#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Mel Rojas

Like all Mets fans, I absolutely hated Mel Rojas’ stint with the Mets. I try to refrain myself from hating people but his short time in Queens, a year and a half of wearing the Orange & Blue felt like a decade of absolute misery. But let’s take an inside look back at Rojas and his tenure with the Mets approximately 22 years later.

Rojas, who is cousins with former Mets outfielder Moises Alou, signed on with the Montreal Expos in 1985 as an amateur free agent and made his debut against the Mets in 1990, going 2/3rds of an inning with a strikeout.

The Mets would eventually acquire Rojas in the middle of 1997 with centerfielder Brian McRae and spunky reliever Turk Rojas for speedster Lance Johnson, starting pitcher Mark Clark, and infielder Manny Alexander.

Rojas went 0-2 with 5.13 ERA in ’97 in 23 games pitched, tossing 26.1 innings, giving up 24 hits, four of which were home runs. He also struck out 32 batters in that small sample.

It didn’t get better for the right handed reliever in ’98, he appeared in 50 games for the Mets and sported a 6.05 ERA with a 5-2 record over 58 innings pitched.

One of the most memorable and infamous moments for Rojas in ’98 is when Bobby Valentine inexplicably opted to go with Rojas instead of a LHP to face Yankees Paul O’Neill. Rojas would give up a home run to O’Neill, giving the Yankees the 6-4 lead as they took the victory.

In 73 games pitched over 84.1 innings, Rojas gave up 92 hits, 56 runs (54 earned), and 13 home runs. Rojas wouldn’t have been so terrible if a majority of hits against him weren’t so impactful. However, that’s the exact opposite of the case.

What makes this super special is that prior to the 1999 season, the Mets traded Rojas straight up to the Dodgers for Mets fan favorite Bobby Bonilla.

#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Mike Baxter

Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 4th round of the 2005 MLB June Amateur Draft, the Queens, New York native was able fulfill a dream when the Mets claimed him off of waivers in July of the 2011 season.

He’s played parts of three seasons for the Mets where he hit .232/ .340/ .354/ .694 with four home runs, 22 doubles, 25 R.B.I.’s, and 46 runs scored. He had 406 plate appearances which translated to 345 at bats for the Orange & Blue. While his numbers by no means are overwhelming, he’ll be forever a hero in Queens for the part he played in one of the most historical games in the entirety of the New York Mets franchise.

On June 1st, 2012 Mets Ace lefty Johan Santana took the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals and made history by throwing the franchise’s first “No Hitter”. While most no hitter’s involve a little bit of luck behind tremendous pitching, on that night, luck came in the form of Mike Baxter.

In the seventh inning, Mets nemesis Yadier Molina hit a hard hit fly ball out to left field where Baxter had been positioned. Baxter goes on to describe the play to SNY and says “I got an OK break on it. Not the best route in the world, but I went back, reached out for it, caught it-thankfully-but I couldn’t get my feet under me. I stumbled a little bit, kind of braced for the fence, and then I hit it awkwardly.”

Amongst Mets fans, June 1st is referred to as “Johan Santana Day” and every Mets fan knows that there wouldn’t be a “Johan Santana Day” if it weren’t for the heroics of Mike Baxter and his “No Hitter” saving catch. A catch that fractured rib cartilage and caused displacement of his right collarbone.

These days, the Vanderbilt University alumni is currently reliving another homecoming, of sorts. Baxter has returned to Vanderbilt University as the team’s hitting coach, as well as acting recruiting coordinator. Baxter told NewYorkSportsDay.com “I enjoy it a lot… I think it’s a great age range. 18-21, 22, I think really great years to be around good ballplayers. We enjoy spending a lot of time with them and winning.”

#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Lastings Milledge

This #ThrowbackThursday could have easily been a #MetsCrushMonday about 15 years ago. Lastings Milledge was drafted out of Lakewood Ranch High School in the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft, the right handed outfielder was drafted in the first round and 12th overall.

The Mets projected Milledge to play right field as a five-tool player. With power to all fields and above average speed, the outfielder was expected to be a run producer as well as a potential gold glover. While the team saw him stealing 20+ bases a year, they knew that his base prowess was hindered and limited by his lack of discipline at the plate.

