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Minutiae Break: The McRae List

OK, so you liked "The Tidrow List," and there seemed to be enough clamoring for a "hitters version" to make doing one worthwhile. The Mets have certainly had their share of mediocre position players, historically speaking. Many a good player has donned the jersey only to have his skills turn to jello. Many a bad player has shown off his wares, or lack thereof, while donning a Mets jersey.

You may have read my bashing the play of Brian McRae, whom I dubbed "The Rally Killer" for his ability to turn good situations into bad ones (witness wandering off first base during a game-winning sacrifice fly against the Yankees and his stumbling around third base as the potential winning run in the 14th inning on Opening Day, 1998) and his inability to come through in clutch situations (statistical evidence lacking at the moment, but anecdotal evidence remains in the memory banks). It is in his honor that I have compiled this list, one that isn't necessarily of the worst position players in Mets history. Think of it more as a grouping of players who were memorably tough to watch (admittedly, this is a list that deals mostly my time as a baseball fan). A bad batting average is not required, as you'll see.

Oh, and for those friends, family members and fans of the players selected, take this in the spirit in which it is written, and remember that the comments are coming from someone who hit .250 during his best season in Little League

The backup catchers- I'm too young to remember the good days of Ron Hodges, but his skills, like those of Dick Tidrow, had long diminished by the time I became a regular attendee of games in 1984 (he was hitting a DiFelice-esque .114 by mid June, but rallied to finish his final season at .208). Hodges, along with fellow catchers of that era Junior Ortiz and Ronn Reynolds, was my introduction to the understanding that backup catchers aren't usually very good (exhibit A: Orlando Mercado, who once tripled in the ninth inning to break up a Don Mossi perfect game in a solo rendition of Strat-o-Matic baseball), Ed Hearn not withstanding.

The one-hit wonders- All hail Tito Navarro (1-for-17 in 1993), Rick Parker (1-for-16 in 1994), Terry Blocker (1-for-15 with a horrific outfield collision in 1985) and Chris Jelic (1-for-11 in 1990) for they are the fab four. They hold the distinction of being the only four Mets position players with batting averages greater than .000 but less than .100. We'll be kind and cut Sandy Alomar Sr. and company some slack, since he's currently Willie Randolph's bench coach. Alomar has the most at-bats of any Mets position player who never got a base hit (22). Perhaps it was foreshadowing for his son, which bring us to...

The Hall of Jello- My gosh, the list of great, or at least very good players whose skills had eroded due to age (Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Ken Boyer), flab (Mo Vaughn, Jim Fregosi, Carlos Baerga), personal issues (Joe Foy), overrated skills (Juan Samuel), or mysterious reasons still unknown to the human eye (Roberto Alomar) is a lengthy one and one actually better handled by Howard Blatt in his book "Amazin' Mets Memories" which I heartily recommend (I'm referencing the "All-Time Busts" lists on page 345).

"The Jerkstore called and it's looking for you..." Jeff Kent showed skill as a Met, but his attitude made it hard to root for him (as has been shown at his other pit stops on his likely way to Cooperstown). Likewise for Dave Kingman, Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman (whose trip to Cooperstown, at least in his eyes was apparently halted by Shea Stadium's playing surface), Richie Hebner, and Eddie Murray.

The Rally Killers- Who did you never want on base in a key situation? In my era, the answer was two-fold. Brian McRae and Jay Payton. We mentioned McRae's flaws already. Payton still owes Mets fans an apology for getting thrown out at third base to squash a late rally against the Braves during the disastrous final weekend of 1998.

The Made Goods- Yoda-like sage Don Zimmer was 4-for-52 with a memorably ugly 0-for-34 in a 14-game stint with the 1962 Mets, banished out of town in a trade before the going got really bad. His post-playing career hasn't been too shabby as a coach and manager. The same is true for Wayne (3-for-33 in 1964) Graham, who won a national championship coaching Rice University in 2003. One other fellow makes this list in an honorary fashion. One day in 1986, I was a little slow getting out of the bathtub as my dad was beckoning me to come watch the first at-bat in the career of Stan (5-for-24) Jefferson. He let me know after I missed it that I'd surely regret not having seen the first at-bat for any future all-time great, so now I make it a point to catch Mets debuts if I can. Jefferson whiffed in that first AB, but he made a significant impact in his post-baseball career as a New York City police officer.

Utilitarians- I would have called these guys "Futility Infielders" but that moniker is already taken by a pretty good website. Uselessians might have been more appropriate for the likes of Teddy Martinez, Bill Almon (walk-off tie-in: Almon was the head coach of Brown University's baseball team, which once lost a game to my alma mater, The College of New Jersey, on a walk-off home run), Mario "They win the damn thing by the score of 10-9" Diaz, Jeff McKnight, and Junior "No No" Noboa, who earned his nickname when my college roommate wrote a parody for the school paper referencing Harry Frazee's sale of Babe Ruth to allegedly finance the show "No No Nanette." Special mention for Ron Gardnhire and Bobby Valentine, who had much more success after their playing days concluded.

The overhyped- The defining moment of Jeff Torborg's struggles as Mets manager came when he informed the media prior to his first season "Mets fans are going to love Bill Pecota." (Memo to Jeff Torborg: They didn't) Mets management has a bad history of telling its fans that they are going to fall for someone. That someone is more likely to fall flat- like Kaz Matsui or Roy Staiger.

The "Out"field- Dave Schneck and Jim Gosger both made my friend Barry's "Mets Stiffo Rap" though I can't remember the rhyme for Schneck. Gosger's was something like "Oh father, Oh father, pray for Jim Gosger." Likewise we could have done the same for Dan Norman, Pepe Mangual and Ryan Thompson, giving us a five-man unit that could compete with anybody.

On By Request- Because Metstradamus is a wise man (see his comments in the previous post), we include Brian Giles, Mark Bradley and Tucker Ashford. And because Greg at "Faith and Fear in Flushing" knows of what he blogs, we'll include the great Phil Mankowski, whose claim to fame was appearing in "The Natural" as (if I recall correctly) the third baseman who takes a grounder to the groin while staring at a woman in the stands. That seems like a good note on which to end a team such as this one.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Two words:
Jerry Martin.

One more word:
Useless.

OK, two other words:
Relentlessly so.
Metstradamus said…
Brilliant! Simply brilliant!

Great Bill Almon story as well by you! About 10-15 times during 1987 Almon would take a 3-2 pitch and would start the trot to first as if he walked...and he always got punched out, and he always threw a hissyfit. Boy did he annoy me!!!

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