but put up numbers similar to those that helped him go 20-3 in ’88. Both Darling and Fernandez were coming off of 14-win seasons, and seemed to be turning a corner — many thought ’90 would be the “breakout year” for each of the previously inconsistent pitchers. The rotation was so deep, Ojeda was banished to the bullpen, despite still having enough stuff to be a #3 or possibly #2 on another club.

On offense, the Mets had returning


Hearn for Cone Revisited

hearn-edLast night I watched “Prime 9” on the MLB Network last night; it was the episode titled “Top 9 Greatest One-sided Trades”. The #8 trade on the list was the Mets’ trade of Ed Hearn to the Royals for David Cone (though the narrator kept referring to someone named “Dick” Cone).

Back then, it seemed a bizarre trade from the Mets point-of-view. I remember it vividly, being a diehard Mets fan and owning an abnormal affection for Hearn (hey, I’m a catcher, and love ALL catchers!). To me it was a strange deal, because although he was one of three young and capable backups the Mets had on the roster — Barry Lyons and John Gibbons were the others — Hearn was head and shoulders above the others in terms of defense, and Gibbons had a hard time staying healthy. What made the trade stranger was that the Mets traded steady Eddie for, of all things, a pitcher.

The deal echoed the quote of Peter Falk from the opening scene of the original “The In-Laws”:

Gee, I can’t believe this trade. What do the Mets need another pitcher for?
All they got is pitchers.

That’s exactly how I — and many Mets fans — felt at the time. What in the world did the Mets need with another pitcher? After all, they were loaded. They were the reigning world champions, and had young arms up the wazoo. Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez were all under 25 and headed a rotation that also included veteran Bobby Ojeda and barely had room for young Rick Aguilera. And, they had a 21-year-old phenom named John Mitchell ready to break into the bigs, as well as another can’t-miss kid named David West who was knocking on the door (not to mention a lefty named Randy Myers who had been converted to relief because of the backlog of starters). Of all the trades to make, why would the Mets give up the possible heir apparent to Gary Carter for yet another young pitcher?

Hindsight, of course, is 20-20. We know now the genius of that deal. But now that we’re 20+ years past that time, it takes on more meaning. Not because Frank Cashen pulled a fast one on the Royals, but because Cashen believed a team could never have enough pitching — particularly, young pitching.

Again, remember that the Mets acquired Cone at the tail end of spring training in 1987 — about five months after the franchise won their second World Championship. It didn’t matter that the Mets were the best team in baseball, with the deepest and best young pitching staff in MLB. As far as Cashen was concerned, there was always room for one more good arm, even if acquiring one involved something of a gamble.

Compare that to the Mets’ philosophy of today — if you can even identify a “philosophy”. At the least, compare Cashen’s strategy to continue stockpiling what was at the time a strength, to Omar Minaya / Jeff Wilpon’s plan of crossing fingers and whispering novenas as they pin the team’s hopes on a half dozen hurlers coming off surgery.

Which strategy makes more sense to you? Granted, the Mets didn’t win another championship after ’86, but they were legitimate pennant contenders through 1990 (Cashen stepped down after a terrible, disappointing 1991 season).

Unrelated addendum: you may already know the sad but also inspirational story of Ed Hearn after he left baseball, but if you don’t, you definitely should check out his website.