Monday, January 30, 2006

Every Signature Tells a Story: Mickey Lolich, the Reluctant Met

I used to get way too attached to players when I was a kid.

And I had trouble grasping the whole concept of trading players. It seemed like the ultimate act of disloyalty. How could a guy be a Met — a hero — once day, and the enemy the next?

Naturally I got a little older and wiser as to how the game works. But I must say there was one Mets trade that horrified and befuddled me at the time. And 30 years and one month later, I can’t say I understand it much better.

That would be the Dec. 12, 1975 deal that sent hero Rusty Staub and minor leaguer Bill Laxton to the Detroit Tigers for Mickey Lolich and outfielder Billy Baldwin.

Staub was 31 and a star of the 1973 near-miracle. He was a fan favorite and seemed a perfect fit for the Big Apple.

Lolich, meanwhile, was 35 and coming off a year where he lost 18 games. The Mets still had Seaver, Koosman and Matlack — plus a young Craig Swan — in the rotation, so pitching wasn’t an issue.

It’s not that Lolich was a bum. The MVP of the 1968 World Series, Lolich was the all-time leader in strikeouts by a left-hander when he came over, though soon surpassed by Steve Carlton.

He got stiffed on two Cy Young Awards. He had 25 wins and 308 strikeouts in 1971, but lost to Vida Blue. And the next year he had 22 wins and a 2.50 ERA but lost to Gaylord Perry.

It probably didn’t help his career that Billy Martin decided a bullpen was unnecessary and dragged 376 innings out of his arm in 1971.

Lolich didn’t fare that well, posting a decent 3.22 ERA but a nasty 8-13 record. He retired after the season, sitting out all of 1977 before playing two years for the Padres.

Staub, meanwhile, went nuts in the bandbox in Detroit. He was the starting right-fielder in the 1976 All- Star Game and in 1978 drove in 121 runs and hit 24 bombs. For a guy who was supposedly injury prone, Staub seemed durable in Detroit, playing in 161, 158 and 162 games in his three full years there.

I was always curious about the trade, both why the Mets would make it in the first place and why Lolich hung ‘em up after that one season.

He’s still very popular here in Michigan and for years ran a doughnut shop in Lake Orion on the fringes of the Flint Journal’s circulation area. He used to be a regular signer on the card show circuit. I saw he was signing at a show at Madonna College near Detroit in the early 1990s and wanted to get him to sign my Mets book.

I placed it in front of him, and he smiled. He isn’t asked to sign too many Mets items.

I asked if he liked pitching in New York.

"Absolutely hated it," he said. "I’m just a big ole country boy. I never felt comfortable there.

Apparently there were some other issues, too. He’s interviewed on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Website and spoke of disagreements with the Mets coaches.

"But I did have some troubles with the way the Mets wanted me to pitch. A good pitcher controls or calls his own game, and I didn't know the N.L. hitters. It didn't bother me too much because I figured they'd have to hit my fastball or curveball, and they were both pretty good. But the Mets wanted to sort of control the way I pitched, and I was used to calling my own game. It was difficult for me to adjust. Also, my wife and family were back in Detroit, and I didn't know anybody in New York, so it was a tough season. So after the season, I decided it was time to get out, and I retired."

Lolich’s struggles didn’t hurt the team too much. The 1976 Mets finished third with 86 wins. Of course, it was the year before all the wheels came off, the midnight massacre occurred and the team went into its second period of despair.

In Other Words...

My cousin Mike is one of New York's Finest and just started a cool blog, "Large Coffee, Cream, Four Equals." Check it out here

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What I Want to See in the New Mets' New Ballpark

I’m a stadium junkie.

It’s true. I love everything about them. One of my best days ever was when we had total access, roof to clubhouse, of Tiger Stadium while crews were getting it ready for opening day one year.

I try to visit a new park every year, and I have to get there as soon as the gates open to explore every view and concession stand.

So naturally I’m already obsessing over the new Mets ballpark. This is the important time, when the powers at be are busy plotting.

Now’s the time to play stadium designer. The friends at Faith and Fear in Flushing and The Eddie Kranepool Society took a shot at this and had some great ideas.

