A blog dedicated to past Mets teams and players with an emphasis on the early years
The Mets May Not Contend, But At Least They’re Trying To Be Fan-Friendly
Some brilliant mind in the Mets’ hierarchy, or maybe a few, decided that if the Mets weren’t going to spend any money this year and even pretend to be contenders, they would have to appease their fans in a new and different way.
So, what we now have are the spend-nothing but exceedingly fan-friendly New York Mets. Mets’ Bloggers i.e. the voice of the Mets fan, have been invited to participate in conference calls and meetings just like the writers. And how many e-mails has each of us already received telling us everything Sandy Alderson and staff are up to ? They’ve devised this cute, but corny video message that you can personalize so it seems like Sandy is actually making a personal phone call to you with your name appearing on the screen. His message ? Support your New York Mets, buy season tickets, or at least a package.
Now frankly, I didn’t expect the Mets to be players for Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, or anyone else costing $100 million. I did however think that this brain trust would pluck some low-cost intriguing prospects, even if it meant dipping into the independent league pool, signing a player coming off a terrible year, but still healthy (Kevin Millwood ?) or bringing back a player from a foreign professional league as the Rangers did a year ago with Colby Lewis. Unfortunately, it seems to me that even the player acquisitions so far have been made more to appease the fans than because Alderson and company have spotted some potential that no one else could see. Examples ?
If you checked out the message boards on the various Mets blogs prior to the Rule 5 Draft, you’d have seen that the most popular choices for players that the Mets should pick were Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato. Emaus, fans reasoned, because he could play second base and Ricciardi should know him from Toronto. Beato, because the Mets had drafted him, failed to sign him and saw him go to Baltimore. So, who did the Mets draft ? Surprise. How much scouting did it take beyond reading fans’ comments ? So, of course, after the Mets drafted them, everybody who suggested them was happy ! Again, fan-friendly.
Now we have the latest acquisition, Dodgers’ utility infielder Ching-Lung Hu. Do you remember Alderson’s introductory press conference when a female reporter from a Chinese newspaper asked if the Mets were going to get some Chinese ballplayers ? Sure, we have enough Latino utility infielders - that was Omar’s doing, so let’s listen to Flushing’s Asian community and get a Chinese one.
I’m not giving up on the Mets’ future, either short or long-term, but so far, I’m unimpressed.
The Johan Santana Saga
After their devastating collapse in 2007, it was apparent that the Mets needed to do something big to get an ace pitcher to lead the rotation. It soon became known that one of the best, Minnesota's Johan Santana, would be on the trading block because he was entering the final year of his contract and the Twins were unlikely to meet his deservedly astronomical salary demands.Because the Mets were one of the few teams that could both afford and were probably willing to pay what it took to get Santana, Mets' fans and local writers speculated on what possible package the Mets could put together to offer for Santana. The first names that came to mind were Lastings Milledge, a talented young major league-ready outfielder, and Mike Pelfrey, a recently well-regarded potential staff ace who was disappointing in almost every chance the Mets gave him in 2007, with one exception, a dazzling win over the Braves that offered hope that he just might turn out to be good.Milledge and Pelfrey probably wouldn't be enough so the names of almost every other player in the farm system who showed any potential was suggested by someone - Deolis Guerra, Hector Pellot, Francisco Pena, Mike Carp, etc. In the meantime, it seemed that the Twins were talking to both the RedSox and Yankees, who were able to offer some pretty good packages out of their farm system and probably be able to afford to throw a major leaguer or two into the deal as well.Rumors were that the Mets wouldn't be a strong contender for Santana and should probably concentrate on one of the A's starters or maybe Baltimore's Erik Bedard. Then, out of nowhere the Mets traded Lastings Milledge to Washington for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Seemingly, the best chip they had to obtain an ace was dealt away for a part-time outfielder and light-hitting catcher. Then, word spread that the Mets had found few takers for Milledge and neither the A's or Twins wanted him as the key player in a package.Another name came to the forefront - Carlos Gomez. The young outfielder was pushed to the big leagues because of multiple injuries to the Mets' outfielders in 2007 and showed himself to be a potentially electrifying talent with dazzling speed and centerfield skills. But his hitting was unrefined, and just how it would develop remained in question. Plus with Beltran a fixture in centerfield, and Reyes providing base stealing speed at the top of the lineup, Gomez's talents were a little redundant for the Mets' needs. I still didn't see Gomez as the key to a Santana deal and I proposed that the Mets offer him to Minnesota for a well-regarded young pitcher, Matt Garza. Soon after that, the Twins traded Garza for one of the best young hitters in the game, Delmon Young. Clearly, Gomez wasn't enough to get Garza.Then, Dan Haren, another of the Mets' targets was traded to Arizona for an imposing group of prospects that "experts" told us were far superior to anything the Mets might offer. Meanwhile, various Erik Bedard rumors, none of which seriously involved the Mets, began surfacing. It seemed that another potential target was going off the market.We heard how the Mets were "close" to signing either Livan Hernandez or Kyle Lohse to fill the last spot in their rotation. There was apparently not going to be an ace coming to the Mets, just a seviceable innings-eater. Or so it seemed.Then, talk of Santana got hot again. Apparently his agent wanted something to get done quickly after he rejected the Twins' "last best offer". We again heard the names of the Red Sox and Yankees bandied about. Which one woud cave in and toss in that additional player that would seal the deal ? Meanwhile, Omar Minaya and the Mets lurked in the background with their offer - Gomez, Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey. With the Yankees and Red Sox not showing any great desire to increase or possibly even match what had been their best offers to that point, the Mets suddenly became a stronger possibility. Now, the rumors said the Mets would have to toss in their very best prospect, Fernando Mart[...]
Well, Omar Minaya waited out the Twins and got the prize he's been after all along, Johan Santana. The offer on the table for weeks turned out to be the one that was accepted without including Fernando Martinez, Ryan Church, Aaron Heilman, Jorge Sosa, or for that matter anyone who figured to help the Mets in 2008. Now, it's just a matter of working out a contract extension. It's hard to believe either side will hold firm on something that will sabotage the deal, but until the contract is signed, nothing can be taken for granted.
As far as what the Mets gave up, Deolis Guerra has the potential to become a star, but that's OK. Unless you expect him to become the best pitcher in the game, you have to agree to let him go in this kind of trade. As for Carlos Gomez, as I've said bfore, at his best, he duplicates/overlaps the skill of two Mets already signed long-term, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, so he was expendable. Phil Humber and/or Kevin Mulvey could develop into middle of the rotation starters, or not. This was a deal the Mets had to make.
So, assuming Santana gets signed, does that put the Mets in position to win the division ? Well, they would have to be considered favorites. Still, I'd like to see an addition or two. A solid righthanded hitting outfielder to share time with Ryan Church or spell Moises Alou on occasion might be nice. And maybe another bullpen arm, in case Sanchez is not ready to open the season. But the outlook seems a lot brighter today. So, congratulations to Omar Minaya for standing his ground, putting forth his best offer, and not succumbing to pressure from the fans and media to throw another good player in to hasten the deal.
