Every team has to have a number of components in order to brew a culture of winning and unity that is found in most legitimate contenders. The token ace, power bat, golden glove, and bullpen leader are a given, but just because you follow the directions of a paint by numbers doesn’t mean it will be a masterpiece. Realistically there are more cogs in the machine than we could imagine and it takes a perfect storm to mold a successful season. Calm down I am not attempting to rationalize that the Metropolitans are floating about while the puzzle pieces are falling together. However the club is capable of taking legitimate steps forward, or at least making an effort to rebuild a culture that has been M.I.A. for many moons.
The fact of the matter is, Jose Reyes was the superstar who possessed all the ideal points of a lovable glue guy (noun: middle of the pack talent who has the ability to electrify the crowd with a solid showing; player who goes above and beyond his expected effort output; gamer who develops a touch of extra personality in order to hold on to some semblance of excitement or because he likes having a dirty uniform). It was a beautiful thing to witness a legitimate franchise player hold onto his child-like love for the game, but Jose’s departure leaves a massive hole in the personality of this franchise. Personally, I don’t see a David Wright or an elderly Johan Santana hopping around the dugout and hyping everyone up.
Yes, this is a rebuilding year for the Mets. Yes, they will probably embarrass themselves. However there are a number of young guys like Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, and Lucas Duda who will likely be around after the Mets’ makeover. I wouldn’t be upset if Justin Turner or even a Bobby Parnell made it through the scourge. Granted it is important to focus on improving their game, but heading into this season I want to see them mesh and get a little goofy. Notice I didn’t even mention Wheeler, Harvey, or Familia? I only hear great things and I am excited to see how they perform when they get the call up, but that conversation is for another day. The point I am trying to get across is that I truly believe the birth of this new culture must be the first step in the rebuilding campaign. Try and personify the current organization, management and players, as soon to be parents baby-proofing the house, setting up the crib, hanging up some colorful wallpaper, and buying stuffed animals in bulk. The baby can’t appreciate it at the moment but when the time finally comes to give birth (moves have been made, poor contracts are expired, etc) the child will walk into the perfect setting. I don’t want to see these three pitching prospects finally make it to the big show only to see a depressed and hopeless squad with no real excitement.
In a perfect world the current roster can somehow breed a sense of unity and smoothness regardless of their record. David Wright looks like a swell guy when he whips out that smile but I would kill to watch Duda and Tejada grabbing at each other as they try to will a warning tracker out of the park. More importantly who will be the official creator of handshakes?!?! Call me immature or crazy but I crave genuine camaraderie and I truly believe these young “glue guys” need to get a bit more glue in their system.
Who knows? The only thing for certain is that we simply don’t know which rung of the NL East totem pole will be inhabited by the Metsies. The debate continues whether or not the stars will align or if the Mets will lay claim to last place from day one, but it will certainly be interesting to see how those on the roster will react to the state of affairs. In the meantime, let’s look at a couple guys we grew to love/hate in no particular order, and check in on where they are now.
Oliver Perez – I don’t really know how to start explaining my love affair with Ollie. On paper he was an absolute bum who rarely even sniffed his own potential while with the Mets. On the other hand, I know that the crowd developed an uncanny sense of impending greatness the few times he really brought his “stuff” to the mound. Ollie haters can go ahead and claim that it was just the reaction of absolute shock that the stiff finally pulled it together. Perhaps I am biased since I proudly rocked a sombrero as a member of Ollie’s Tamales whenever I could attend one of his starts, but deep down we all know that high leg kick just seemed to charge the stadium up. Plus, those studly sideburns certainly didn’t hurt the cause. Sadly enough, even I can only reminisce about the good Ollie so much before questioning my own sanity. Terrible contract, even worse performance, but what happened after we all turned our backs on Mr. Perez? After the Mets released Perez in March of 2011 he was assigned to a minor league deal by the Washington Nationals. Unfortunately it took another relegation to Double A before Ollie was able to put of respectable numbers. Alas, the Nats were still not impressed and eventually released my main man. The saga of Ollie still has a heartbeat as he just recently received an invitation to spring training in the big show with the Mariners, although he didn’t make the opening day roster.