I’m going to look at things a little differently. I’ve been fortunate enough check out games at a number of stadiums — old and new — around baseball, and here are some of the features I’ve seen elsewhere and would like see considered for the Mets’ new playground.

Details are coming out slowly. We know about red brick and an entrance that will recall Ebbets Field. I’m OK with that as long as its a starting point. While it is important to pay homage to history, we have to continue creating history on our own.

Views: What you see beyond the field is important, which is one of the reasons the donut stadiums were so reviled. Instead of a great city view, they give fans a panorama of usually empty seats.

Shea, had it faced in any other direction, would have had a much better view than what we have now, which is a not especially nice section of Queens.

Realize, of course, that tradition called for most stadiums to face the same way to deal with the sun and shadows when such things were issues for most of the games. And we know that change comes at a glacial pace in the Grand Old Game. But now stadiums face in all directions, so we are free to wonder.

If the New Shea — I know it will have a different name — faces north, we have a view of the water, which is a little further than McCovey Cove but still a short walk. Another direction and the Manhattan skyline rises in the distance. Other options are listed in other sections.

The Liberty Bell bongs every time a Phillie hits a bomb.

A Local Icon: The Phillies did an OK job of highlighting the Liberty Bell, which is done up in massive neon and "rings" when a Phillies player hits a homer.

New Yorkers, of course, have many icons to celebrate. No other city can compete. Yet we downplay this natural advantage. I offer: The Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty roots for the Mets.

C’mon! You know Lady Liberty’s a Mets fan. You think the Yankees want any part of your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free in their snooty ballpark? Heck no.

We need to claim Miss Liberty as a Met the way the Rangers have with their alternative sweaters. We need some kind of presence. Perhaps something like Kiss did here on its revenge tour, having her peering over the right field wall, torch glowing brightly and serving as a warning beacon for the planes heading into LaGuardia.

If Kiss can pull it off, so can the Mets!

And while we’re at it, let’s make the food court look like Times Square, at least the mall-like version in recent years. And make sure they serve bagels. Lots of poppy seed bagels.

Pittsburgh has a nice little bridge beyond the fence. We have the mighty Whitestone.

Bridges: Pittsburgh did a fine job of facing their stadium to include the view of bridges. It looks cool -- if you like little bridges. We, on the other hand, have big-ass world-class bridges. And some are not too far from the stadium, like the Whitestone, easily viewed in the distance if the yard is facing the right way.

Landmark in view: The Cardinals have the Arch looming overhead. We have the Unisphere. If we’re not going to set our view on Manhattan or the bridges, I suggest facing south. Heck, build the stadium in Flushing Meadows Park so the symbol of the 1964 fair is a Carlos Delgado blast away. It’s not like there’s a lot of stuff in that park anyway. The Mets are forever linked with the fair, so go all the way. And I have to say that incorporating the Parachute Jump at Keyspan Park was brilliant.

A sign: Every time I’ve been to Wrigley Field, I’ve seen people posing with that red sign, even where there’s no game going on. It’s a perfect snapshot that tells where you are and what you’re doing, and is at a nice, posable height. We have the signs, but they’re spread out over a long space or way up high. Put a nice, colorful sign somewhere low and have an employee standing there offering to take photos for people.

Statues: Speaking of photos, we need some statues. Teams are all over the place on this. The Cards do a lot of things well, but they dropped the ball in this area, with one large statue of Stan Musial and a whole series of small sculptures of Bob Gibson and the gang. The Tigers have lots of statues, but they’re placed in a spot that makes them hard to pose with unless you want to be photographed with Willie Horton’s butt, which you do not.

We can get this right. Tom Seaver is an obvious choice, as is Mike Piazza once he’s got his plaque in Cooperstown with a Mets cap. Honoring Gil Hodges would be great. I wouldn’t object to Willie Mays, and you can check out the Brewers’ Hank Aaron statue for precedence.

Now for the bold pick: Jackie Robinson. The Mets have become the defacto preservers of the Robinson story even though he’s a Dodger. Where was the national celebration of the 50th anniversary? At Shea.

