Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Curse of the Mets (Part II)

...More high profile players who didn't pan out for the Mets:

Rickey Henderson
The Mets thought they were onto something when they signed baseball's all time stolen base king before the 1999 campaign. The forty year-old speedster hit .315 in 121 games and finished among the top ten in steals. But his follow-up season was atrocious. He ended up being released in May of 2000 after hitting .219 in 31 games while looking sloppy in the outfield. The Mets went to the World Series without him that year.

Mo Vaughn
The defensively challenged Vaughn was one of the American League's most feared sluggers when he was with the Red Sox. Between 1993 and 2000, he reached the 100 RBI mark six times. In 1995, he captured MVP honors. Injured in 2001, the Mets offered him a blockbuster deal. He led the league with 18 errors and hit just .259 with 26 homers in '02. He was off to a .190 start the following year when an injury forced him out of action for good.

Jeremy Burnitz
The Mets spent more than $7 million on Burnitz in 2002 and had every reason to believe it was a good investment. Over the previous five seasons, he had established himself as one of Milwaukee's top run producers. But the lefty-swinging outfielder struggled at the plate, hitting .215 with 54 RBIs in 154 games. He bounced back the following year--just in time for the Mets to ship him off to LA. in exchange for three players. His batting average plummeted to .239 by season's end.

Roberto Alomar
Alomar was coming off his twelfth consecutive All-Star selection when the Mets added him to their roster in 2002. Though he wasn't an outright bust, he proved he was on the downside of his career by remaining conspicuously absent from NL leaderboards. He hit 70 points lower than the previous year while generating his leanest extra-base hit totals since an injury-plagued '97 season. He would never play on an All-Star team or add another Gold Glove to his sizable collection ever again.

Tom Glavine
It wasn't entirely Glavine's fault that he compiled a losing record during his first three seasons in New York. The Mets were a mediocre club and he got little run support at times. The left-handed control specialist was thirty-seven years old and on a quest for 300 wins when the Mets offered him the largest annual salary of his career in 2003. It cost the team more than $32 million to watch Glavine compile a 33-41 record with a cumulative 3.85 ERA from '03-'05. They hung onto him anyway, squeezing two more seasons out of him before sending him back to Atlanta for a curtain call. He reached the coveted 300-win mark with New York in 2007 though his earned run average was a decidedly un-Glavine-like 4.45 that year.

Kazuo Matsui
Matsui was a major star in Japan and several teams made bids for his services before he joined the Mets in 2004. His career got off to a roaring start when he homered in his first at-bat. After that, the highlights were sparse. He was injured during most of his tenure in New York, playing in just 271games over a three-year span. The Mets finally got rid of him in June of 2006.

Pedro Martinez
Things were looking up for the Mets when Martinez posted a 15-8 record with a 2.82 ERA in his 2005 New York debut. Then the injuries set in. From 2006-'08, the Hall of Fame right-hander started just 48 games and compiled a 4.73 earned run average. The Mets granted him free agency in October of 2008.

Shawn Green
It has been argued that Green was the most talented Jewish player since Sandy Koufax. At the time of his retirement, he was one of four active players with 300 homers, 1,000 RBIs and 400 doubles. Among Jewish players, only Hank Greenberg ended up with more homers and RBIs. Unfortunately for the Mets, they acquired Green at the tail end of his career. He joined the club in August of 2006 and hit .313 in the playoffs. The following year, he fouled a pitch off his foot and fractured a bone. It was slow to heal and his offense suffered. He retired before the start of the 2008 campaign.

Frankie Rodriguez
 Nicknamed "K-Rod," Rodriguez led the AL in saves three times between 2005 and 2008. In '08, he set a single season record with 62 saves, inspiring the Mets to shell out a truckload of cash to sign him. In his New York debut, he was 1-5 in save situations with a bloated 5.40 ERA. He shared closing responsibilities with several other pitchers the following year. In 2011, he was traded after getting off to a slow start.

 Johan Santana
From 2004-2007, Santana was among the most dominant pitchers in the American League, capturing two Cy Young Awards while finishing among the top ten in voting every year. In '08, he signed a seven-year contract extension with the Mets that made him the highest paid pitcher in history. He had a great first season in New York, compiling a 16-7 record with a 2.53 ERA. After that, injuries began to take their toll. He was out for long stretches in 2009 and 2010. The following year, he ended up being shelved for the entire season with shoulder issues. The Mets hoped for a return to form in 2012, but Santana finished at 6-9 with an ERA of 4.85. It was his last season in the majors.

