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.

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