Greg Luzinski is on display at Cit Bank

Old Guys: One of the best features of Citizens Bank Park was Greg Luzinski. It’s true! He runs "Bull's Barbecue" and hangs out posing for photos, telling stories about playing with Tom Seaver and just being a nice guy. Think of the possibilities for us! Rusty used to run a restaurant. How about "Mexican Food with Mex?" "Kranepool’s Kitchen?" "Grote’s Grill?" "Bagels with Benny Agbayani"

The Pirates salute both recent and ancient history at PNC Park.

History: The Mets have a colorful history. And while I hear they’ve become better at celebrating it, they can still do a lot more. A museum and Hall of Fame that the average fan can actually see are a must. The Pirates have some great touches at PNC Park, such as banners decorated with baseball cards from all eras. Very cool.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Evangelize! Are These Yanks Worth Redeeming?

Would we be able to turn "SlapRod" into "SheaRod?"

We’re supposed to evangelize. That means reaching out to places that are uncomfortable or even downright disgusting.

I’m talking about places like Yankee Stadium.

Yes, we’ve posted about the bad things that happen to Mets players once they are either banished or lured over to the Evil Empire. You can read it here.

And we’ve rejoiced in the glory of the players whose lives and careers we’ve helped by allowing them to remove the stain of Yankeeness and replace it with the joy that can only come from being a Met. That one is here.

Now it’s time to take that next step. We need to look and see if there any current or recent Yankees worthy of such redemption.

It’s not easy and it’s not pretty. Some of them are bad people. But if they can send pastors to preach in prisons, we can send missionaries to the Bronx.

But we can’t just take anyone. Some of these guys are just too far gone, beyond redemption.

Let’s take a look:

What happened to Jorge's chin?

Jorge Posada: Nope. Can’t do it. For one thing, he’s a mutant. The guy has no chin. Don’t take my word for it, take a look. And our rotation is distracted enough without having to look in for the signs and get lost in thought about why the catcher has no chin and if there is some kind of prosthetic device holding his mask on.

Weaver can't face the shame of his Yankeeness.

Jeff Weaver: Weaver’s an interesting case. He sucked in Detroit, where all they expect of a pitcher is to have two functioning arms. Then again, they did sign Troy Percival last year, so that standard might have dropped, too. He sucked with the Yanks because he allegedly couldn’t handle the pressure of the big city. He was so-so in LA where fans aren’t around by the time he melts down in the seventh inning. Some of the writers are talking this guy up. I think we should pass.

Not only is he a cyborg, but he's a defective cyborg if the D-Rays are beating him.

Mariano Rivera: He’s a cyborg with no soul. Unredeemable.

Sheff has some family ties to the Mets.

Gary Sheffield: A tough one. This might be the first year in a decade where the Sheff-to-the-Mets rumors didn’t fire up the hot stove league. And he’s Gooden’s nephew, so that makes him almost family. But he’s also played for the Braves, which means he’s been exposed to both Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones. But I suppose if he wouldn’t mind spelling Victor Diaz in right once in a while he might be useful.

No, no, no.

Derek Jeter: Speaking of the evil one. Let’s face it; Jeter’s stardom is a combination of the Yankee hype machine, Jeremy Giambi’s refusal to slide, the ridiculous short porch in right, cheesy credit card ads and gullible New York sportswriters. Put him on the Royals and there wouldn’t even be a discussion about putting him in the team’s Hall of Fame, much less Cooperstown. And since he’s Mr. Yankee, there would be no chance of converting him.

Alex Rodriguez: How did this guy go from being the best player in baseball to the biggest whiner in the game? And what’s with the Hamlet-esque indecision over playing in the World Classic? Dude, if you’re going to hit like you did in the playoffs – and I believe your own description was “like a dog” – what makes you think we want you representing our country? But with all that baggage, there might be good in him deep down. Remember all that talk in 2000 about him wanting to be “SheaRod?” I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a project. But this might be a guy we can turn around.

Mike Mussina: How did Moose go from being one of the best pitchers in the American League to just another stinking Yankee pitcher? Does he even have a pulse?