Old Time Mets - John Stearns
In the 1973 Amateur Draft, right after the Texas Rangers selected the highly regarded and ultimately ill-fated David Clyde with the first pick, the Phillies used the second selection to take catcher John Stearns out of the University of Colorado. The next two picks both turned out to be hall-of-famers, Robin Yount and Dave Winfield. Since Bob Boone was just starting what would turn out to be a long tenure as the Phillies' #1 catcher, it's a little hard to understand why they would have taken Stearns over Yount and Winfield. Stearns, of course, never achieved anything close to HOF level, but after being traded to the Mets, he had a pretty good career. He might have fit in even better with a contending team, but the Mets were awful during Stearns' entire tenure as catcher, while the Phillies with McGraw as bullpen ace and Boone as catcher were perennial contenders in the '70's and early '80's.
The December 3,1974 trade that involved Stearns and Tug McGraw was an interesting one. McGraw had some shoulder trouble during the 1974 season, and the Mets had some doubt whether he would return to form. So, trading McGraw along with two nondescript outfielders for Stearns, one of the best young catching prospects in the game, Del Unser, an experienced centerfielder and well-regarded leadoff hitter, and Mac Scarce, a lefty specialist who looked like a cinch to win a spot in the bullpen seemed almost like a no-brainer.
Stearns wasn't quite ready for big league duty, but by 1977, he became the team's number one catcher and despite a string of injuries, was good enough to represent the Mets in the All-Star game 4 times. Stearns was solid all-around with exceptional speed for a catcher being his trademark, but he never really became a big star and certainly wasn't in the class of Yount or Winfield. Also, Stearns was injury-prone leading to a lot of missed time and ultimately a shortened career, and in retrospect, his numbers weren't all that good, although they were better than what most of his teammates produced.
Stearns will be remembered as a hard-nosed, hustling player on some terrible Mets teams. Unser and Scarce were both disappointing, so the trade will ultimately be remembered as McGraw for Stearns, so Stearns was in effect, "replacing" a true Mets' hero and one of the game's great personalities, and it was kind of unfair to put that onus on him.
John Stearns later served as a coach and minor league manager with the Mets. He is still managing in the minor leagues, and who knows, may yet become a big league manager. Like so many young players who came to the Mets in trades, the fans had high hopes for him which were never quite fulfilled, but Stearns was solid and did put in a few good years with the team.
Mets Trades Of The Past - Dumping The Heroes of '69
The 1969 Miracle Mets inspired dozens of books and for those of us who were Mets fans then, they represented an iconic team that will live in our memory forever. What made them so special was that pitching aside, they were primarily a very ordinary team of journeymen, disappointments, and discarded veterans who came together for one great and totally unexpected season. I can assume that nearly every Mets fan has at one time or another seen the video of this series and the amazing catches made by Tommie Agee, a talented outfielder and Ron Swoboda, who was regarded as a less than adequate one.
Now, no one plays forever (with the possible exception of Satchel Paige and Julio Franco), but it seemed to me that both Agee and Swoboda should have ben effective players for a few more years, and while I'm not one to say that someone should be untradeable, I remember how disheartened I was when both Swoboda and Agee were traded away. Had they brought back legitimate young prospects (several years later, a seemingly fading Jerry Koosman did bring back Jesse Orosco), it might have softened the blow, but I remember how hard I tried to justify the players the Mets received in exchange, knowing all along that they weren't very good.
Prior to the 1971 season, at the age of 26, Ron Swoboda, at one time the shining hope for a legitimate power hitter in the Mets lineup was traded along with minor league infielder Rich Hacker to the Montreal Expos, for of all people, Don Hahn. Now the fact is that Swoboda never got any better after leaving the Mets, but at the time, despite the fact that he wasn't living up to the potential everyone thought he had since he first burst on the scene, this looked like an incredibly awful dumping of a still young player who was clearly a fan favorite. His contribution to the 1969 Miracle team keeps his name alive, but that aside, yes, he was clearly a major disappointment. But to trade him for Hahn, a good outfielder with zero power, and little hope of being anything more than a defensive replacement was a real downer. And plus, it was the Mets who had to throw in a player to make the deal. The fact is that the trade did little to help either team, but at the time, it seemed utterly ridiculous from a Met fan's point of view.
A couple of years later, Agee, for no reason I could figure out, had seemingly lost his centerfield job to a combination of 40-year old Willie Mays and the aforementioned Don Hahn. The Mets traded him to Houston for the uninspiring pair of outfielder Rich Chiles and pitcher Buddy Harris. Now, Agee had a poor year in 1972, but he was still barely 30 years old, and it wasn't like the Mets had someone like Amos Otis ready to replace him. They had Mays, Hahn, and maybe Dave Schneck. The Mets, no doubt, would have been better off keeping Otis and trading Agee after the 1969 season, but that was all water under the bridge. So, when I heard the deal, I kept trying to convince myself that maybe this guy Chiles was really going to be a star. Both Chiles and Harris had some impressive seasons in the minors, but had been busts when given a shot in the majors.
Well, Chiles had maybe 3 hits for the Mets before they dumped him and Harris never even played for the team. It turns out Agee WAS just about done, and he didn't even last a full season with the Astros, but that hardly softened the blow for Met fans.
Remember at the time of these trades, most Mets fans thought that Agee and Swoboda were still pretty good and in Swoboda's case, still young enough to get better. As it turned out, the Mets might have been right about them, but to me, these trades really hurt at the time.
You Gotta Have A Catcher - Part 1
In the 1961 expansion draft, the Mets made Hobie Landrith, a journeyman catcher, their very first pick. Why Landrith rather than someone who could be considered a prospect? Manager Casey Stengel had a simple explanation - "You gotta have a catcher or you're gonna have a lotta passed balls".
Throughout their history, the Mets have done an absolutely awful job of drafting catchers - Steve Chilcott, Butch Benton, Rich Bengston and John Gibbons were first-round busts. Admittedly, catching is probably the most difficult position to draft for. With the exception of Todd Hundley, the best homegrown Mets' catchers were Mike Fitzgerald, Ron Hodges, Duffy Dyer, Alex Trevino, and Vance Wilson, not the most impressive group. Yet the Mets managed to have an almost unbroken string of quality catchers that they acquired in trades.
In the winter of 1965, the Mets traded a mediocre pitcher by the name of Tom Parsons to Houston for a young catcher named Jerry Grote. The Astros felt they already had their long-term catcher in John Bateman who was a far better hitter than Grote who projected as no more than a backup. But Grote became the heart and soul of the Mets and was the regular catcher for the better part of the next 11 seasons.
When it became obvious that none of the farm system products were ready to take over, the Mets engineered a trade for the very highly-regarded Phillies prospect, John Stearns, who had been the #2 choice in the 1974 amateur draft, after David Clyde and just before future Hall Of Famers Robin Yount and Dave Winfield. Getting Stearns required giving up Tug McGraw and it can be argued that Stearns never really lived up to his potential, but he still filled the Mets' first-string catching job for the next 6 years.
