Notorious Mets List: Love/Hate Relationship

By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper

Today’s list includes a bunch of guys who may have generated excitement when they signed a deal or were traded to the Mets, only to wind up a major disappointment.  They include players we should have liked, but didn’t.  Players who some liked, some didn’t.  Players who gave us a reason to not like them, even though we should have.  Did that cover it all?  I’m sure you get the idea.

Unfortunately, there were many more that could have made this list, which just goes to show that perhaps the Mets are better off solidifying their own talent in the minors instead of grabbing it off the market.  After reading this, it seems like trades like Mike Piazza for scrubs, Gary Carter for scraps and Keith Hernandez for junk are the exception, not the rule.

20.) Roger Cedeno, Outfielder (1999, 2002-03)

His time period with the Mets basically says it all.  We loved Cedeno in 1999.  Hated him in his second go-round.

Like I said in a previous piece, it was entertaining to get different generation’s ideas of who was notorious and why.  Mostly younger folks and those who were more attached to the teams of the late ‘90s had no problem with Cedeno in 1999…but his later version sucked.

Why was that?  Cedeno was known as a speedster in 1999, stealing 66 bases (which seems like chump change compared to Jose Reyes’ 78 in 2007).  Plus everyone likes the fast dude on an underdog team, as he seems to represent the team as a whole.  Like Willie Mays Hayes.

By the time he returned to the Mets in 2002, he was sporting the body of a home run hitter (HGH is a hell of a drug?), and completely lost his speed.  Couple that with the rest of the 2002 team tanking at unexpected measures (Burnitz, Vaughn and Alomar to name a few).  The 2002 team and version of Cedeno were seen as the antithesis of the 1999 team.  It just wasn’t fun anymore.

19.) Jeff Kent, Second Base (1992-96)

Lots of second baseman made this list.  I don’t know why it’s so hard for a) the Mets to develop any bona fide talent at 2B or b) why each second baseman (most of them anyway, probably saving Wally Backman, Tim Teufel and Edgardo Alfonzo mostly from the ire of Mets fans) holds a special place in Mets Hell.  Perhaps it has to do with the brainwashing that we’ll always need a defensive minded second baseman while sacrificing offensive might in that position.

Look no further than Jeff Kent and his horrific attitude and just mediocre borderline good talent with the Mets…THEN he becomes an almost lock for the Hall of Fame after he leaves.  Isn’t that the way it always goes?

I think Mets fans liked him though, when he was on the team.  He had a decent bat at least – he had 20 HRs two out of the three full seasons (’93, ’94 and ’95) he played with the Mets.

But there was that inkling that he was an a-hole.  Metstradamus in his inaugural hate list said that Kent was exposed to be a psychopath when he refused to get in a costume for rookie initiation.  He apparently went in kicking and screaming, but not only is he a psychopath, he’s a douche.

Couple that with his overall bad attitude (Mets Writer says “His off-the-field persona stunk!”), it wouldn’t matter if Kent won the first Mets MVP award.  He was (and is) a jerk and we’ll always remember him for that.

18.) Dave Kingman, OF/IF (1975-77, 1981-83)

Mets fans had a quintessential love/hate relationship with Dave Kingman, and that is why he makes this list.

With a nickname like “Kong” or “Sky King,” you had to love the flair for theatrics with a Kingman at-bat.  I actually am technically old enough to have seen him play, but I barely remember him in my 6-7 year old view.  But I am old enough to know that his idea of theatrics was to swing, admire his long fly ball…THEN decide to run.

Kingman was sort of the Adam Dunn of his time: A guy who could theoretically hit a home run in every at-bat, but would swing as if he was trying to as well.  With that comes the responsibility of striking out, which he did A LOT.  Kingman still ranks 10th in MLB’s all-time strikeout list.  For the record, he ranks 37th on the all-time home run list.  I could see why that would grate on a fan.

Also, Kingman was kind of a jerk.  I was surprised to see him attend (and having been invited was another story) the Mets 2008 Shea Goodbye ceremony because the stories about him were NEVER complimentary.  This was a man who gave a female reporter a gift of a dead rat in a box for crying out loud!  I also remember hearing stories about him not being nice to kids asking for autographs.  Just overall crappy stuff.

But, hey, he hits home runs.  Sometimes.  Go Kong.

17.) Bret Saberhagen, Pitcher (1992-95)

Ray “Metphistopheles” Stilwell says, “Start typing his name into Google and as soon as you get past the capital S, the third suggestion includes the word ‘Bleach.’”  That’s a set up right there.