Randy Johnson: I'm not saying the Unit doesn't have issues. He does. I'm not saying I'd trust him with my iPod. But he's tempting because he's only got a year of Yankee taint to scrub off. A possibility.

A vile act, but there might be some good in Clemens.

Roger Clemens: OK, we are venturing into some very dangerous turf here. It would take a Darth Vader-esque “Luke, you were right, there was good in me” deathbed conversion. Clemens’ crimes against Methood are great. There’s the horrid Piazza beaning. There’s the infamous bat-tossing against the aforementioned Mets hero. There’s the magic powers in his butt that somehow steered the long-awaited knockdown pitch away from him. Hey, I know that sounds strange. But can Shawn Estes’ control really be that bad? How could he possibly miss? Clearly there was something going on. Then there’s the grooving of pitches to American League cronies in the first inning of the 2004 All-Star game. There’s the complete abuse of the Toronto fans that supported him for two years and were thanked by a rather smelly secret deal that delivered him to the Bronx. But there are some other things to consider. The Mets drafted him originally. His Yankee tenure was much ballyhooed, but really wasn’t all that long. It might take a good, long exorcism, like sitting through a decade’s worth of Kiner’s Korners, to get it done.

In Other Words...

It's not a baseball blog, but I love Nobody Cares About Joe. When he's not faking his own death, my friend from Columbus is laugh out loud funny.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mourning My Morning Routine

You all know Bart Giamatti’s quote about baseball being designed to break your heart. I’m beginning to think the same is true about bagel stores.

New Yorkers will back me on this. The bagel is the perfect breakfast food, if not perfect food altogether.

And I’ve learned that once you get outside the New York area, bagel quality drops sharply. That is unless you’re in some parts of Florida, which might as well be the sixth borough.

Out here in the Midwest it’s especially rough. There aren't that many bagel places to begin with, and the ones that are here just don't make the grade. They bestow the bagel title upon any round breaded thing that’s not a donut.

My first four years in Grand Rapids I suffered through a place that dared to call itself "Big Apple Bagels." They were too hard and too thin — but it was all I had.

Then one glorious day about two years ago a place called "Brooklyn Bagels" opened right near my house and on the way to work.

It was darn near perfect. Framed prints of the homeland — including a sweet photo of Jackie Robinson stealing home — hung on the walls, the sandwiches were named after New York landmarks and the bagels were as close to Long Island as I have encountered since crossing the bridge.

Reflecting on Jackie Robinson's greatness is a good way to start the day.

So it didn’t take long before I got to know the entire staff on a first-name basis. They were my morning family. They'd talk about my stories in the papers, I'd ask about the son serving in Iraq or the daughter in school. My wife, on the few times she accompanied me to the store, was amazed that I’d know all about everyone’s kids and they knew mine.

And they’d have my order ready when they saw the silver Saturn pull up. A poppy seed bagel, toasted with butter, and an extra-large cup that I’d fill with Diet Pepsi. I strongly prefer Diet Coke, but everything else was so good I could overlook this flaw.

On days when I was feeling really wild I’d get a sesame seed bagel. This boldness would be a topic of conversation for the rest of the week.

I'm a creature of routine. I have a short, 12-mile commute and traffic here is nothing like it is back home. It's actually a peaceful time. I eat my bagel in the car, and it lasts most of the trip.

Work can be a bear, especially lately. There's something nice about starting the day with the same friendly people and the same wonderful snack. When everything else was in chaos, the morning routine was blissfully constant.

Then last April the unthinkable happened. The morning family had to break it to me gently that the owner had over-extended himself and was going to be closing the store.

There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. On the last day they sent me off with two-dozen poppy seed bagels I could freeze for a transitional period.

It was a very difficult time. I don’t want to dwell on it. Let’s just say many new places were tried, all failed. Mornings were started unsatisfied and grumpy.

Occasionally I’d drive by the bagel store and put my nose up against the window to see if there were any developments. I held out hope because even though the store was closed, nothing inside had changed.

Then one day in the summer, signs appeared in the window saying a new cafe-deli was to open. The name was different, but there was reason for optimism, if nothing else.