Faced with the prospect of Mike Fitzgerald and Ronn Reynolds as their catching corps, the Mets dealt a package of players headed by Hubie Brooks, and including Fitzgerald for perennial all-star Gary Carter. Gary had 4 solid years for the Mets from 1985 to 1988. The Mets were contenders each year and probably should have won at least one more championship.
After getting by with the likes of Barry Lyons, Mackey Sasser, and Rick Cerone for the next few years, the Mets had their one and only homegrown star catcher, Todd Hundley, take over the regular job in 1992. He held on to the job, setting home run records in the process, for the next 6 years, until he was injured and the Mets once again needed a catcher.
In 1998, the Mets, probably spurred on by public opinion, dealt for Mike Piazza, who the Dodgers had traded to the Marlins and was made available almost immediately for the best offer. The Mets surrendered Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz in return and reaped the benefits of Piazza for the next 8 seasons before allowing him to leave when it was clear he was becoming a liability behind the plate and couldn't make the move to first base.
THe new #1 catcher was to be Paul LoDuca who was acquired in a trade with the Marlins in exchange for a couple of prospects. Ramon Castro was signed as a free agent prior to the 2005 season. Together, the 2 have provided a solid tandem, but now they are both free to go and the Mets once again need to make a move.
A Different Kind of Trade Talk
This is the time of year that everybody proposes trades. Now that there are so many blog writers that allow for instant feedback in the form of fan comments, it's interesting to note that the same trade proposal usually gets back at least one comment that it would be a terrible deal for the Mets and another that says the other team would never do it in a million years.
Among the very best deals ever made by the Mets, you'd have to rank the trades of Robert Person to Toronto in exchange for John Olerud and of course, the Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey for Keith Hernandez deals right near the top. I actually remember back in 1983 when somebody in my office suggested the Mets offer Neil Allen and "a couple of prospects" for Keith Hernandez only to be immediately shot down and laughed at. And who would have thought the Mets could have obtained one of the best hitters in the American League who was also a gold-glove first baseman in exchange for a AAA pitcher wo had already been through 3 organizations and didn't figure prominently in the Mets' plans ?
Sometimes there are circumstances that go beyond mere statistics that affect a player's value. In Hernandez' case, it was a perceived casual attitude and innuendoes of drug use. As far as Olerud, it was a matter of Toronto wanting more power from the first base position and Olerud's average having slipped to the point where the Jays felt he was on the decline. Whether or not there was some kind of personality clash between Olerud and Cito Gaston was never reported, but possibly the quiet, stoic Olerud was not one of the manager's favorites. Who knows ?
These trades worked out spectacularly well for the Mets, but that is not really my point here. I am just trying to show how what looked like one-sided trades on paper did, in fact, turn out to be just that. And yet, they WERE made. So, don't slough off reports packaging some Mets' prospects for a #1 pitcher or all-star caliber catcher. No doubt some team will make a steal of a deal on this winter's trade market. Met fans can only hope the Mets are that team.
Trades From The Past - Bob Ojeda
Continuing this series of posts on the best trades the Mets ever made, if Bernard Gilkey was the only hitter to have a career year after being traded to the Mets, then Bob Ojeda was clearly the first, last, and only pitcher to similarly have a career year after coming to Flushing.
Ojeda had been a decent, if unspectacular starting pitcher for the Red Sox for a few seasons. The Mets had been impressed with the work another former Boston lefty, John Tudor, had done with the Cardinals and were seeking a similar pitcher, so they inquired about Ojeda. Coming off a 1985 season in which he was 9-11 with a 4.00 ERA, Ojeda was definitely obtainable, but the Sox were still able to attract what seemed like a pretty hefty price from the Mets.
Calvin Schiraldi was among the Mets' best young pitching prospects, Wes Gardner looked like the Mets' best young reliever and John Christensen and Laschelle Tarver were AAA outfielders who looked ready to contribute on the big league level. The Mets sent all 4 to Boston for Ojeda, a pretty good minor league pitcher named John Mitchell, and a couple of other minor leaguers, Chris Bayer, and Tom McCarthy. At the time of the deal, few fans expected Ojeda to be anything more than a fourth or fifth starter and it looked like the Mets were overpaying in prospects for a mediocre pitcher.
But Ojeda had a tremendous year for the World Champion Mets in 1986, going 18-5, 2.57 and placing fourth in the Cy Young balloting. An off-season freak injury made 1987 a lost year for Ojeda, and after that, he was just so-so for the Mets, but his big year in 1986 made this trade one of the best ever for the Mets.
Although the Mets have dealt for one-time aces throughout their history from Warren Spahn and Dean Chance to Frank Viola and Bret Saberhagen, it was the Ojeda deal that brought them their very best starting pitching acquisition. Whether Oliver Perez or John Maine ultimately prove to be better long-term is as yet unknown, but Ojeda will remain the only established pitcher to have a career year right after the Mets acquired him.
Trades From The Past - Bernard Gilkey
When discussing the outstanding trades the Mets have made over the years, the acquisition of Bernard Gilkey from the Cardinals is usually forgotten. In part, this could be because Gilkey really had only one good year for the Mets - although it was a terrific one, and also because even with Gilkey, the 1996 Mets weren't a very good team. Yet, Gilkey remains possibly the only experienced hitter ever to come to the Mets and immediately respond with the very best year of his career.
Gilkey had been the regular left fielder for the Cardinals for a few years and always was solid, if unspectaular. In 1995, Gilkey batted .298 with 17 homeruns and 69 rbi's. Then in December of 1995, St. Louis signed Ron Gant as a free agent and suddenly Gilkey was out of a job. Based on his past performances, it would have seemed that the Cardinals could have dealt Gilkey for much more than they got in return from the Mets in January, 1996 - minor league pitchers Eric Hiljus and Eric Ludwick (brother of current Cardinal of Ryan Ludwick) and outfielder Yudith Rosario. It seemed like a trade the Mets really couldn't lose on, unless one of the young players they sent away became a star. Of course, that didn't happen. Remarkably, though, Gilkey had an exceptional season for the Mets in '96, .317, 30, 117 - career highs in every department (compare to Gant's .246, 30, 82 for the '96 Cardinals). Gilkey sort of reverted to form in 1997 and was soon gone from the Mets, but his legacy remains as possibly the only hitter in the 46-year history of the Mets to post a career year immediately after being traded here. If anyone can think of another, please let me know !
Trades From The Past - Sid Fernandez
When you think about the really good trades the Mets have made, the Cone and Hernandez deals come to mind first, but although few and far between, the Mets have made some other pretty good trades in their history, so as things continue to fall apart for this year's team, I thought I'd try to inject a positive note by looking at a few of the other good deals the Mets made.