Jason Bay
Originally property of the Pirates, Bay captured Rookie of the Year honors in 2004 then proceeded to drive-in more than 100 runs in four of the next five seasons. The Mets picked him up in 2010, hoping he could expand upon the monster offensive season he had with the Red Sox the previous year. Sidelined with injuries, he did nothing of the sort. During his three-year tenure in New York, he missed a total of 198 games while accruing a feeble .234 batting average. He was released in November of 2012.

Curtis Granderson
Granderson led the league in triples for two consecutive seasons while playing for the Tigers. After joining the Yankees in 2010, he began swinging for the fences. Though he clubbed 40 homers in back-to-back campaigns in the Bronx, the strikeouts began piling up at an alarming rate. Injured through most of the 2013 slate, the Mets signed him to a four-year deal worth $60 million. That investment has yet to pay off. In 2014, Granderson hit .227 with 66 RBIs in 155 games. At the beginning of 2015, he managed just 1 hit in his first 7 games. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Curse of the Mets (Part I)

Since 1969, the Mets have fared better than many of their NL rivals, winning two World Series and making a total of seven playoff appearances. Despite their moderate success, the team has been plagued by an ongoing series of questionable front office moves. The Mets have a knack for shelling out significant sums of money on big name players only to have them fail to meet expectations. The following examples provide a compelling case study.  

Gil Hodges
Having played on seven pennant-winning Dodger squads, the Mets knew that Hodges was a sentimental favorite in New York and were hoping to draw some fans when they picked him up in the expansion draft. Hodges--an eight-time All-Star--was thirty-eight years old and nursing a bad knee when he came to the Big Apple. Highlights were few. Over portions of two seasons, he hit .248 with 9 homers and 20 RBIs. In May of '63, he was traded. He would later return as a manager and lead the club to an improbable Series victory in '69.

Clem Labine
Labine was another key member of the celebrated Dodger squads of the 1950s/ early-'60s. In '55, when Brooklyn finally knocked off the powerful Yankees in the World Series, Labine led the NL with 60 appearances and posted a 13-5 record along with 11 saves. Acquired for the Mets inaugural campaign, he was coming off of a successful season with the Pirates in which he had drawn 55 relief assignments. The Mets had little choice but to dump him after he ran up a preposterous 11.25 ERA. 

Duke Snider
Among the most productive Dodger hitters of the 1950s, Snider's numbers were in decline when the Mets purchased his contract in '63. He still commanded a sizable salary and was hardly worth the investment. He played in 129 games (his highest total since '57), hitting .243 with just 14 homers. The Mets shipped him off to San Francisco in 1964. 

Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn
Before the 1965 slate, the Mets signed two of the game's most recognizable stars. Both were in their forties and the Mets probably knew what they were getting. Still, it cost them over $100,000 (a significant figure in those days) to have Spahn compile a 4-12 record while Berra hit .222 as a player/coach. The two aging veterans had an opportunity to work together one day, prompting Spahn to comment comically: "I don't know if we're the oldest battery, but we sure are the ugliest."

Ken Boyer
Between 1955 and '65, Boyer was among the top third basemen in the majors. He reached the pinnacle of his career with the Cardinals in '64 when he led the league in RBIs and captured MVP honors. Two years later, he signed with the Mets. It was the beginning of the end. Plagued by back trouble, his numbers dropped off sharply. He was hitting just .235 in July of '67 when the Mets dealt him to the White Sox

Joe Torre
Known more for the years he spent managing the Yankees, Torre had a highly successful playing career. A lifetime .297 hitter and nine-time All-Star, he led the NL with 230 hits, 137 RBIs and a .363 batting average in 1971. The Mets were expecting more from him when he joined the club in 1975. Over portions of three seasons in New York, he hit .267 while averaging just 4 homers and 25 RBIs per year. He eventually became manager, leading the Mets to five straight sub-.500 finishes.

George Foster
Foster was an irreplaceable part of Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine," winning three consecutive RBI crowns from '76-'78. He was still cleaning off the bags regularly for the Reds when the Mets offered him a contract that made him the the highest paid player in the majors during the '82 campaign. The Mets were a light-hitting team and, without protection in the middle of the order, Foster's batting averages plummeted. Though he did crack 28 homers and drive-in 90 runs during the '83 slate, he never really lived up to the hype. His batting average stood at .227 when the Mets shipped him to Chicago in 1986.