And on a beautiful afternoon I saw that the open sign was lit. I pulled right over, went in and was thrilled to see all the old friends were there. The new owner had hired nearly all the previous employees.

It was a happy reunion, and my morning routine was saved. Me, the friends, the poppy seed bagels and extra-large Diet Pepsis -- it was all good. I could start the day with that extra little bounce that only comes with a happy routine.

Now, when you are in a place every morning, you notice little things. The new store was never as crowded as it was in the previous incarnation. Some of the friends would leave and not be replaced. There were fewer donuts, cookies and other menu offerings available. Some days there weren’t even poppy seed bagels. I started to get worried.

One day last week I bounced into the store and my friend Becky softly told me the news. The latest version of the store was closing. They lasted just seven months.

On Friday they gave me two-dozen poppy seed bagels to put in the freezer and start the transitional period, again.

In Other Words:

Speaking of beverages and morning routines, one daily ritual is not going away, and that's reading Faith and Fear in Flushing. Greg is resurrecting his awesome Friday Flashback series to tell us about the glorious 1986 season. You can read it here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

700 Middle-schoolers and a Tired Chaperone

Me and my kids at the end of the long weekend.

I spent the weekend with 700 middle school students.

But don’t send condolence cards. I actually like working with the kids that many fear.

I’m not saying they can’t be rascals if left off the leash for too long, especially at an event like "YouthQuake," where we spent the weekend.

But I think the middle-schoolers get a bad rap. I’ve worked my church’s junior high youth group for the past four years, and guided the high school kids for a couple years before that.

I think the middle school kids are more fun. They’re old enough that you can have a good serious discussion, yet young enough that they’ll enjoy a silly game, especially if includes running around and bouncing off walls. They watch the opposite gender intently — but from a safe distance.

And the kids seem to relate well to me. I suspect that I’m not as cool as I think I am, but not as out of touch as they assume I must be. I’m enough of a stickler to make sure they follow my rules, but lax enough to bend some of the event’s rules, like blowing off some of the most boring sessions and instead conducting our small group study in the hotel hot tub.

"You’re strict, but you’re not a butthead about it," one of the kids told me. I think that was a compliment.

The annual "YouthQuake" in Lansing attracts Lutheran middle school groups from all over the state, and includes Christian bands, a speaker and breakout activity sessions.

My job is to keep the 15 kids in my group safe, semi-focused and participating. And, if all breaks right, see if they can learn something and grow spiritually.

This year’s theme verses were the parable about the foolish man who built his house on the sand and the wise man built it on a rock, allowing it to survive when the storms came. The idea is to show the kids that using their religion as the foundation will serve them better than chasing money, popularity and the other worldly things that teens crave.

It’s a good topic because they can relate to it. Building on the rock means knowing to say "No" when someone at a party offers them beer, and I was surprised that this was already happening to them.

At the end of the night I buy a stack of pizzas, and we sit around and talk. I’m always amazed at how much they open up in the discussions. I try to pepper it with example from my own life, which they seem to like, especially when I tell them about ways I’ve screwed up.

Given all that, I do realize that they are indeed middle-schoolers and fully capable of mischief. "Trust but verify" is a good policy, and it helps that I’ve done this before. This year I knew enough to confiscate all the little packets of coffee from the in-room coffee machines. They were brewing the stuff last year to help stay up all night.

And while I often fear the worst — as a protective chaperone should — they happily prove me wrong time and again. There are couple surprises from this trip.

Movie time: I try to give them some time by themselves. I’m very close by — reading a newspaper in the hall -- but that gives both of us a little break. The kids — all 14 of them — were quietly spending some free time in one of the rooms, the wastepaper basket in the door to keep it open enough so I can hear if something was going on.

One of the boys walked out to get some more snacks from his own room, and I asked what they were doing. "We’re watching a movie." I immediately feared that they had ordered some of the hotel pay-per-view movies, and you know what kinds of movies are usually offered. I jumped in, and sure enough, they were all sitting around watching something intently. I though it was a good sign that no one dove for the remote to change the channel.

"What are you guys watching?"

"‘Annie.’" someone responded.

"‘Annie’ as in the red-haired kid with the dog and the bald guy?"