Milledge climbed through the ranks relatively quickly for a High School draftee, he made his debut on May 30th of the 2006 season, less than three years removed from the day he was drafted.

In 2006, Milledge appeared in in 56 games with 185 plate appearances and 166 at bats. He hit seven doubles, two triples, four home runs while driving in 22 R.B.I.’s as well as stealing one base. His slash line was .241/ .310/ .380/ .689 with a 78 OPS+ in his rookie season as 21 year old. “Baseball Reference” had Lastings Milledge exceeding rookie limits during that ’06 season.

2007 proved to be a better season while wearing the Orange & Blue for Milledge. He had 184 at bats in 206 plate appearances while hitting nine doubles, one triple, seven home runs with 29 runs driven in and three stolen bases. In his 22 year old season, Milledge drastically improved his slash line, hitting .272/ .341/ .446/ .787 raising his OPS+ to 104.

Milledge seemed to be outcasted by his peers for being for of an outspoken and flamboyant player, which may have come off as if he were attention seeking or acting like he was a superstar before he’s even completed a full a season. Personally, I loved it. I loved the the flash and I saw him as an extremely passionate ball player, and that’s the guy I want on my team.

Overall, Milledge spent parts of two seasons before being traded to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Ryan Church and Catcher Brian Schneider. He’s played 115 games for the Mets, batting a respectable .257/ .326/ .414/ .741 with 11 home runs and 51 R.B.I.’s in 350 at bats and 391 plate appearances.

Since mid 2011, Milledge has been playing international baseball with a .272/ .349/ .445/ .793 slash line in 332 games, hitting 47 home runs, 67 doubles, four triples, 181 runs scored while driving in 176 R.B.I.’s in 1252 at bats.

“The Put it in the Books Show” presents – #ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Eddie Murray

Murray is one of the better D.H.’s and first baseman to play the game and he had a two year stint donning the Orange & Blue after spending several seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Murray spent 12 seasons in Baltimore before defecting to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three seasons.

Murray signed and spent his age 36 and age 37 seasons with the Mets while manning down first base. In 1992, Murray played in 156 games, totaling 551 at bats in 625 plate appearances. In his first season with the Orange and Blue, Murray smoked 37 two baggers to go along with his 16 home runs, driving in 93. His slash line that season was .261/ .336/ .423/ .759 during that ’92 season.

In 1993, at the tender age of 37, Murray hit .285/ .325/ .467/ .792 with 28 doubles and 27 home runs to go with 100 R.B.I.’s. in 610 at bats for the Mets, that season.

Murray suited up 310 times as a New York Met and accumulated 1161 at-bats, 141 runs scored, 318 hits, 65 doubles, 3 triples, 43 home runs, 193 R.B.I.’s, 6 stolen bases, 106 base on balls, and a .274/ .330/ .446/ .776 slash line with a 113 OPS+.

Murray was never been known for his fancy glove work at first, surely, that’s the reason he’s been a D.H. for the majority of his career, but Murray was also more than a power hitter. The D.H. has batted .300 or better, at least seven seasons throughout his career and has two seasons with an OBP over .400, pretty amazing.

Murray has 504 home runs over his 21 years in the MLB, he also has 1917 R.B.I.’s and even a shocking 110 stolen bases. He’s a .287/ .359/ .476/ .836 hitter with a 68.7 career WAR over his 21 years in the league.

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#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Turk Wendell

Steven John “Turk” Wendell very well may be the most beloved reliever in a Mets uniform that wasn’t a closer. Wendell was a middle reliever but however he always found himself in the middle of key situations as well as in the hearts of Mets fans.

Wendell was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1988 and made his Major League debut with the Chicago Cubs in 1993. In 1997, the Mets traded away Lance Johnson and a Player To Be Named Later for Centerfielder Brian McRae and relievers Mel Rojas and Turk Wendell. The Mets later sent RHP Mark Clark to Chicago to complete the trade.

While with New York, Wendell donned the number 99 in honor of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from the famous movie series “Major League’s” and he embodied the role as if he were auditioning for the next part.

In 2000, Wendell became a free agent however he took a unique approach to tending to his next contract. He signed his contract with the Mets for $9,999,99.99 which I can only chalk up to the man’s quirkiness. I mean, Turk wore a necklace of different animals he had hunted and always had the home plate umpire roll the ball to the mound. If the umpire would throw the ball to Wendell, he would let it hit him and bounce off of his chest. So yea, Turk’s an odd ball.