Following the 1983 season, the Mets traded a middling relief pitcher, Carlos Diaz, and the veteran utility man Bob Bailor to the Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers, Sid Fernandez and infielder Ross Jones. Although I'd never seen Fernandez pitch, he had compiled some eye-popping minor league numbers and it was a surprise to me that the Dodgers would let him go for a couple of run-of-the-mill players with little potential to get better. Before long, we all found out that Fernandez had a major weight problem, didn't have extraordinary stuff or a blazing fastball and had the kind of laid-back attitude befitting a Hawaiian surfer dude. He relied primarily on a deceptive motion. But he was plenty good enough.
Although Sid never duplicated the astonishing numbers he had put up in the minors, he did put up some very impressive ones and fit nicely with a Mets' team that had some other outstanding starters whose styles were totally different.
Fernandez' hits per inning ratio was among the best in baseball history and he won 114 games in his major league career, most of which was spent with the Mets. Sid tried to make a few comebacks. I believe the last time was in spring training with the Yankees in the late '90's.
Sid was fun to watch and a highly effective, if, unorthodox starting pitcher. On the other side, both Diaz and Bailor did pretty much what was expected during their short tenures with the Dodgers. So, this was definitely one of the Mets' all-time best trades.
M. Donald Grant, Chairman Of The Board
The person most responsible for the Mets' worst years was probably M. Donald Grant. He is best known for sending Tom Seaver away, but his influence in the organization was a detriment toward building a competitive team, or keeping one, and things didn't get better until he was out of the picture when the Mets were sold to Wilpon and Doubleday.
Grant, a stockbroker, was Mrs. Payson's close personal advisor when she became the original owner of the Mets. He probably had very little influence in player movement for the first several years, and in the days before free agency, no one could say that the Mets were particularly cheap. But unlike, say a George Steinbrenner who took full advantage of baseball's free agent system from the start, Grant did not believe that a ballplayer deserved to be making as much money as a stockbroker or real estate magnate, and probably didn't think they belonged at the same parties or meetings, either.
Grant could be described as a patrician, a snob, a man with a plantation mentality. He was known to bring his fellow Mets' stockholders to the clubhouse, where he would introduce his players as a fine bunch of boys and single out the recent trade acquisitions and players up from the minors by calling out "new boys over here". He, indeed, belonged to a different generation, but at a time when his fellow owners were prepared to face baseball's new reality, he was lording over the Mets in a manner befitting Charles Comiskey and the 1919 White Sox.
Grant's meddling, no doubt, played a part in driving Mets' GM Bing Devine,who was doing a nice job of trying to build a winner, back to St. Louis. It was probably after Mets' GM Johnny Murphy passed away in 1970 that Grant's influence began to increase. Whitey Herzog was Mets' player development director and heir to the GM job, but Grant passed him by because he knew he wouldn't stand for any interference from someone who in Whitey's words "knew nothing about baseball". The next two Mets' GM's Bob Scheffing and Joe McDonald probably had their hands tied by Grant, his frugality, and his belief that ballplayers should be quiet, sign their contracts, and just play ball. When a player became outspoken about salary issues such as Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman did, it was only a matter of time before they would be sent away. When Gil Hodges died just before the 1972 season began, Grant again chose to bypass the outspoken Herzog, driving him out of the organization, in favor of Yogi Berra.
Probably the best example of how out of touch M. Donald Grant was with the average fan was when he tried to explain the Tom Seaver negotiations and subsquent trade in terms of bluffing and playing tricks in a hand of bridge. How many Mets' fans have any idea how to even play bridge ?
The above are my thoughts and recollections of Grant. To read more, go here :
Old Time Mets - Cliff Cook
One of the very first trades the Mets made after the 1962 season began was the one that sent veteran Don Zimmer, who had just broken an 0-for-34 slump, to the Reds for lefty Bob Miller (not to be confused with righty Bob Miller, an original Mets' draft pick) and third baseman Cliff Cook.
The previous season while the Reds were winning the National League pennant, Cliff was the MVP of the AAA American Association, batting .311 with 32 home runs and 119 rbi's. If the league's defending champion had no room for a player who tore up the minor leagues, certainly the fledgling Mets did. Or did they ? Cook was pretty awful from the day he arrived. Not only didn't he hit, but he had a bad back that inhibited his ability to play third base, and he wound up being used more in the outfield, where he wasn't much better.
Cliff hit .232 as a part-time player with the '62 Mets, but after hitting .142 in 106 at-bats with the 1963 team, he was sent to AAA Buffalo where he hit .260 and never played in the major leagues again. Cook turned out to be one of many examples that being a dominant player in AAA doesn't always translate to being a good one in the big leagues. It should be noted that 2 days after trading for Cook, the Mets made a deal for another player who had torn up AAA in the past - Marv Throneberry.
Old Time Mets - Felix Mantilla
Felix Mantilla, not to be confused with Felix Millan, was an original expansion draft choice of the Mets. He had been a utility infielder for the Milwaukee Braves for the previous six years, and had that tag when the Mets drafted him.
Mantilla might have been a better choice for the Mets at third base than Don Zimmer, or Cliff Cook, who came to the Mets early in 1962 in exchange for Zimmer, but Mantilla quickly established himself as a poor defensive player and it wasn't until all the other options proved unsuccessful that Felix got his crack at the third base job. His offensive numbers with the Mets in '62 weren't all that shabby - 11 homeruns, 59 rbi, and a .275 average, all career highs to that point. But at the end of the season, no one was too excited about Felix's future with the Mets. So, when the Mets were able to deal him to the Red Sox for 3 players in December of 1962, it looked like a good trade.
Coming back to the Mets were Tracy Stallard, best known for giving up Roger Maris' 61st homerun in 1961, who was regarded as a hard thrower and still a prospect at the age of 25, Pumpsie Green, Boston's first black player who hadn't accomplished much with the Red Sox but who seemed likely to take Mantilla's spot as the Mets' semi-regular third baseman, and a minor league shortstop, Al Moran, who was reputed to be a good-field, no-hit type.
Stallard was decent for the Mets. Actually he was brilliant at times, and awful most of the time, but he did sort of establish himself as a regular starter with the Mets before being traded away. Moran became the regular Mets' shortstop, almost by default, and batted .193 with 1 homerun in over 300 at bats for the Mets in 1963. Green was a huge disappointment who didn't make the Mets out of spring training and spent most of the year in AAA. He never became a major league player of any note.
But Mantilla surprisingly had 3 pretty good years for Boston. In 1963 he was a utility player who got only 178 at bats, but hit .315. In 1964 and 1965, he was more or less a regular player, In '64, splitting his time between the outfield and second base, he batted .289 with a remarkable 30 homeruns and 89 rbi's. In 1965, as Boston's regular second baseman, he went 18,92,.275 and made the all-star team for the first and only time in his career. He took advantage of Fenway's Green Monster, constantly pounding hits over or against the wall. Yet, surprisingly, at season's end, he was dealt away for light hitting shortstop Eddie Kasko.
So, Mantilla, like Jim Hickman was an original Mets' draft pick who eventually managed to live up to his potential, if only for a short time. Unfortunately, for Mets' fans, it came too late to help the Mets.