Phew! I have no idea why that would interest them, but sometimes it is best to just be grateful and not to question such things.

Dirty feet: Later in the night, they were gathered in the same room and one of the girls walked by with a towel. The hotel pool was closed for repairs so I couldn’t figure out what she was up to.

"We’re having a foot-soaking party."

Say what?

Sure enough, an inspection revealed about five if them standing, fully dressed except for shoes and socks, in the small bath tub, which was filled with water and bubbles.

I considered this to be an opening to tell them the story about Christ washing the feet of the disciples, but I didn’t want to cram anyone else in the tub.

I figure if that’s their idea of being wild and crazy, I’m going to be OK.

As Christians we are called on to spread the good news. I confess that I have trouble talking to adults about faith issues, especially trying to reach out to an adult non-believer. But it's different with kids. My hope is that I can do something that will take them a little bit further in their faith walk.

At the very worst I hope they see an adult who cares about them and is very happy with his life. And maybe if this Christ stuff is working for me they'll think it might work for them, too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Redeemed! Ex-Yankees Can be Saved

David Cone sought, and received, redemption in 2003 after straying to the Evil Empire.

Last time we documented the assorted demises of players who appeared in a Mets uniform, then at some point in their career were sucked into the vortex of the Evil Empire. Perhaps coincidentally -- and perhaps not -- their careers or lives went down the drain.

But enough gloom and doom! Today I celebrate those who were saved! Yes, there are players who spent time as Yankees only to be redeemed at Shea.

It’s not all pretty. Sometimes, there is just too much Yankee in their veins to turn them around. Bad things happen. Like not throwing a stinking strike to Andruw Jones. See the curious case of Kenny "Bleeping" Rogers.

Sometimes we were able to salvage careers. Other times we had folks like Gene Woodling, allowing them to leave the game with a proper uniform on their backs.

And sometimes we were able to give players a proper homecoming before they departed the game, like David Cone.

Here’s the list:

Jack Aker: Knew he was in trouble for several years with the Yanks, closed the book on his career in 1974 with the Mets, going 2-1 with 2 saves, a 3.59 ERA and a clean conscious.

Tucker Ashford: Got into three games as a Yankee in 1981 and never even batted. But apparently he realized he was flirting with the devil, came to the Mets in 1983. He hit a weak .179, but at least knew he could live peacefully.

Yogi Berra: If anyone had a reason to be bitter about the Yanks, it was Yogi. Fired after a year as manager when all he did was take them to the World Series. He was warmly embraced by the Amazin’s....even though we eventually fired him after some time as manager when all he did was take us to Game Seven of the World Series.

Ray Burris: We rescued Burris by claiming him off waivers from the Yanks in 1979. Alas, he never recovered from his Yankee taint, though he did have a decent season for the Expos.

Rick Cerone: Cerone actually had three separate tours with the Yankees before he had a late-in-life conversion and spent 1991 with the Mets, hitting a tidy .273 in 90 games.

David Cone: Cone must have been visited by three ghosts one Opening Day Eve. We know of his success as a Met and defection to the dark side. Coney must have known it was important to retire as a Met in 2003 with his aborted comeback.

Dock Ellis: Pitching a no-no on acid is bad. But what kind of drugs were the Pirates on when they traded Ellis, along with Willie Randolph and Ken Brett to the Yanks for Doc Medich. Amazingly, Ellis, Medich and, of course, Randolph, were all redeemed by the Mets. Ellis’ farewell was ugly, the Mets were one of three teams he pitched for in 1979. But at least his soul was cleansed.

Alvaro Espinosa: Spent four years in the Bronx before contributing nicely with a .306 BA as a Met for part of 1996.

Bob Friend: A three time All-Star, Friend spent 15 years with the Pirates, who traded him to the Yanks in 1966. After 12 games with the Yanks, the Mets came to the rescue and purchased his contract so he could finish the year and his career on a high note.

Karim Garcia: Some players don’t appreciate when they are saved. Fighting with St. Lucie pizza store people is not the way to give thanks to your new employers. We sent him packing in a deadline deal for, gulp, Mike DeJean. Garcia lasted six weeks with the Orioles before the gave him the boot, too.

