|The Gnome of Victory and Celebration wishes a "happy birthday" with Hawkeye, known in our house as the" under-appreciated Avenger." Armando Benitez could commiserate with Hawkeye.|
Armando Benitez was a misunderstood and maybe an under-appreciated Met.
Today, we embrace birthday No. 49, and the list of Mets wearing that number is not entirely encouraging as we look for inspiration for the year ahead.
The essential “Mets by the Numbers” by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman tells that 20 Mets have worn No. 49. There were lots of players passing through, and some nice guys – Ed Hearn and Walt Terrell – who were traded for big pieces.
But Benitez was the most prolific. The barrel-chested closer seemed like he could throw the ball through a brick wall, and famously tried to throw one though Tino Martinez.
Benitez was a master at stockpiling saves, twice earning more than 40 for the Mets.
Alas, putting out fires in May and June and shutting the door when it counts are different things.
Armando went from lights out to gas can during inopportune moments, like, say, Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, and Game 6 of the 1999 playoffs. Kenny Rogers never would have earned his “Bleeping” had Armando shut down the Braves earlier.
Benitez’ Mets tenure didn’t end well. Booed unmercifully, he was the team’s lone All-Star Game representative – clearly not a fan vote. Not only didn’t he get into the game, but he was traded during the All-Star Break to – get this – the vile Yankees.
We must remember that we don’t get to the World Series or deep into the playoffs without those early games, so let’s go easier on Armando. Stacking up 160 saves in four seasons is pretty impressive.
And, we have a new hope. No. 49 since 2008 has been issued to Jon Niese, our new Opening Day ace. We have reason to be encouraged as we finish out the 40s.