John Maine – Johny Maine was basically a one and a half pitch wonder who managed to kill it while healthy in his first couple season with the Mets from 2006-2007. Unfortunately we were forced to witness a gradual and constant decline in numbers and physical deterioration. Dan Warthen was quoted as saying that Maine had a habit of lying about his health, and became a free agent after missing most of the 2010 season following shoulder surgery. Next stop was Colorado, but a change of scenery did not improve the situation as he only pitched 45 innings and posted a 7.43 ERA in Triple-A. Retirement suddenly became an option, but Maine’s career is currently back on life support after signing a minor league contract a month ago. Realistically you have to be pessimistic about his career and it doesn’t like we will see John Maine command the mound ever again.
Endy Chavez – The man, the myth, the legend. Endy will forever hold a special place in my heart after “the catch” in 2006 and another temporary season saving grab in the last regular season game in 2008. He was a fan favorite during his three years with the Mets and a real quality defensive replacement. Good times were had, but Endy was eventually traded to Seattle where he tore the ACL in his right knee while colliding with Yuniesky Betancourt. After free-agency, the next stop was Texas where he hit a very solid .301 in 256 at bats last season. The 34 year old lefty still has some juice in the tank, and is expected to platoon in left field for the Baltimore Orioles this upcoming season.
Jeff Francoeur – You either love or you hate Frenchy. The Braves gave up on the former first round pick after an unacceptably long slump, and the Mets got their hands on the streaky outfielder with a cannon for an arm in exchange for Ryan Church. He had a decent single season for the Met but also famously hit into a game-ending unassisted triple play. Francoeur was benched the next season to make room for Carlos Beltran and traded to the Rangers for an irrelevant Joaquín Árias. In the end, he signed a one-year deal with the Royals, joined the 20 20 club for the first time in 2011, and then signed a hefty two-year $13.5 million dollar extension. Personally, I enjoyed watching Frenchy play in 2009 and that trademark grin makes it obvious he absolutely loves the game.
Ramon Castro – If I were a betting man I would say Ramon came out of the womb with the jowls of a bulldog. He was a lovable guy throughout his four and a half years with the Mets, and had a fairly reliable bat for a backup catcher behind the likes of Mike Piazza, Paul Lo Duca, and Brian Schneider. Fans were always hoping Castro would be given the reigns whenever the starting job opened up but he was never really given a shot. After the Mets he ended up with the White Sox. His claim to fame is catching Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in July of 2009. It was the first time he caught for Buehrle, who claimed that he didn’t shake off Castro a single time during the game. The guy is 35 and technically the third string catcher but Castro fans will probably get a couple more sightings as he should be healthy heading into spring training.
Lastings Milledge – The kid made his major league debut for the Mets at 21 years and 55 days old in, the same exact age of the great Darryl Strawberry, in 2006. He didn’t do anything too impressive until hitting his first career knocker against San Fran closer Armando Benitez in the bottom of the tenth inning to tie the game up at six a piece. Usually you love seeing a youngin’ get excited about making a huge hit, but the media and his teammates were pretty darn pissed when he gave fans a high five as he returned to the field to play some defense. The next year Milledge found himself shuffling in between the majors and AAA, was chastised for appearing in a rap video with some wrist-slap worthy language, and was subsequently traded to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. To make a long story short, Lastings spent the next three seasons constantly recovering from injuries while putting up mediocre numbers for the Nationals and Pirates. Unfortunately it looked like the saga of this once promising Metsie was winding down after Pittsburgh chose not to offer him a new contract. The bad news continued as he barely even sniffed the big show after being signed to a minor league contract by the White Sox in 2011. You have to give the guy credit though as he recently signed a one year contract with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Clearly the hype wasn’t warranted but I simply can’t root against my ex-Mets. Go Swallows baby!
Whew. It’s always nice to reminisce, but this sad group of gentlemen didn’t fair very well after leaving Queens, considering Frenchy is really the only guy who is doing more than simply chugging along. Hope you guys enjoyed it and if there is a demand I’d be more than happy to put together another recap of ex-Mets and where the road has taken them…Carlos Gomez, Alex Cora, Pedro Feliciano, Xavier Nady pop into mind. I’m new to the twitter game so hit me up @HisDudenessOfNY with any requests or if you just want to tell me how much I suck/rock.
Always a pleasure MMO nation. Until next time..