Saberhagen was a great pitcher at one point, winning two Cy Young Awards with the Kansas City Royals, even pitching a no-hitter in 1991.  Yes, folks, he joined the Mets in 1992 (just another guy who pitched a no-hitter just prior to coming to the Mets).

Tthough he had established a pattern of being strong in odd years, even winning 23 games in an odd year, and not so strong even years, between the years of 1992-1994 with the Mets, he posted a 24-16 record with a 3.11 ERA.  He also pitched a lot of innings, and boasted a high K/9 ratio.  What’s not to like?

As with most of his teammates on the Worst Team Money Could Buy, Saberhagen’s time was not left untarnished in Flushing.  The “bleach” Metphistopheles refers to up top?  Perhaps Metstradamus should put it better than I could: “You know how major leaguers usually argue about what the best bleach is for getting grass stains out of your uniform? Well Saberhagen decided to prove his point on suits and ties … unfortunately, he did it while people were still wearing them.”

Note to self: spraying bleach on reporters because you feel like it doesn’t and won’t ever endear you to fans.

16.) J.J. Putz, Bullpen (2009)

Mention 2009 to any Mets fan and you’ll get a shudder.  That year probably reigns as most notorious year of all.  A team that was all but penciled in for the playoffs, players started getting on the injury wagon one at a time, till the Mets were not the Mets we know, but rather Replace-Mets and Reinforce-Mets.

J.J. Putz was one of those guys who most Mets fans were excited to have around.  One of the plans going forward in 2009 was to have a 1-2 punch in the back end of the games: Putz in the 8th (though he had usually acted as a closer till that point), then Francisco Rodriguez in the 9th (who also makes this part of the list).  With 2007 and 2008 late-season collapses, having a bullet-proof 8th and 9th inning was something most people could get behind.

Of course, as we all know with the Mets and their best laid plans…Putz barely put a dent in with his pitches, knocking off 29 innings pitched in his time before going down with a sore elbow.  Of course, by August of that year, like most Mets that season, Putz was shut down with an elbow injury.

Possibly it wouldn’t have been so bad if Putz was under contract for 2010 – he wasn’t.  The Mets declined his option after that debacle.  What’s worse?  Seven players were let go in a three-team trade in that Putz deal.  Seven players who may or may not have made an impact, but still seven more than we would have had with or without Putz since he barely threw a pitch.

Oh but wait!  There’s more…  So, yeah, prior to the trade the Mets apparently didn’t give a physical to Putz, who was well-known as injury-prone.  Like when Dr. Evil puts Austin Powers and Vanessa Kensington in the shark tank room, he says, “I’m going to leave them alone and not actually witness them dying, I’m just gonna assume it all went to plan.”  Well, you know what assume means…it makes an ass out of U…

Plus his name was TOOOOO good to pass up to not include on a list like this.

15.) Duaner Sanchez, Bullpen (2006, 2008)

All because he had the munchies.

Yes, the Six Degrees of Duaner Sanchez is still seen in today’s team, but it’s thankfully almost over…since Oliver Perez’s contract ends this year.  In fact, that is the sole reason Sanchez makes this list.  Ed Leyro says he voted for Duaner Sanchez on his list “For his midnight munchies that brought Oliver Perez to New York.”

When Sanchez became a set-up man in the bullpen in 2006, we kind of shrugged.  He was acquired in a trade that sent starting pitcher Jae Seo to the LA Dodgers, but most of us were like, “Whatever.”  I was upset because I felt like Seo was turning a corner, but when he started out slow for LA (and I think he was later released or traded, forget the dynamics of that), and Sanchez was tearing it up in the bullpen, it looked like the coup of the century.

Things were looking bright as the Mets took a series from the hated Atlanta Braves July 30, 2006, and they went to Miami for a day off and in anticipation of a series against the Florida Marlins.

Mets fan favorite Xavier Nady decided he would go jet skiing the next day.  Duaner, though, he was hungry.  He called his cousin, hopped in a cab and went to the nearest Dominican food establishment.