Mets Trades Of The Past - The Biggest One Ever
On December 8, 1977, the Mets were one of four teams involved in one of the most complex deals in the history of baseball. This was it :
The Mets sent John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Atlanta Braves sent Willie Montanez to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Adrian Devine, Tommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves. The Texas Rangers sent a player to be named later and Tom Grieve to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to the Texas Rangers. The New York Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers sent Ken Henderson (March 15, 1978) to the New York Mets to complete the trade.
I wish I could tell you who conceived this deal and how it fell into place, but frankly, I have no idea. For the Mets' part, they replaced John Milner with Willie Montanez and sent Matlack away for Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson. Montanez was considered a better all-around player and certainly flashier than Milner, but I think that Met fans were disappointed with Willie's production and expected a major upgrade from Milner. Actually, the one full year Willie spent with the Mets wasn't bad statistically, but he seemed to fail a lot in big spots and hit his best in one-sided games. Ironically, the following season, the Mets sent Montanez to Texas, another of the parties in the original deal, in exchange for Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen and a couple of years later, the Pirates traded Milner even-up to Montreal for Montanez.
As for the other part of the trade for the Mets, it turned out to be a lot less than either side expected. Matlack had one solid year for the Rangers, but that was about it. Neither Grieve nor Henderson was anything other than a part-time player, though the Mets were expecting more, I'm sure.
The big names in the deal were Blyleven and Oliver, so maybe the deal started out as a one-for-one and other general managers just joined the party. I suppose after giving up Blyleven, the Rangers needed another pitcher and that's how Matlack got involved, but it looks to me like the Mets were a pawn in this trade, and they were probably fortunate it didn't turn out any worse than it did for them.
Old Time Mets - Jim Hickman
If Marv Throneberry symbolized the bumbling incompetence of the early Mets, Rod Kanehl the everyman quality, Ed Kranepool the hope for the future, and Roger Craig the frustration, nobody symbolized all of these qualities wrapped into one player the way Jim Hickman did.
If Al Jackson was the Mets' best expansion choice, Hickman was clearly second. The tall, rangy outfielder was basically the Mets' regular centerfielder for their first four seasons, although it seemed like the organization was always trying to replace him. Hickman would show flashes - the first Met to homer 3 times in a game, the first to hit for the cycle, the guy who homered to end Roger Craig's ridiculously long losing streak - and yet, Jim was a target of boobirds for his frequent strikeouts and double play grounders in clutch situations. Defensively and on the bases, Jim was okay, but his long strides and gangly build somehow made it seem like he wasn't trying because it looked like he should have been better.
When the Mets finally disposed of Hickman as the throw-in sent to the Dodgers along with Ron Hunt in the Tommy Davis trade, most Mets fans either didn't care or said "good riddance" and his performance with the Dodgers, a .163 batting average in his only season in L.A. seemed to confirm what some Mets' fans thought all along - that this guy was no major league player.
Yet, incredibly, and seemingly from out of nowhere, in 1970, Hickman then with the Cubs produced a remarkable season, a .315 batting average, 32 homeruns, 115 rbi's, a spot in the all-star game where he drove in the winning run, and an eighth place finish in the NL MVP race. Suddenly he was among the most feared hitters in the league. Who was this guy ?
The following year, he hit just .256 and his rbi's were down to 60, more typical of the kind of years he had with the Mets, and before long, he was gone from the major league scene. But if ever a mediocre player had one shining year, living up to the potential that Mets' fans once hoped he had, though most eventually abandoned that idea, Hickman was the one. In retrospect, his 1970 season is still a little hard to believe.
One-Game Wonders: Truly Obscure Mets of the Past
From 1962 to 1996, here's a list of players who played exactly one game for the Mets. The stats are taken from "Total Mets", a 1997 publication, but the recollections are my own.
Luis Alvarado - a utility infielder who I remember with the Red Sox and Tigers, he played one game for the Mets in 1977 at second base, going 0 for 2.
Francisco Estrada- a catcher from the Mexican League, he was up for one game with the 1971 Mets, going 1 for 2 before being sent to the Angels in the infamous Nolan Ryan deal. He never played another big league game.
Dave Liddell - a catcher who was behind the plate for a game in 1990, perfect at the plate, going 1 for 1 and scoring a run before his return to obscurity. He came to the Mets from the Cubs for Ed Lynch.
Bob Gibson - NOT the Cardinals Hall Of Famer, he gave up no hits in his one inning of work in 1987, striking out 2. He also pitched for the Tigers.
Kenny Greer - pitched in one game, one inning, struck out two, and picked up a win for the Mets in 1993. I think he also got a brief shot with the Yankees.
Manny Hernandez - pitched 1 inning for the Mets in 1989. Although the record books show him appearing in 15 other big league games with the Astros, I must admit I don't remember him at all. He would get my PERSONAL vote as the most obscure Met of all.
Jesse Hudson - A lanky lefty product of the farm system, he surfaced in 1969 at age 21, pitching in one game for 2 innings, giving up a run, 2 hits, and 2 walks, striking out 3. I don't remember how Jesse went from hot young prospect to one-game wonder, but he never appeared in the big leagues again.
Doc Medich - certainly the most accomplished player in this group, Medich won 124 games in an 11-year big league career. The Mets acquired Doc at the end of the 1977 season, gave him one start in which he pitched 7 innings, giving up 3 runs and taking the loss. Presumably, the Mets expected to sign him long-term, but didn't. Otherwise, it's hard to explain why they would have picked him up for one appearance.
Don Rose - regarded as a pretty good prospect, Rose got into one game, pitching 2 scoreless innings for the 1971 Mets before going over to the Angels in the Ryan trade. Rose got another brief shot in California, but never made it.
Mac Scarce - I was surprised to see that Scarce only pitched in one game, faced one batter and gave up a hit in his only Met appearance because he was regarded as the likely replacement for Tug McGraw or at worst, a situational lefty when he came over from the Phillies, where he had some success.
Trades From The Past - Millan and Stone for Gentry and Frisella
The Mets' recent acquisition of Luis Castillo brought to mind another Mets' second baseman with similar skills - Felix Millan. Like Castillo, Millan was a low-profile, but excellent player who excelled in handling the bat and playing an outstanding second base. Felix was one of the main reasons the Mets surprisingly made it to the World Series in 1973, and he remains, arguably, the best overall second baseman the Mets ever had.
I was on vacation in Japan when the Mets acquired Millan in the winter of 1972, so I found out about the trade - Millan and lefty pitcher George Stone from the Braves for starting pitcher Gary Gentry and reliever Danny Frisella - via a tiny box in the International Edition of the New York Times. 1972 had been a very disappointing, injury-filled season for the Mets. Prior to the season, the Mets had acquired perennial all-stars Jim Fregosi and Rusty Staub and adding them to the lineup to go along with the best pitching in baseball figured to make the Mets a strong favorite for another championship. By the time the season ended, the pitching was intact, but the lineup was in shambles. In addition to the injuries, regular second baseman Ken Boswell finished the season at .211, bad any way you look at it, but especially for a second baseman whose bat was considered his best asset. So the Mets looked for a replacement.
