Friday, April 03, 2015

An appreciation of bullpen buggies and Mel Rojas, too

What’s all this about some guy paying $112,000 for a Mets bullpen buggy.

I have a Mets bullpen buggy. I think I paid $10 for it a few years back. It’s really cool.

Sadly, the buggy was long gone when Mel Rojas was in the Mets’ bullpen in 1997 and 1998.

I was thinking about Mel Rojas today as we start on our traditional journey of pairing the age we turn today with a player who wore that number, and thinking about what lessons that might bring for the year ahead.

Now that we’ve slipped past Sid Fernandez, it’s going to get more difficult as we head deep in to the part of the numerical roster frequented by coaches and players who don’t stay very long. We’re still a long way from Johan Santana.

One rare occasions we look to a non-Met and hurler Randy Johnson was an option. But after he went from famed Yankee conqueror to an actual Yankee, he’s pretty dead to us, at least until he confesses the error of his ways.

Consulting the essential “Mets by the Numbers” by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman, we learn that No. 51 has been worn by a largely unmemorable cast of Mets, including Mike Maddux and Rick White and a whole bunch of coaches.

That brings us to Mel Rojas.

Rojas was a stud closer for the Expos, then signed a big contract with the Cubs. Like many highly-paid Cubs, he was awful.

Mets GM Steve Phillips thought Mel just needed a change of scenery.  Queens proved less friendly than the confines of Wrigley. Mel posted ERAs of 5.81 in 1997 and 6.05 in 1998.
Phillips then swapped Rojas to the Dodgers for Bobby Bonilla’s second stint with the Mets, a tenure that did not end especially well.

But I like Mel Rojas. Here’s why: I used to collect game-used jerseys. My collection was limited by two things. First, I was unable to spend a lot of money. Second, I liked jerseys that I could actually wear. These conditions made for a rather small set of potential purchases.

One day I read that the Mets were selling game-used equipment, and that such treasures could be purchased over the phone. I remember calling the team and speaking to the clerk, inquiring about the number of jerseys available that were large in size and small in price.

“I have a Mel Rojas,” he said, almost apologetically, and suggested a price that I could not resist.

The jersey arrived a short time later, and it’s really cool. It’s technically a road batting practice jersey with New York across the chest and No. 51 on front and back. Mel even signed the front number. I love it, and it’s one of my favorite jerseys to wear to a game.

Every former Met plays a role in our team’s history. It’s great to celebrate the Wrights and Harveys. But someone has to remember the Rojases.

So, our goal for Year 51 will be to appreciate everybody. Even the least-successful Met – and there are some who struggled more than Mel – is special. And they might need your cheers more than David Wright. 

That’s a lesson we can take outside of baseball to the folks we encounter every day.

Everyone is special, even the people who challenge us in some way and make it difficult to see their specialness. We can't let that stop us. 

Lessons from previous years:

50: We must embrace opportunities to shine like Sid Fernandez in the Big 5-0
49: In year No. 49, we look back to appreciate Armando Benitez and forward to Jon Niese
48: Trying to embrace the Randy Myers year, but without the nastiness
47: For year No. 47: Jay and Jesse, fresh starts and happy endings
46: Redeeming No. 46 in delicious fashion
45: Following Tug's advice for the year ahead
44: Like Brady Clark, I'm just happy to be here
43: Jim McAndrew and unforeseen opportunities 
42: Celebrating the Jackie Robinson birthday

1 comment:

Will said...

Wait ... what you mean "you used to" collect jerseys? When did you get out of the game?