You all know how the story goes: they get hit out of nowhere, Sanchez braces himself with his pitching arm, fractures his shoulder…and his season is FINITO.  What’s worse?  Nady gets traded in a panic move for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez…OLIVER PEREZ????  I managed to warm up to the idea, but I told people that losing Sanchez was going to hurt more than you would ever think.  I was also told that I was crazy, that a middle reliever shouldn’t have that much bearing on the team.  It wasn’t just the loss of Sanchez’s filthy nasty stuff in the ‘pen…The loss of Xavier Nady is one of those things that was romanticized over time…the Mets never quite recovered from that loss of the lefty masher in the lineup.  I mean, they tried the next year with Moises Alou…but didn’t work.  Of course it didn’t.

In 2007, perhaps this was on the Mets FO, but Sanchez showed up the camp looking out of shape and getting winded in workouts.  So Fat Elvis starts to throw off a mound and what happens?  You guessed it: something snapped and he was out AGAIN for the season, which left the Mets bullpen missing a part that they desperately needed.

He tried a comeback in 2008, and had some moderate success…of course, only until he was pitching for San Diego and was spotless in handling the Mets.  Of course he was.

Mets fans have a love/hate relationship with him because of what could have been.  Perhaps 2006 was our year, and we needed Sanchez and Nady to be those missing pieces of the puzzle.  Perhaps 2007 and 2008 would have happened…but at least there would have been a 2006 championship to hold us over in that misery.

Sanchez is now out of baseball, and from what I understand was making a comeback in the Independent leagues.  But if he had just ordered delivery that night in Miami, who knows what might have been.

14.) Steve Trachsel, Pitcher (2001-06)

I was someone who defended Trachsel till I was blue in the face.  When he came to the Mets in 2001, I rolled my eyes for the man I would later call the Human Rain Delay.  But his numbers weren’t that bad.  Trachsel was the quintessential guy who didn’t get run support.  But his starts would be maddening.  As in maddeningly SLOOOOOOOW.  The tortoise in Tortoise and the Hare had nothing on Trash-ball, as I’d like to call him.  Slow and steady might have won the race, but didn’t necessarily win ballgames.  Or he would win and we wouldn’t care.  That might have been more indicative of the teams he played on though.

But I didn’t mind him.  After a while, it seemed like he might have grown on Mets fans, as the Mets had a Wild Card run in 2005, then their improbable 2006 campaign.  Trachsel, at the time, was the most-tenured Mets and even won the NL East clinching game on September 18 of that year.

What struck me though was when he was being interviewed after the win, he made an offhand remark like, “I was expecting to be here a few times by now.”  Here meaning “in the postseason.”  But hey, when he came to the Mets in 2001, it was expected they’d have made some progress, not take 8,000,000 steps backwards.

But then something interesting happened.  Trachsel “disappeared” right before the playoffs started with a n “undisclosed personal problem.”  Also unfortunate were the losses of Pedro Martinez in the pitching rotation AND Orlando Hernandez in the days prior to the NLDS.  Trachsel, the most senior Met at the time, was nowhere to be found.  Though it was rumored his wife was leaving him and he went to attend to some issues, fact is, he wasn’t there when the team needed him most.

Especially at a time that he apparently wanted most in his time with the Mets.

The Mets won his only start in the NLDS, advancing to the NLCS after sweeping the Dodgers.

Then came Trash-ball’s last game in a Mets uniform, game three of the NLCS.  Out of 12 batters he faced, in this start, 10 reached base.  TEN.  Trachsel did the unthinkable: he made Oliver perez the savior of the staff.

The supposed moment he’d been waiting for, and we can’t even get a decent outing out of him?  I was done with him.

13.) Joe McEwing, Super-Utility Guy (2000-04)

Why this guy is revered by many Mets fans I will never ever know.  But he makes this list because of that: for every Mets fan who loved the guy, there is a passionate fan who dislikes him more.  (see if you can guess which side of the fence I’m on).

There is a reason why players are called “super subs.”  It’s because they are the jack of all trades, and master of none.  That was McEwing.  For a super sub, from the years of 2001-04, he played a lot!  He appeared in 415 games with 1000 plate appearances, had a whopping .247 BA with a .303 OBP and .345 SLG.  I guess he was kind of like Daniel Murphy, just without the bat.

As our own Nik Kolidas said, “He was a player I never ‘got.’  He played all the time and always sucked.  He couldn’t hit, field or anything.  And he always played, for seemingly a hundred years.  It made me crazy.”

Yet for every Nik, Rusty Jr or me, there will be three fans who still love him and wish he was still involved with the team.  Like Nik said, I just don’t get it.

12.) Francisco Rodriguez, Closer (2009-11)

It wasn’t you, K-Rod, it was that contract.