Millan was a former all-star coming off his worst season, but undoubtedly a better second baseman than Boswell. Gentry was, at 26, still young enough to become a star, although he was no better than a third starter with the Mets. Stone was a fringe major leaguer and Frisella a good reliever who was behind Tug McGraw in the Mets' bullpen hierarchy. At the time, the deal didn't look all that good to me, because Millan at best was "steady" and Stone looked like he'd struggle to make the Mets, while the two pitchers the Mets gave up were young enough and good enough to have long, productive careers. But it turned out to be a steal for the Mets.
Millan gave the Mets 4 very solid seasons before tailing off in 1977. He finished his career playing in Japan. George Stone was remarkable for the 1973 Mets, finishing 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 148 innings. After '73, Stone did little to help the Mets and was gone after 2 more mediocre seasons. But clearly, this trade put the Mets in the 1973 World Series as much as anything.
As for Gentry and Frisella, elbow problems plagued Gentry for the rest of his career and he never really helped the Braves. He got one last spring training shot with the Mets a few years later, but was quickly released. Frisella was a mediocre reliever the rest of his career before his untimely passing in a dune-buggy accident before the 1977 season.
Old Time Mets - John Stephenson
If Johnny Stephenson is remembered at all by fans of the early Mets, it's as the last out of Jim Bunning's perfect game. He was so overmatched in striking out, the Mets might as well have plucked a fan out of the stands at random and asked him to get a hit off Bunning. At the time, if I remember correctly, Stephenson was hitting a feeble .149 and it didn't get much better for him. Yet, almost amazingly Stephenson spent parts of ten years in the major leagues and was regarded as a decent lefty bat off the bench who could also fill in at a few positions by the time the Angels picked him up in the early '70's.
Stephenson came to the major leagues in 1964 solely because of the rule in effect at the time which required a big league team to carry second-year pros on their 25-man roster all season or risk losing them on waivers. To say that Stephenson was not ready is an understatement. He had a terrible "sweep" swing, the kind that's usually corrected in Little League, and although he was considered primarily a catcher, the Mets didn't play him there at all in the 1964 season. If Stephenson ever had a big hit for the Mets, I don't remember it. If ever there was a player I thought would never return to the majors after his one-year "trial", Stephenson was the one. But somehow after getting to the Cubs, his swing was reconstructed and he actually became kind of a threat as a lefthanded pinch-hitter. When you look at his lifetime numbers, a .216 average in nearly 1000 at-bats with little speed, and below average defense, you marvel at how he managed to have such a lengthy career. When anyone says it's a lot easier to get to the big leagues these days with more Major League teams and fewer farm teams, I point to the improbable career of John Stephenson, a player of minimal talent who managed to hang around for parts of ten years with four different teams.
TradeDeadline Passes - Part 1 - Deals Made
The acquisition of Luis Castillo for a couple of grade C prospects is a no-brainer. Unless you feel that Ruben Gotay has earned he second base job and this deal will only retard his progress. Even if Castillo leaves as a free agent at the end of the season, the draft pick the Mets get as compensation should be worth more in the long run than Butera and Martin. Butera at best projects as a solid defensive catcher who will be a backup in the big leagues. Martin figures as no better than a AAAA outfielder who will shuttle between AAA and the big leagues. It is also possible that neither one will even advance to AAA, so although Castillo really doesn't excite me, I can't fault this move.
The Braves certainly improved their chances of overtaking the Mets this year with the acquisitions of Mark Teixeira and Octavio Dotel, but they paid a high price in prospects. The Phillies helped themselves, too, but not to the point where the Mets have become an underdog.
If the Mets get Pedro Martinez back and get the kind of production they should expect from Carlos Beltran when he returns, they should still make it to the post-season. I still expect an addition or two to the bench before September.
AS fallout from the Braves' recent acquisitions, they've DFA'd Julio Franco who helped them even less this year than he helped the Mets. Does anyone take a flyer on him or is it time to retire to a coaching career ?
OLD TIME METS - TOMMY DAVIS
Although he spent just one season with the team, 1967, Tommy Davis was a principal in 2 of the biggest trades the Mets made in their formative years, the one that brought him to the Mets and the one that sent him away.
Prior to the '67 season, the Mets sent two of their top players, Ron Hunt, the first genuine Mets all-star and arguably their most popular player and the talented but flawed regular center fielder Jim Hickman, to the Dodgers for one-time batting champ Tommy Davis and a promising young third baseman, Derrell Griffith.
Few Mets' fans lamented the loss of Hickman, but Hunt was another story. The general feeling was that the front office never appreciated Hunt as much as the fans did and felt he was easily replaceable at second base. Also, Davis was from Brooklyn and was probably expected to be a fan favorite. Davis was one of the premier hitters in the game, but after busting up his ankle sliding into second base, lost much of his speed and he became something of a liability in the field and on the bases. Still, there was no denying that the Mets never had a hitter with his capabilities and he turned in a solid season for the Mets, batting .302 with 16 home runs and 73 rbi's. Griffith was dealt away before he ever played for the Mets and never amounted to much, anyway. Hunt and Hickman still had some very productive years ahead of them, but primarily after both left the Dodgers.
As for Davis, after one season with the Mets, he was dealt in a package deal that brought the Mets Tommie Agee (the Mets also had to give up Jack Fisher, one of their better pitchers), who was of course, instrumental in the Mets' winning the 1969 World Series, but faded quickly after one more excellent season. Helped by the American League's adoption of the Designated Hitter rule, Davis racked up another 10 years in the major leagues after leaving the Mets. His reputation always was as a skilled line-drive hitter and one of the most proficient pinch-hitters around.
Having traded their regular centerfielder in the package for Davis, and seeing their new heralded centerfielder Don Bosch disappoint terribly, the Mets gave Cleon Jones the majority of playing time in center field in 1967. Flanked by Davis, and Ron Swoboda, this had to be one of the worst defensive outfields around, and thus the need for Agee. In the short run, of course, this trade worked out, although Davis ultimately had a better career than Agee. But while Agee was flashy and exciting, Davis was steady and reliable. Both good players. But while Agee has become a Mets hero for the ages, Davis' tenure with the team has been practically forgotten.
Great Mets' Trades of The Past - Hernandez for Allen and Ownbey
As it becomes apparent that the Mets, as currently constituted, will not run away with the NL East this year, Mets' fans are all anxiously anticipating this year's upcoming deals feeling certain that Omar Minaya will plunge into the trade market. Of course, Mets history has given us many more bad trades than good, but let's look on the positive side, beginning with one of the best trades ever made by the Mets, in this case GM Frank Cashen, certainly the best Mets' GM to this point.
