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Where'd They Go?: 1997 New York Mets

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For the next Where’d They Go? I had already decided on doing a Mets team and ironically enough I received a request from TSM Mets’ fan strummer to do one for the 1997 Mets. The one I had chosen was the overpaid, sexual assaulting, firecracker throwing 1992 Mets. But I’m a giver so instead I will be doing the 1997 Mets.

 

The Mets had gone through six years of losing featuring many bad contracts, bad trades, and bad management. Basically the Mets the from 1991 to 1996 were the New York Knicks of today. Finally in ’97 things started to come together for the franchise under manager Bobby Valentine who had taken over as manager during the previous season for the young pitcher arm shredding Dallas Green. While the Mets never made a serious run for the N.L. East title they were in the thick of the Wild Card race for much of the summer but were never able to get closer than two games of the eventual World Champion Marlins. So let’s meet the 1997 New York Mets and see where they went.

 

C: Todd Hundley (.273/.394/.549, 45.2 VORP, 22 Win Shares) – This was during Hundley’s peak when he emerged as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. He would have elbow surgery following season which would effectively derail his career. He was terrible in his return the following season in an ill-conceived move to leftfield and likely should have sat out the entire year. The Mets had acquired Mike Piazza during 1998 and Hundley would be on his way out to the Dodgers following the season. He had one good year in 2000 with the Dodgers but that was only productive year left. Signed as a free agent with the Cubs following that season. Played there for two years and was traded back to Los Angles to play one final injury filled season.

 

1B: John Olerud (.294/.400/.489, 36.2 VORP, 27 Win Shares) – Olerud’s first year in New York many thought he was already on his way down as a player but put together three very productive years with the Mets. Signed as a free agent after 1999 with Seattle where he would play until mid-2004 when he appeared to be washed up. After being released he was picked up by the Yankees and was mildly productive. Went to Boston for 2005 as a part-time player and retired after the season.

 

2B: Carlos Baerga (.281/.311/.396, 6.9 VORP, 11 Win Shares) – The Mets had a good second baseman in Jeff Kent but traded him the year before to get…Baerga. Whoops. After an early peak Baerga already was past his prime in his late 20’s. He’d leave the Mets after 1998 and would bounce around from San Diego, back to Cleveland, Boston, Arizona (had a surprisingly good year in 2003 as a role player), and finally Washington last year. On no MLB roster this year so I assume he’s now retired.

 

3B: Edgargdo Alfonzo (.315/.391/.432, 36.4 VORP, 28 Win Shares) – This was Alfonzo’s breakout year at age 23. Had a disappointing 1998 but followed that up with two phenomenal years where he amassed 65 Win Shares. Seemed on his way to becoming a superstar but had a bad year in 2001 with several nagging injuries. Rebounded in 2002 and cashed in as a free agent by signing with the Giants. His days a productive player would be over when he reached San Francisco and played three mediocre years there. Traded after 2005 to the Angels who released him in May, then the Blue Jays gave him a shot but released him after only a month with the team. Appears his career maybe over at age 32.

 

SS: Rey Ordonez (.216/.255/.256, -18.1 VORP, 6 Win Shares) – Everyone wanted to make Ordonez the next Ozzie Smith but it wasn’t going to happen and I don’t care how good defensively he may have been, those offensive numbers are of someone who should have been in Triple-A. Never lived up to the hype and was traded to Tampa Bay after to 2002. Played one year there and went to San Diego but never played a game with the big club. The Cubs of course couldn’t resist picking up a weak hitting middle infielder and picked him up but let him go after two months.

 

LF: Bernard Gilkey (.249/.338/.417, 9.0 VORP, 16 Win Shares) – Hindsight being what it is the Mets probably could have suckered some team into trading a major prospect for Gilkey following his career year of ’96. This ended up being his last season as everyday player. Did end up being traded during 1998 to Arizona but for no one of note. Released by the D-Backs in 2000 and was picked up by the Red Sox. Finished his career with Atlanta in 2001.

 

CF: Carl Everett (.248/.308/.420, 2.8 VORP, 13 Win Shares) – Mets actually had three primary center fielders during the season. They traded Lance Johnson for Brian McRae in a six player waiver deal to the Cubs in August. Everett was a big time prospect who at age 26 at this point looked like he might not live up to the hype. Unfortunately for Mets’ fans GM Steve Phillips had a fetish for trading for middle relievers and he traded Everett after the season to the Astros for John Hudek. He’d have two very good years in Houston but they traded enigmatic outfielder to the Red Sox after 1999 for Adam Everett. He signed a big money contract extension with the Red Sox before the season started and had a great year but like everywhere else wore out his welcome. Traded three more times first to Texas after 2001, then to White Sox during 2003, signed as a free agent with Expos, and then traded back to the White Sox during 2004. Now currently with the Mariners.

 

RF: Butch Huskey (.287/.319/.503, 19.1 VORP, 12 Win Shares) – Alex Ochoa led the Mets in games played in right field but Huskey made the most starts. I can’t remember if Huskey was ever expected to end up being really good or not but he never did become all that good beyond a couple of decent years like this one. Mets traded him to Seattle after 1998, who traded him to Boston during the 1999. Split 2000 with the Twins and Rockies. Spent 2001 in the minors and that appears to be where his career ended.

 

Rotation

 

Rick Reed (140 ERA+, 54.0 VORP, 17 Win Shares) – Reed was always that decent pitcher who you couldn’t see his real name in MLB video games because he was a “scab” player in 1995. I’m sure Brett Butler and Tom Glavine left him flaming bags of poo on his doorstep. This was arguably Reed’s best year and followed up with another good year in ’98. Merely an average pitcher through most of his career, he was traded in a deadline deal to the Twins in 2001 for Matt Lawton and pitched there thru 2003. He signed with the Pirates in 2004 but failed to make the Opening Day roster and decided to retire.

 

Dave Mlicki (101 ERA+, 31.9 VORP, 10 Win Shares) – Reading up on him apparently every Mets fan will always love him for his shutout of the Yankees in their first interleague mathc-up in ’97. Other than that, a very non-descript career who was traded several times. Mets traded during 1998 to the Dodgers in a deal for Hideo Nomo. Dodgers traded him last than a year later to Detroit, who would trade him two years later to Houston for Jose Lima.

 

Bobby Jones (111 ERA+, 32.2 VORP, 11 Win Shares) – Jones was a steady if unspectacular pitcher for the Mets for several years. A shoulder injury in 1999 would limit him to nine starts and he never had a season with ERA under 5 after that. Finished his career with two seasons with the Padres.

 

Mark Clark (95 ERA+, 12.9 VORP, 6 Win Shares) – Mets stats only as Clark was in that Johnson/McRae deal to the Cubs in August but he was the only other Mets pitcher with more than 20 starts. Mediocre pitcher who often seemed to luck into winning seasons. Actually pitched great for the Cubs down the stretch to last place in ’97 but was terrible the following season. The always desperate for pitching Rangers signed him as a free agent where’d he had have two god awful years to finish his career.

 

Closer: John Franco (158 ERA+, 18.7 VORP, 12 Win Shares) – The longtime Mets’ closer was still effective at age 36. Being that he was left handed he was able hang around after he was no longer effective as he was with the Mets thru 2004. Astros picked him up for 2005 but released him midseason. Never officially announced his retirement but his career is most certainly over. Finished 3rd on the all-time saves list with 424.

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In Triple Play '99, I had Rey Ordonez as my shortstop and had him hitting over .400 into August before I got bored of the game and stopped playing. It never worked when I tried to move him up in the order, though, he only played well when he was hitting 7th or 8th.

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