The sun has set on Francisco Rodriguez, affectionately and something derisively known as “K-Rod” in most circles, and his time with the New York Mets.  The Mets announced shortly after the All-Star Game festivities had concluded Tuesday night that K-Rod would be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for PTBNL.  This ends a reign of terror, not so much from Frankie himself but from the contractual terms that bound him to the Mets.

Yes, that effervescent vesting option, that required the Mets to pay him $17.5mm in the event he had 55 games finished (that’s not “closed” games or “saved” games…if he comes in during the 8th inning on the road, and the Mets don’t score runs in the top of the 9th to win the game, he gets a game finished, etc etc).  Just another one of those fantastic deals from the bright mind of Omar Minaya (who also found it prudent to include the terms that no arbitration would be offered to Carlos Beltran when he walked in 2012, thus eliminating any chance of getting a compensatory pick in the draft).

Prior to 2011, no one really cared about the vesting option.  Because K-Rod was doing all right.  Sure, he gave us some odge-inducing moments (especially when I was following the Mets on the road in 2010 at Nationals Park and AT&T Park), but what closer doesn’t, we may argue.  Even Trevor Hoffman gave some heart-attack moments, and Mariano Rivera blew some saves every now and again.  Plus it wasn’t his fault that the Mets could hardly buy a run let alone score them in 2009, when everyone was decimated by injuries.

Then he punches his father-in-law (or common father-in-law, still not sure how that relationship worked) on CitiField grounds, in front of his coworkers family members…THEN was out for the rest of the season for injuring his thumb AFTER the fight!  As Metstradamus eloquently put it, “Public perp walks, especially for taking a swing and connecting on a family member … in the room designated for family nonetheless … is automatic inclusion.”

I feel as though Frankie was trying to get the fans back behind him.  Though he did blow a save the second game of the season, he did everything that you could ask of a closer.  But that damn vesting option was staring down.  As we discussed on our podcast last week with Vinny Cartiglia from Metszilla, you can’t have a closer eating up nearly $18mm of the payroll, especially when you need to reallocate that money for other resources.

Mets to K-Rod: “Sorry, we’re just not that into you.”

11.) George Foster, Outfielder (1982-86)

Thanks “for being a good role model to kids by staying on the bench during the Mets-Reds brawl in 1986.” ~ Ed Leyro, Studious Metsimus

That basically sums up George Foster’s tenure with the Mets.  According to Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won, Foster was significant for a few reasons.  Foster was again one of those “poor man’s” version of a player.  Since Frank Cashen lost out in the Dave Winfield sweepstakes, he felt pressure to make a move to ensure Mets fans that he was serious about improving the team from within and peppering with players from the outside.  Foster was traded to the Mets by the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 1982 season.  He was also significant because while, according to the book, he may have signified a change in dynamic for the Mets of the future, he would not stick around to see the fruits of those labors.  Foster was not on the roster when the Mets actually won the 1986 championship.

And in traditional Mets fashion, Foster barely lives up the hype, has a crappy attitude (was a “24 + 1” guy before the term was ever popularized) and doesn’t get along with his teammates.  In fact, another thing Pearlman told us on his interview with the Kult of Mets Personalities is that Foster was always looking to make a buck (as if making $2mm a year in 1980s money wasn’t enough), so he’d sell knock-off Polo shirts (with three legs that would shrink the second you put them in the dryer) or his ill-advised attempt to capitalize on the craze sports figures recording a (really horrible) rap album.  As concerned Mets fan Fred “Senor Solly” Solomon said, “His only useful contribution was ‘Metsmerized.’”  I guess because to this day, it’s still mocked heavily (and used in our podcast’s intro music).

But what’s worse is that in that 24+1 mentality, when the 1986 Mets was boozing and brawling, there were some who refused to engage in bad behavior, which is understandable.  It was well-known that Ray Knight, Gary Carter and George Foster were all church-going and spiritual guys, but when it came to the team, you knew that Knight and Carter would have their teammates’ backs.  Not in the case of Foster who refused to go on the field in the Reds and Mets bench-clearing incidents after Knight and Eric Davis got into a scuffle.  He claimed he didn’t want any little kids thinking any less of him.

Whatever.  I was a kid.  And I LOVED that fight.

Later on, he basically said that Davey Johnson and the Mets were racist in their promotion of talent like Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter and not Darryl Strawberry or Doc Gooden (when they were all fan favorites) put the last nail in Foster’s coffin, which like his Mets career, was pretty under the radar.

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