The Keith Hernandez trade of June 15, 1983 is explained in detail in one of the finest baseball books I have ever read, White Rat - A Life In Baseball by Whitey Herzog and Kevin Horrigan. As Cardinals' manager/GM, Herzog made some outstanding deals and a couple of real clinkers. Even worse than the Hernandez deal is an earlier one that may rank as one of the worst trades ever - Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich, and Rollie Fingers for Sixto Lezcano, Lary Sorensen, Dave LaPoint, and David Green (then considered the best prospect in the game). But back to the Hernandez deal.
As the 1983 season went on, Herzog felt that Keith Hernandez was dogging it. Herzog said he knew nothing of Keith's drug use, but he couldn't believe how lazy Keith was becoming. He wasn't running out ground balls and he seemed to be spending most of his time before games smoking cigarettes and doing crossword puzzles. Other players were complaining to Herzog about Keith's lack of hustle, and Whitey's coaches told him that even though the club was in first place, Hernandez was "poisoning" the whole team. Herzog also thought the Cardinals needed pitching and felt that Hernandez still had excellent trade value and that Hernandez' salary demands for his next contract were going to be far out of line with his value to the team. The Cardinals also had a red-hot minor league hitter in Andy Van Slyke who deserved a chance in the big leagues. So, Herzog decided that moving George Hendrick to first base and Van Slyke to the Cardinals' outfield and dealing Hernandez for pitching help was the way to go.
When Lonnie Smith came forward admitting to a cocaine habit and possibly insinuating that he was not the only member of the team doing drugs, some suspicion arose concerning Hernandez. The Cardinals began shopping Keith, but there were few interested parties. All the other team were scared of his contract and there was a definite buzz of drug rumors. Only Frank Cashen of the Mets showed any interest. The deal was to be Neil Allen who the Cardinals were going to turn into a starter, and the Mets' most promising young pitcher, Rick Ownbey, in exchange for Hernandez. When Cashen agreed, that was it.
Hernandez' initial reaction to going to the Mets was negative and he was pretty sure he would opt out and become a free agent, but the Mets' young talent and Hernandez' quick adjustment to New York City changed his mind, and Keith put his drug problems behind him and became an integral part of a Mets' team that won a World Championship and probably should have won a couple more. Allen faded quickly and Ownbey surprisingly never made it at all, making this one of those one-sided deals the Mets were famous for, only this time it was in their favor.
Taking A Closer Look At Some Past Mets' #1 Draft Choices
Now, that I've completed my review of all of the Mets' #1 amateur draft choices, I thought I'd take a closer look at a few of them. It would be nice if I could see a pattern or general philosophy, but there clearly is none. Some of this lack of pattern can be attributed to the fact that the organization, like most others has gone through many changes, not only as far as General Manager, but also Scouting Director, Regional Scouting Directors, and of course, individual scouts.In past entries, I've already commented extensively about Rohr, Chilcott, Matlack, and Foli. For purposes of evaluating the choices, I looked at the next few picks to see if the Mets "could have done better". This assumes, probably incorrectly, unless the Mets had the Number 1 pick, that those players who followed the Mets' choices were on the radar. So, it's easy to say that Rich Puig was a poor choice when the next selection was Jim Rice. It would be hard to fathom that the Mets gave equal attention to Puig and Rice and ultimately decided Puig was going to be the better player. It's much more likely that they never saw Rice or saw him on a bad day.But there's more to it than that. Evaluating a player is extremely difficult for many reasons. Since there are literally thousands of possible draft choices, even if a team has an unlimited scouting budget and the best scouts in the business, it would be impossible to see every player in every game. This is obvious and yet is a pretty good explanation why the draft will always be something of a crapshoot. You could see a player on his best or worst days, a player can be pitched around or even intentionally walked when your scouts are trying to evaluate him. There are just so many other factors not even including the possibility of future injury, which primarily affects pitchers.Still, you can look at any first round draft pick and say "what were the expectations" ? In 1996, the Mets used their first round pick on Jason Tyner, a college outfielder with minimal power, good speed, solid defense, a fair arm, and the ability to hit for average. Eleven years later, Tyner is a spare outfielder with his third major league team, who depending on whether his bloop hits fall in or his line drives are caught might hit .320 or .220 in any given season. Now, his career has no doubt been more succesful than at last half of the Mets' other first round picks. The problem is that no major league team is going to make a commitment to playing Tyner on a regular basis, because he has zero power and his other tools are not so overwhelmingly impressive. You would always expect to find someone who can do a better overall job. Best case scenario for Tyner, I suppose, would have been developing into a Brett Butler clone. Solid major league player, but worth a first round pick ? I don't think so.Two years later, the Mets selected a raw high school outfielder named Robert Stratton. He had tremendous power, but throughout his minor league career never hit for a good enough average to rate a major league chance. The Mets actually traded Stratton away as a young player, only to reacquire him before the next season started. Several other organizations took a chance on Stratton after the Mets gave up on him. I have never seen him play, and I cannot find him on any current minor league roster, so I don't know if he's playing in an independent league, in Asia, or has retired. It would appear that uniquely among all Mets' first picks, Stratton was selected solely on the basis o[...]
Amateur Draft Hits And Misses - Part 3
1996 - Robert Stratton. A big, strong powerful hitter who spent lots of years in the minors hitting the long ball and doing little else. Surprisingly, never earned a big league shot. Eric Milton and Gil Meche were taken several picks later.
1997 - Geoff Goetz. Sixth pick. Mediocre minor league pitcher, dealt to Florida. Later first round picks included Michael Cuddyer, Jon Garland, and most notably Lance Berkman who was passed up by 15 teams.
1998 - Jason Tyner. Still in the big leagues after all these years, so maybe not such a bad pick after all. C.C. Sabathia was chosen one pick before, but no one taken soon after Tyner has come close to achieving his level of success.
1999 - The Mets had no first round pick. Their second pick was pitcher Neal Musser.
2000 - Billy Traber. Sent to Cleveland as part of the Roberto Alomar deal. Has battled arm trouble off and on, even since before signing. No obvious "better" picks were available.
2001- Aaron Heilman. Again, considered something of a reach, and then, a bust, Aaron has turned it around with good work out of the pen. So, in retrospect, this was quite a good choice, although Jeremy Bonderman went eight picks later.
2002 - Scott Kazmir. The Mets were fortunate that he fell to them. But, alas, he was dealt for Victor Zambrano. Good choice, bad trade.
2003 - Lastings Milledge. I am still convinced that Lastings will be a star in the major leagues. Whether with the Mets, or elsewhere, we shall see. It will take a few years before we can say whether this pick and the next two were great, ok, or awful.
2004 - Philip Humber. Has already undergone Tommy John surgery and appears to be making a nice comeback. Of course, how good he'll turn out to be is still unknown. It's interesting to note that #1 pick Matt Bush, by the Padres looks to be a bust, while several of the other first-rounders would appear to be top prospects.
2005 - Mike Pelfrey. It's too early to pass final judgement, but frankly, I haven't liked what I've seen. He's already reached the big leagues as have 3 other pitchers taken later in the first round. At this time, it's too early to tell how good or bad this selection was. It's just that the reports on Pelfrey were so good, that when I finally saw him pitch, I was very disappointed, because I don't see a future ace.