Turk spent part of seasons with the Mets sporting a 22-14 record with a 3.34 ERA over 312.2 innings. His numbers were what the Mets needed out of the bullpen but his attitude and aura is what the Mets fans desperately needed. When Turk stepped out to the mound, not only would we expect an above average outing, but we would also so look forward to Wendell’s routine and antics before he even tossed a pitch.

He was later traded to the Philadelphia Phillies along with left handed reliever Dennis Cook for Minor Leaguer Adam Walker and the pitching left handed journeyman Bruce Chen on July 27th of 2001.

Turk Wendell will always be a favorite.

Maybe not such a bad thing . . .

By Guy F. White

 

With all the chatter around concerning a possible trade for Syndergaard, it’s easy for Mets fans to descend into a state of panic and despair.  Clearly Thor is one of our most popular and effective pitchers.  He’s so bad ass.  Everything about him is larger than life.  The fact that he has a Nordic name and even looks like a Viking is a public relations dream.  How can any Met fan not love THOR??  How can anybody even remotely consider trading THOR?  Say it’s not so.

 

There is some precedent in Mets history for trading another popular and effective starting pitcher and being better off as a result.  Consider Gary Gentry: Gentry was one of the premier Met pitchers during the Magical 1969 season at the age of 22.  He pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball in Game Three of the World Series, while only allowing three hits (Thank you Tommie Agee) in a dominant pitching performance.  His ERA in 1969 was 3.43 and he was a potent No. 3 starter after Seaver and Koosman.

 

By the end of 1972, his ERA had increased to 4.01 but his strikeouts/9 innings had never been higher.  At the still tender age of 26, it appeared that Gentry still had a lot of good baseball left in him.  With the addition of Jon Matlack, the Mets had a potentially jaw-dropping pitching staff with Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, and Gentry as their No. 4.  Someone of Gentry’s caliber being a No. 4 was almost too much to dream.

 

However, after the 1972 season the Mets traded the affable and effective Gentry, along with Danny Frisella, to the Atlanta Braves for Felix Millan and George Stone, and it was one of the best trades in Met history.  We certainly missed Gentry a little, yet Felix Millan hit .290 for the 1973 Mets, played a gold glove caliber second base, and was a perfect No. 2 hitter.  Mets fans learned to love the way Millan would dramatically choke up on his bat.  When Wayne Garrett started to heat up in late August, with Millan behind him in the order, and with Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack on the mound, the Mets were almost unbeatable.  George Stone, obtained in that trade, was our most winning and consistent pitcher down the stretch  They went 30-14 (a .682 clip) to finish the season, before ambushing the Big Red Machine in the Playoffs.

 

Millan went on to hit .283 and .282 in 1975 and 1976 respectively.  He played all 162 games in 1975 and was a strong, consistent presence for the Mets for the rest of his career.  Gentry almost immediately developed arm troubles and only had 113 1/3 innings left in his arm before he finally retired in 1975.  The Mets clearly got the better of that deal.

 

Naturally, I don’t want to trade Syndergaard.  I love THOR!!!  I mean who doesn’t love Thor?  But if it were to happen, and Thor were to pitch for someone else, it doesn’t necessarilymean the end of the world.  Sure we would mourn, cry, and gnash our teeth.  But maybe, just maybe, it could turn out to be not such a bad thing.

 

#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Pedro Astacio

I know it’s a Tuesday evening but I’m bored and that’s about it. Pedro Astacio started his career out in the West Coast with the Dodgers, coming up in ’92 and starting 11 games with 1.98 ERA and a 5-5 record over 82.0 innings to kick off his career. Next year, he went 14-9 in his first full season over 31 starts and was destined for success… or so we were lead to believe.

After spending 6 years with the Dodgers, 5 with the Rockies and half of a season with the Astros, the Mets got a hold of the righty for two seasons, one of them only being effective.

In 2002, the Mets went all in. They acquired Mo Vaughn, Roger Cedeno, and even future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. They then signed Astacio to a one year deal worth $5M to join roster of pitchers alongside the likes Al Leiter and Steve Trachsel.

That season Astacio went 12-11 with the Mets pitching 191.2 innings and giving up 32 home runs, while also striking out 152 to go with his 4.79 ERA.

