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Ya Gotta Deceive

"Look over there in the corner of this wing. Right next to the one for Pete Rose. What's that, you may ask? It's Vince Coleman's Hall of Fame plaque. Yes, it's rather lengthy, but appropriately so. I'll read it to you...

Overcame the adversity of having to play at Shea Stadium for five seasons to steal 1,492 career bases. The only player in baseball history to steal 100 or more bases in three straight seasons for two different teams, Coleman rejuvenated his career upon signing with the Mets prior to the 1991 season. Sparked miraculous efforts to win NL pennant in 1991, 1992, and 1993. His competitive spirit inspired teammates and fans alike, a la Jackie Robinson. Coined (and trademarked) the rallying cry "Ya Gotta Deceive!"

If we're gonna talk Mets and Cardinals we have to talk a little Vince Coleman and the "Ya Gotta Deceive" Mets teams of 1991, 1992 and 1993. I was thumbing through "The Worst Team Money Could Buy" a while back for no particular reason and laughed hard as John Harper recalled the Coleman quote about being denied Cooperstown entry because of his home ballpark.

We should have known better than to buy into the excessive expectations of that time period, but we didn't and got suckered into thinking that Jeff Torborg was another Gil Hodges, that Bobby Bonilla was a mega-megastar, that Eddie Murray would be a positive clubhouse influence, and that Coleman's speed would make up for the power departure of Darryl Strawberry.

Coleman uttered that fateful phrase prior to a meeting with his former team, the Cardinals, on June 19, 1992. The Mets had lost 7 of 8 entering that game and there were all sorts of issues needing to be aired out. That Friday night Coleman practiced what he preached. Despite having little power, Coleman homered in the 5th, then in the 9th, he followed an intentional walk to Dave Magadan with a game-winning single. Chants of "Ya Gotta Deceive" filled the ballpark over the next several months as the Mets played an inspired baseball that rivaled that of the 1986 squad. Coleman became a folk hero throughout New York City. The story of his rescuing a child from a burning building is no exaggeration. The statue in Central Park commemorating his tenure went up in 2000. His numbers 1 and 11 were retired in 2003 at an emotional ceremony in which Coleman pledged the more than $3 million raised through the sale of "Ya Gotta Deceive" t-shirts to charity.

There's a special place in "Mets hell" reserved for Coleman and I suggest you pay that link a visit to learn of his misdeeds, because I don't have the patience or desire to recount them. Coleman was both a bad player and a bad person, and his one walk-off hit may be the only positive memory from his time with the Mets. The 1991 season was bad. The 1992 campaign was worse. And we don't need to speak of 1993.

Something positive happened, unbeknownst to us, earlier this season, when Jose Reyes stole his 100th career base, then again when Reyes swiped his 39th bag of the season. On page 422 of the 2006 Mets Media Guide, they list the team's all-time stolen base leaders. With that 100th pilfer, Reyes pushed Coleman down to 9th place on that list. With the 39th, Reyes knocked Coleman out of the top 10 for stolen bases in a season. In a couple of years, David Wright and a Carlos, be it Beltran or Gomez, will pass the 100 SB plateau as a Met and will take one step further in expunging Coleman's name from the record books. His is a tenure we'd best forget.

True Metmen know...The Mets beat the Cardinals on September 12, 1985, on Keith Hernandez's single. Mookie Wilson scored because Cardinals leftfielder Vince Coleman overran the baseball. The official scorer was smart enough to realize that Coleman had no chance to throw Mookie out at the plate and properly gave Hernandez the walk-off RBI.


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