Vince Coleman
Nicknamed "Vincent Van Go," Coleman led the NL in stolen bases every year from 1985-1990. In an infamously bad decision, the Mets signed him to a blockbuster contract in 1991. Injured constantly, he became a malcontent, sparring verbally with managers and coaches. In 1993, he threw a lit firework into a crowd of fans waiting for autographs, injuring several people. He was suspended and eventually released.

Bret Saberhagen
The Mets were taking a major risk when they acquired Saberhagen before the '92 slate. The right-hander had won a pair of Cy Young Awards with the Royals in '85 and '89, but an arm injury in '90 had limited him to 20 starts. He bounced back in '91, prompting the Mets to meet his substantial salary demands. The fragile moundsman suffered through two injury plagued seasons in New York before posting a 14-4 record and 2.74 ERA in '94. Off to a mediocre start the following year, the Mets finally gave up on him.      


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Superstars Traded By The Expos

Established in 1969, the Expos remained in Montreal until 2004, when their dwindling fan base necessitated a move to Washington. In more than three decades of play, the club managed just one postseason appearance. This is difficult to believe considering the number of exceptional players who passed through that region of Quebec over the years. As a small market team, the Expos had a knack for being unable to meet the salary demands of their brightest stars. Consequently, they kept the rest of the majors well-stocked with marquis players. Below is a sampling of the superstars who were let go by the Expos. 

Originally property of the Astros, Staub was acquired before the Expos inaugural campaign. He had three productive seasons in Montreal, averaging 60 extra-base hits and 90 RBIs per year. In '72, the Expos decided to test the market. They ended up getting three players for Staub in a trade with the Mets. Staub had several fruitful seasons elsewhere, retiring with more than 2,700 hits and 1,400 runs batted in.

A first round draft pick in 1967, Singleton came up through the Mets organization. After two mediocre seasons, he was traded to Montreal. He began to blossom with the Expos, driving in 103 runs in '73 while leading the National League with a .425 on-base percentage. Dealt to Baltimore before the '75 campaign, Singleton became one of Baltimore's most reliable RBI-men. Between '77 and '80, he hit .305 and averaged 99 ribbies per season. He finished second in MVP voting during the '79 slate, guiding the Orioles to a World Series appearance. He gathered 16 hits in 11 postseason games that year. 

Carter was drafted by the Expos in '72. He spent eleven seasons with the club, earning seven All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards. When the Expos failed to meet his salary demands before the '85 campaign, he defected to the Mets. He ended up with a World Series ring and a plaque in the gallery at Cooperstown.      

Rookie of the Year in 1977, Dawson followed with nine successful seasons in Montreal. Cut loose before the '87 campaign, he made the Expos regret it, capturing MVP honors with the Cubs. By the time he retired in '96, he had eight Gold Gloves and eight All-Star selections to his credit. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame (as an Expo) in 2010.

 Raines was among the greatest Expo players of all time. During his eleven full seasons in Montreal, he led the league in stolen bases four times and earned seven straight All-Star selections. In 1986, he captured a batting title. The Expos rewarded him by granting him free agency at seasons' end. He had several productive campaigns outside of Quebec, spending the second half of his twenty-two year career with five different clubs. He won a pair of World Series rings with the Yankees.  

Signed by the Expos in '79, Galarraga spent portions of seven seasons in Montreal. He led the league in multiple offensive categories and won a pair of Gold Gloves at first base. After a mediocre year in '91, the Expos dumped him. It was a mistake as Galarraga won a batting crown with Colorado in '93 then followed with two straight RBI titles. He drove in more than 100 runs in five straight seasons before age finally caught up with him.

The Expos missed the boat altogether on Randy Johnson. He started just ten games for Montreal before embarking on a Hall of Fame career that included nine strikeout titles and five Cy Young Awards. He currently ranks second to Nolan Ryan on the all time strikeout list. 

The Canadian-born Walker is currently the all time leader among fellow countrymen in hits, doubles, homers and RBIs (among other categories). He accomplished a great deal of this outside of Montreal. The Expos let him go before the '95 campaign. His best years were yet to come as he captured MVP honors with Colorado in '97 and won three batting titles in a four-year span. Five of his seven Gold Gloves were earned after he parted ways with the Expos.  

Originally property of the Dodgers, the Expos scooped up Martinez before the '94 campaign. They gave his Hall of Fame career a jump start when they rescued him from the bullpen. In Martinez's best season with Montreal, he won 17 games and captured a Cy Young Award. Unable to afford him anymore, the Expos offered him up to the highest bidder. Martinez enjoyed his peak seasons in Boston, posting a 117-37 record over a seven-year span while winning four ERA titles and a pair of Cy Young Awards. In '99, he captured a triple crown.