2006- Again, no first round pick. Kevin Mulvey at #62 was the Mets' earliest choice. Mulvey appears to be making good progress at AA.
In retrospect, the Mets' draft history has a few notable mistakes, and a few excellent selections. Although we bemoan picks like Chilcott, Thurberg, Presley, Jaroncyk, and several others, every team has a similar history of mistakes. It is interesting to note that some of the choices that were criticized at the time for being made for reasons beyond talent, such as "local boy" Mazzilli or "Mookie's son" Preston Wilson actually turned out to be among the best ones.
Amateur Draft Hits And Misses - Part 2
Continuing my look at Mets' #1 selections year-by-year :1980 - Darryl Strawberry. #1 pick in draft. Apparently, there was some thought given to taking Darnell Coles or Billy Beane, but in the end, the Mets went with the consensus and selected Strawberry, and it turned out to be the right move.1981 - Terry Blocker. This was a fascinating draft, full of prospects. The Mets eventually wound up with several of the other first rounders including Ron Darling, Keven McReynolds, and Daryl Boston, all chosen AFTER the Mets took Blocker, as well as Dick Schofield who was taken one pick before Blocker. Terry was a speedy guy who never fulilled his potential.1982 - Dwight Gooden. With the #5 selection, the Mets definitely got the gem of this draft. Surprisingly, Gooden was considered a bit of a reach by many observers as he was projected to go around the middle of the round.1983 - The Mets had 3 first round picks and they turned out to be Eddie Williams, Stan Jefferson, and Calvin Schiraldi. There were a lot of highly touted players in the first round, and almost all of them turned out disappointing. Roger Clemens was the #19 selection by Boston, one slot before the Mets took Jefferson. Since the Mets had previously drafted Clemens out of high school, we can only wonder if they would have picked him again if the Red Sox had passed him up.1984 - Shawn Abner. First choice in the draft. Rumor had it that the Mets were all set to pick Mark McGwire, but wanted a firm commitment that he would sign. When they didn't get it, they went for Abner and McGwire lasted another 9 picks. Imagine the late '80's, early '90's Mets with Clemens and McGwire! Or would they have traded them both to get Kevin McReynolds, as they did with Abner, who never really made it ?1985 - Gregg Jefferies. Considering this was a late first round pick, it was remarkable in that Jefferies seemed to be player of the year every year throughout his minor league career. About his career with the Mets and beyond, it is a fascinating story which I won't go into here. 1986 - Lee May Jr. A huge disappointment almost from the time he began his minor league career. There weren't many better picks later in the first round. It's interesting to note that the last pick of the second round was Todd Zeile, who soon became the #1 prospect in all of baseball. Before he was chosen, the Mets had already made their second selection, Fritz Polka!1987 - Chris Donnels. Turned out to be a fringe big leaguer. Craig Biggio had gone 2 picks earlier and Pete Harnisch went a couple later.1988 - Dave Proctor. A pitcher. Never came close to the big leagues. Later first rounders included Rico Brogna, Ed Sprague, and Brian Jordan.1989 - Alan Zinter. A catcher when drafted, he was switched to first base and later traded for Rico Brogna. Finally surfaced in the majors 13 years after the Mets drafted him, but not for long. Mo Vaughn was selected just before Zinter, and Chuck Knoblauch right after him.1990 - Jeromy Burnitz. Considered a reach at the time, but actually a pretty good pick, although his best major league years were the ones he didn't spend with the Mets. Mike Mussina went 2 picks later.1991 - Al Shirley. One of only 2 of the top 20 picks that year who never made the big leagues. A toolsy outfielder who struck out way too much. Players chosen soon after him included Benji Gil, Allan Watson, and Aaron Sele.1992 - Preston Wilson. Outstanding choice with #9 pick in draft. Derek Je[...]
Amateur Draft Hits And Misses Through The Years
The Mets don't get to pick until the 42nd selection in this week's annual entry draft, which, incidentally will be televised for the first time. For the next few days, I'll review the Mets' first choices through the years.1965 - Les Rohr. Never developed. Best minor league year was 1969 in the Texas League. By then, the Mets already had a talented young pitching staff and Rohr was already out of the picture. Ray Fosse was available, but overall there weren't many good first round picks.1966 - Steve Chilcott. Passed up Reggie Jackson. Enough said.1967 - Jon Matlack. Excellent choice with fourth pick in draft as he turned out considerably better than the three players taken before him.1968 - Tim Foli. Became a decent major league player, but not what you'd expect from an overall number one. Thurman Munson, Bobby Valentine and Greg Luzinski were available.1969 - Randy Sterling. Had a cup of coffee with the Mets, but never really dominated in the Minors. Another bad year for the draft. Next choice was Alan Bannister by the Angels who was projected as a power-hitting shortstop, but wound up as a utility man. Don Gullett, chosen 10 picks later was the gem, especially with his quick rise to the big leagues.1970 - George Ambrow. A high school ss who never signed, went to USC and was an 18th round pick by the Angels 4 years later. Obviously, his stock had fallen considerably and didn't figure to have helped even if he had signed. World Champs had low pick that year. No one chosen in the second round turned out very well, so Mets get a bye here.1971 - Rich Puig. Awful pick considering the next selection was Jim Rice. Previous pick was Frank Tanana. The rest of that year's first round was terrible.1972 - Rich Bengston. Another poor pick. Another bad first round overall. The likes of Chet Lemon, Jamie Quirk, and (current Mets' coach) Jerry Manuel were chosen later in the first round, but really no one to be upset about.1973 - Lee Mazzilli. An outstanding choice with the 14th overall selection. John Stearns, Dave Winfield, and Robin Yount were taken early in the first round, but there were a bunch of never-to-be's chosen between Winfield and Mazzilli, and a lot of bad choices after Maz, so even if Mazzilli didn't turn out to be a superstar, this was a great pick. And don't forget Mazzilli eventually turned into Ron Darling and Howard Johnson.1974 - Cliff Speck. Righthanded pitcher who labored in the minors for a long, long time. Willie Wilson was chosen with the next pick, and Rick Sutcliffe a few picks later, so the Mets could have done better.1975 - Butch Benton. He never made it, but this was another downer draft. The best of the first round choices were probably Rick Cerone, Clint Hurdle and Dale Berra.1976 - Tom Thurberg. Who ??? Not a great first round, although future major leaguers like Bruce Hurst, Mike Scioscia, Leon Durham, and Pat Tabler were all taken later in the first round, so the Mets could have fared better.1977 - Wally Backman. Took him awhile to develop, but it's hard to fault this selection, as there were a bunch of guys taken before him who never amounted to much.1978 - Hubie Brooks. Very solid selection with #3 choice in draft. Was close to major league ready when chosen. Had some pretty good years with the Mets before going to Montreal in the Gary Carter deal. Had a decent career. Kirk Gibson was taken 9 picks later, but hard to fault this selection.1979 - Tim Leary[...]