His second season was pretty much a wash only starting 7 games, going 3-2 with a 7.36 ERA over 36.2 innings. However, this would be the last time we would see Astacio in a Mets uniform.

While the signing overall may be viewed as a failure, I stood and stand behind it. Astacio did give up a lot of home runs but I do remember him coming up in some clutch situations. I do also remember him being a good fit in the clubhouse with the other newly acquired veterans as well as being able to drop a nasty deuce when the team needed.

He went 15-13 in 38 games with a 5.20 ERA, pitching 228.1 innings over his two seasons with the Mets. His numbers aren’t a great indication to the gamer he was when he took the mound at Shea.

Astacio would go 129-124 throughout a 15 year career, pitching 2196.2 innings while sporting a 4.67 ERA and 25.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Alex Ochoa

Awwwwww, jeez. I haven’t heard or thought of Ochoa in many, many years and rightfully so. At the time, the Mets had pretty high hopes with the right fielder but if you were around to catch Ochoa’s career, he didn’t exactly live up to his potential with the Mets, or at any point in the majors.

His ratings scale from 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest were mind-blowing, scouts would have had you believe that Ochoa could have been a multiple time All-Star as well as a Gold Glover.

Scouts had him rated as such:

“Hitting: 5. An excellent gap to gap hitter

Power: 4 1/2. Not a pure slugger but has the strength to clear the fences. Projects to 15-20 home run production in the majors.

Speed: 4 1/2. Has stolen 34 and 31 bases in two of his minor league seasons.

Defense: 5. Has worked hard in this area and even took ground balls at third base when asked. The high school Shortstop, he always has been good with grounders to the outfield and has improved in retreating on balls over his head.

Arm. 5+. The last generation raved about the great arms of Roberto Clemente and Rocky Colavito. Ochoa is in that class. Now that he has discovered when to use it and when not to and his accuracy has become pin point, there are no flaws.”

Ochoa was acquired from the Orioles along with center fielder Damon Buford for Bobby Bonilla & Jimmy Williams in ’95. After playing 34 games with the team’s AAA affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, he later made his MLB debut with the Mets playing in 11 games, with only 37 at-bats.

However, he showed potential in that short period as he put up a .297/ .333 / .324/ .658 slash line. He had 11 hits, 7 runs, and 1 2B which goes to show you that “small sample size” is legit.

Overall with New York, Ochoa played 206 games with 557 at-bats, 75 runs, 152 hits, 34 2B’s, 4 3B’s, 7 home runs while driving in 52 runs in three seasons. His New York run wasn’t terrible but it did leave something to be desired.

In his 605 PA’s, he had a .273/ .320/ .386/ .706 slash line to go along with a 88 OPS+. Now recalling to when I was roughly 10 years old, I do remember Ochoa not exactly being the strongest bat in the line up but his defense was pretty top notch with a laser beam of a throwing arm to go with that in right field of Shea Stadium.

During the ’97 offseason, Ochoa was sent over to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Rich Becker, which in my opinion was a downgrade.

Ochoa had his best year in 2000, his age 28 season & at the time was with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a .316/ .378/ .586/ .964 slash and a 137 OPs+ while hitting 13 home runs and driving in 58. He also had 21 2B’s, and 3B’s in his 244 at-bats.

Now, I’m not here to knock players (and I’m not knocking Ochoa) because who am I? I just genuinely enjoy looking back and it’s not always going to be the best of the best or even fan favorites, but I believe we shouldn’t forget that 25th guy.

#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: Carlos Delgado

Delgado is undoubtedly one of my most favorite players to ever don the “Orange & Blue”. Even before he made his way to Queens, I had a huge baseball bro-crush on the left handed powerhouse. Him being voted off of the Hall of Fame ballot after his first year of eligibility is a complete joke & is just one example of how the BBWAA & Cooperstown needs a new system, but I digress.

Delgado was a part of the Mets organization for 4 seasons after acquiring him from the Marlins before the ’06 campaign for Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit and infielder Grant Psomas. While healthy, Delgado continued to be the powerhouse he always had been when with the Blue Jays & the Marlins.

His first season with the Mets was a historic one, he became the sixth player in MLB history to record ten straight 30 HR seasons. He racked up 339 RBI’s while belting 104 home runs & maintained a .267/ .351/ .506/ .857 in the midst of doing so throughout his stay in Flushing.