Lee Mazzilli: The sad case of the Italian Stallion. We know that Maz was our homegrown All-Star before sent to Texas for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, a good deal for us. Texas then shipped Maz to the Yanks for Bucky Bleeping Dent. We rescued Maz again in time for the 1986 World Series romp, paying him back for those gloomy years in he late 1970s. But sometimes the dark side doesn’t really let go, and sadly Maz was again drawn to the Yankees as a coach. We know that things don’t end well for him when he got to be the skipper in Baltimore.

Doc Medich: Sometimes it takes years to beat the Yankee out of someone. Sometimes all it takes is a game. That was the case for Medich, who pitched in one game, giving up three runs in a 1977 start. He got the loss, but a new start in life!

Willie Randolph is a work in progress.

Willie Randolph: Tortured soul, but we knew there was good in him. Willie of course spent 13 years in the Bronx, bounced three times then closed out his career with the Mets in 1992. Lured back to the dark side again as a coach, we came to the rescue last year to put him at the helm. Sometimes the inner-Yankee comes out -- sticking with Miguel Cairo, for example -- so he’s a work in progress.

Hal Reniff: With six-plus years in the Yankee pen, we did Reniff a favor by purchasing his contract midway through 1967, where he closed out a career with a 3-3 record and 3.35 ERA.


Kenny Rogers: Don’t get me started. We tried. We failed.

Bill Short: Short only spent a year, his first, with the Yanks. He came to us in 1968, was claimed by the Reds in the Rule V draft after the season and was distraught at leaving Shea, lasting only four games in Cincy before hanging them up.

Shane Spencer: Another guy we reached out to save, only to have his inner-Yankee do him in. He was released shortly after Karim Garcia.

Mike Stanton: Remember when the Yankees mistreated him at contract time and he signed in a huff with the Mets? Art Howe worked him until his arm fell off. We sent him back to the Yankees for Felix Heredia, so I guess the Yanks got their revenge.

Tom Sturdivant: He started with the Yanks, pitched all over the place then saved the best for last. Redemption only last six weeks, though, leaving Mets early in 1964.

Tony Tarasco: Spent some of 1999 with the Yanks then held down the outfield in Norfolk before getting a long cup of coffee in 2001, going out with head held high. Well, actually he went out high... there were some marijuana busts in there.

Ralph Terry: Terry was an All-Star but forced to ride the shuttle between the Yanks and their virtual farm team, the Kansas City A’s. He joined us at the end of the 1966 season, and left with the knowledge that he had been redeemed, pitching 2 games in 1967 but not giving up a run.

More marvelous in spirit than performance, M.E.T. nevertheless was glad to be a Met.

Marv Throneberry: He spent three years with the Yanks, but we just had to reach out to a guy with the initials MET. Throneberry was short of skills, but we made him a hero!

Dick Tidrow: With parts of six season in the Bronx, the dark side was strong in the man called "Dirt." We offered redemption in 1984. He last 15 innings. Good enough.

Mike Torrez: Torrez only spent part of one season with the Yanks, who then sent Bucky Dent to drive a stake in his heart the next year. We did what we could, taking him on board in 1983 before sending him off the next year.

David Weathers: He spent parts of two years with the Yanks before being traded to the Indians for infamous non-talker Chad Curtis. We signed him for the 2002 season and despite efforts to use him in virtually every game, he posted a nice 6-3 record and 2.91 ERA.

Gene Woodling: Spent six years with the Yanks, but I’m sure he’s prouder of joining the Mets midway through their first year -- which was his last in baseball. At least he could retire with head held high.

Todd Zeile: Zeile, of course, was converted to be a first-baseman for our 2000 National League champs and stuck around another season after which he was part of a massive 10-layer, three team deal with the Rockies and Brewers. Drawn to the dark side for 2003, Zeile must have realized that he didn’t want the last of his many stops to be with the Yanks, and jumped back over to the Mets, where he even got to strap on the shin guards on last time.

In Other Words: knows that you can do a better job at picking players for the Hall of Fame than the sportswriters. Drop by, read Will's detailed analysis and cast your ballot.