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Minutiae Break: The Bowl of Soup Mets

So Roberto Hernandez walks off into the Mets sunset to Pittsburgh, though not by his choice, since team management decided it could live without him. Age couldn't have been the reason, since based on the signing of Julio Franco, they're willing to shell out the dough for the aged.

Hernandez had a good season for the Mets in 2005. It was a really good season, one that far exceeded expectations. You could count his bad outings on two hands, which isn't bad for a guy that pitched 67 times and was only charged with runs on 12 occasions. I talked to a couple of people this season (not Mets fans) who disliked Roberto Hernandez for one reason or another, but as much as they tried, they couldn't change my opinion that he was legitimately one of the team MVPs.

Sitting here on a Friday night with nothing better to do, it got me to thinking about others whose Metsy days lasted only a single season. I wrote a couple of pieces for New York Mets Inside Pitch titled "Mets for a Minute" about some whose tenure was of cup-of-coffee length. The list I want to make is of the guys who stuck around a little bit longer and had a little bit of success, whose cup of coffee was actually a bowl of soup (wonton or chicken noodle, preferably). Ideally I was looking for players who put up good numbers with the Mets (thus, the likes of Yogi Berra don't qualify) or made very significant contributions.

Hopefully this list hasn't been generated before and if it has, hopefully I can give it enough of my own spin to make it unique. Thanks to UltimateMets.com, which recently included a list of years played on its roster page, thus making the work for this one-year wonder chart significantly easier. Here's our nine-man Roberto Hernandez All-Stars squad

Richie Ashburn (1962) The first Mets All-Star is the ideal choice for team captain, as he hung it up after hitting .306 primarily as leadoff man and centerfielder in the inaugural season. If Jose Reyes had walked as much as Ashburn did (81 times), he would have gotten a heck of a lot more than one 10th-place MVP vote MVP vote. Ashburn noses out Felix Mantilla, who also would have been a credible representative from this squad.

Bob Johnson (1967) Overlooked and underappreciated, Johnson may have been one of the best utility men in Mets history, at least from an offensive perspective. He hit .348 with five home runs in 230 at-bats, while playing a little bit at second, first, and shortstop. Looks to me like he was basically a better version of Chris Woodward. The Mets were able to get good value for Johnson in the offseason, sending him to Cincinnati for Art Shamsky.

Jack DiLauro (1969) Without DiLauro, the 1969 Mets would have only won 99 games. DiLauro was basically Randy Niemann, circa 1986, the lefty long man who wasn't really needed, but who filled in capably whenever asked (2.40 ERA). DiLauro's lone victory came in the second game of a doubleheader on July 20, 1969, and in looking at the boxscore, it raised a scorekeeping question. Not to cause a scandal here, but shouldn't DiLauro have gotten the save instead of the win?

Claudell Washington (1980) Washington was a Flushing coup for four months, mostly here for the bad times that were the end of the 1980 campaign, but he put up pretty decent numbers during his tenure (.275 BA, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 17 SB) and even had a three-homer game. That he left via free agency for Atlanta, if I'm not mistaken, cleared the way for Mookie Wilson to get a look the next season. You'll notice there were no selections from the 70s. None warranted it, from what I could see. If you have a suggested one, please let me know via the comments section.

Ed Hearn (1986) The standard by which all future Mets backup catchers have been measured, at least in my mind. Hearn hit .265 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 49 games as Gary Carter's caddy, but even 20 years later, it feels like he was better than his numbers. He was a superior player to Barry Lyons, John Gibbons, Kelly Stinnett, Mackey Sasser, and all those others who tried but failed to live up to the lofty expectations Hearn set. Plus, he netted David Cone in an offseason trade. The shame for Hearn was that 1986 was the peak of his career. Thankfully he was able to battle back from life-threatening health issues that plagued him shortly after retirement

Orel Hershiser (1999) Shawon Dunston would have been the ideal choice here, but his time of service wasn't long enough to qualify. Hershiser valiantly fills his spot, going 13-12 with a 4.58 ERA, but was another who was better than his numbers. He gave the Mets exactly what they needed, particularly in the must-win Game 162 against the Pirates and was a true bulldog in his three postseason appearances as well.

Derek Bell (2000) Roberto Hernandez should take heed of what happens when you leave New York and end up in Pittsburgh. Bell hit .266 with 18 home runs and 69 RBI as rightfielder and No. 2 hitter, but fizzled miserably at the end of the season and when he was injured in the NLDS, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Pittsburgh, enamored by his .432 batting average against them that season, proffered $5 million his way and Bell went the way of "Operation Shutdown" hitting .173 in his final season in the bigs.

Mike Hampton (2000) Mets fans may view him as a traitor but they can't forget the 15 wins and 3.14 ERA, nor the fact that he may have authored the best game of his career to clinch the NLCS. He was a legitimate hitter as well (Baseball-Reference.com tells us the most similar batsman was the great Elam Vanglider, which may be one of the great unknown baseball names of all-time). Hampton cited the better schools of Colorado for reason for his departure, but I think that most products of the New York City school system could figure out that departing for a Rocky Mountain High isn't a smart thing to do.

Tony Clark (2003) Clark hit .232 with 16 home runs but had a knack for timely hits and was a respectable glove. It says something that the Yankees thought highly enough of him to sign him for 2004. Clark isn't quite Reggie Sanders when it comes to changing jerseys on an annual basis but he's proven to be well-liked and respected wherever he goes (except maybe Boston). We'll keep him on our team for more than a year.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Not quite at Roberto's level, but I'd submit Mark Guthrie, 2002. He was an extraordinarily solid lefty out of the pen, maybe the only pleasant surprise in a year when every unexpected development was decidedly unpleasant.

These guys had more than a cup of coffee. Maybe we should say they had a pot of coffee. Or at least a grande latte.
Anonymous said…
Kevin Appier tied for the team lead in victories and had the second-best ERA among the starters in 2001...

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