Not only was Delgado a monster of a 1st baseman, but he was also very quiet & soft spoken. That combination along with his offensive production and clubhouse leadership not only led him to be a favorite amongst his peers, but a huge fan favorite to anyone that bleeds Orange & Blue.

Interesting enough, when Delgado made his way through the Blue Jays organization, it was as a catcher. The Jays then decided to move him, however the move wasn’t to 1st base, not just yet. Instead it was to left field in order to keep the Blue Jays fan favorite and World Series hero Joe Carter at 1st base as well as another former Met, John Olerud.

In 1993, Joe Carter would find his way in left field and eventually off of the Blue Jays roster, that move made way for a young, up and coming star ready to take Toronto by storm over the course of the next 10 plus years, Carlos Delgado.

Throughout his career, Delgado drove in 1512 RBI’s, averaging a buck twenty every 162 games played. The Puerto Rican first baseman has 473 home runs to go along with 438 doubles and 2038 hits, his statistics are genuinely under appreciated, averaging 38 long balls per 162 games.

He also sports a .280 / .383/ .546/ .929 career slash line. For a power hitting, home run slugging first baseman, Delgado was a master of crushing the baseball, but also a master of getting on-base with his immaculate on-base percentage.

During his tenure with the Mets, Delgado slugged 104 long balls as a mainstay in the clean-up spot, protecting the dangerous, switch hitting Carlos Beltran. He had two separate 38 home run seasons as a Met, falling 6 short of his career high with the Jays in 1999.

In 10 playoff games with the Mets, Delgado put up a .351/.442/.757 batting line, with 4 home runs, 11 RBIs, 8 runs scored, 3 doubles, and 6 walks. During his run in Flushing, he & Carlos Beltran helped take the Mets deep into the playoffs in 2005 before falling short to the St. Louis Cardinals in heartbreaking fashion.

Looking at Delgado’s stats, it can’t help but remind of Fred McGriff, his career, and him belonging in Cooperstown, New York. Due to lingering injuries towards the latter end of his career, Delgado played his last Major League Baseball game in 2009, as a Met.

#ThrowbackThursday Mets Edition: John Franco

By Gem Tablak

In December of 1989, the Mets & Reds agreed to a deal that would swap both teams left handed relievers.

The rumors were that the Mets went into the “Winter Meetings” that year looking for a complimentary righty to match Mets left handed reliever Randy Myers but it didn’t exactly turn out the way fans & the GM expected. Instead they swapped Myers for Franco, which came as a surprise.

‘We’re trading two of the finest left-handed relief pitchers in the game” said Joe McIlvaine, vice president of the Mets at the time.

‘I’m in a state of shock,” Myers said from Scottsdale, Ariz., where he was attending the business meeting of the Players’ Association. ”I never would have thought this could happen.”

While Myers was a dominant pitcher during his tenure with the Mets as well as after with the influential time he spent with the Reds, the trade worked out for both teams. The Mets especially, since Franco is a Brooklyn native & the hometown of any team loves to see “homegrown” talent flourish. It was good for the city & the borough of Brooklyn.
Franco ended up spending 14 years with the Mets & has a record of 48-56 while wearing the orange & blue. He’s 90-87 throughout his 21 year career. In his 14 seasons with the Mets, Franco has an ERA sitting at 3.10 over the span of 695 games & 702.2 innings with an impressive 276 games saved in a Met uniform.

At one point, Franco was the all time leaders in saves when it came to left handed pitching & was probably over looked for the Hall of Fame.

One thing I personally admired about Franco was that he didn’t have any issues when it came to changing his number when the Mets acquired Piazza from the Marlins. I know that that’s a silly thing to admire but in my opinion, it was a clear cut example oh how Franco puts the team over himself.

You’re not going to find too much drama or overwhelming numbers when you start to look up Franco, but you will find out that he was a hometown favorite in NYC & he put the teams overall goals ahead of his own needs. Keep in mind, the Mets acquired Armando Benitez towards the last few years of Franco’s run.

One of Franco’s most memorable moments came in the 2000 NLDS when he faced Barry Bonds late in the game only for Franco to strike Bonds out. It made a great memory for a great memory for the season, playoffs, as well as Mr. John Franco’s career.