Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

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.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

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.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

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 ?