Friday, October 30, 2009

Frightening Moments In Mets History

We’ve made it to another Halloween, Mets fans! That means it’s time for my first annual “Frightening Moments In Mets History” blog. It’s so scary that even Jose Reyes was not prepared for the shocking stories he was about to read.

I’ve gone through the archives (and by archives, I mean Google and my warped little mind) and picked out some moments that’ll make you cringe, some moments that’ll make you squirm and some moments that’ll make you want to look away. Of course, if you’re a Mets-ochist like I am, you’ll want to keep your eyes glued to the screen throughout the whole piece. After all, we wouldn’t want you to miss any of the bloody goodness.

So grab some popcorn or maybe some deviled eggs and enjoy some of the most macabre Mets moments I could find. Don’t worry. It won’t hurt you…unless if you let it.

There have been numerous trades in Mets history that might be considered frightening. For example, there was the trade that involved Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi. More recently, there was the trade of Scott Kazmir for the wrong Zambrano. Heck, I know a few 14-year old boys who were petrified when Anna Benson was traded away with her husband, Kris.

But perhaps the trade that scared off many Mets fans from coming back to Shea Stadium was the trade of Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds in 1977. Seaver and Mets chairman of the board M. Donald Grant never had the best relationship, with the war of words often spilling onto the back pages of the tabloids. Seaver’s relationship with Grant reached its nadir when he blamed him for giving negative information about his wife to legendary sportswriter Dick Young. Young wrote a column claiming that Seaver and his wife were jealous of the money Nolan Ryan was earning with the California Angels.

On June 15, 1977, the Mets conducted what is now known as “The Midnight Massacre”, where they parted ways with Tom Seaver and slugger Dave Kingman in two separate trades. Following the trades, attendance at Shea Stadium dropped as quickly as the Mets did in the standings. Is it no wonder that fans started referring to Shea as Grant’s Tomb after the bloody massacre was complete?

There have been numerous on-field injuries that were gruesome to behold. Just recently, the Mets were forced to watch David Wright be the recipient of a head-seeking missile by Giants’ starter Matt Cain. The concussion suffered by Wright forced him to go on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Fortunately, the injury wasn’t as frightening as it looked as Wright was able to return to the Mets when his 15 day stay at the DL Hotel expired. Although he was forced to return his stylish hospital attire (see photo, right), he was more than happy to leave the hospital and return to the Mets lineup. Unfortunately, not every Mets player who went down with an injury was as fortunate as David was. Some players just vanished into thin air, never to be heard from again.

Remember Bernard Gilkey? He had a spectacular season for an otherwise unspectacular Mets club in 1996. He finished the season with a .317 average, along with 30 HR and 117 RBI. He also collected a franchise-record 44 doubles. Then he decided to appear in the movie “Men In Black”. In his one scene, he was playing left field at Shea Stadium when an alien spacecraft appeared over Flushing. Left in a state of shock, Gilkey never saw a fly ball headed in the direction of his coconut, where (you guessed it), he suffered a close encounter of the third kind with the baseball. Unlike David Wright’s injury, Gilkey’s head injury clearly affected his career. He followed up his stellar 1996 season with a subpar 1997 campaign, hitting only .249 with 18 HR and 78 RBI. It got worse from there. He was traded to Arizona during the 1998 season and only hit a total of 18 HR for the rest of his career until his final season in the majors in 2001.

One more injury involving heads happened in 2005 in San Diego, but this one was no laughing matter. On August 11, 2005, Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron were involved in a terrifying on-field collision at Petco Park, where both players attempted to make a diving catch for a shallow fly ball.

Neither player caught the ball hit by Padres’ catcher David Ross, but they caught quite a bit of each other’s faces. Although Beltran escaped the collision with only minor injuries, the same could not be said for Cameron.

On the play, Cameron broke his nose, had multiple fractures of both cheekbones and suffered a slight concussion. He was placed on the disabled list and did not play again in 2005.

The collision in San Diego would be the last time Mike Cameron played for the New York Mets as he was traded to San Diego (how ironic) for Xavier Nady during the off-season. To this day, Cameron has trouble remembering the collision, not that it’s a memory he would like to have back.

Frightening moments aren’t always events that resulted in fan favorites being traded away or players getting injured. Sometimes, it could be a failed experiment on the field. Does anyone remember “Turn Ahead The Clock Day” in 1999?

Ten years ago, Major League Baseball decided to go the other way with its popular retro uniform promotions. Instead of looking back at its glorious past, baseball decided to look ahead at its ugly future. At least the uniforms were ugly. For one night in 1999, major league teams wore futuristic jerseys and caps in what had to have been the concoction of a seriously inebriated marketing department. The Mets played the Pittsburgh Pirates that night and were defeated by a young rookie pitcher by the name of Kris Benson (that name seems awfully familiar).

It didn’t matter that the 5-1 defeat to the lowly Pirates almost kept the Mets from making the playoffs that year (they needed a one-game playoff with Cincinnati to earn the wild card berth). All that mattered was that Orel Hershiser looked like this in his Mercury Mets jersey (see photo, right).

Yes, Mets fans. Orel Hershiser was actually a Met. That, in and of itself, is scary enough to me. But putting him in that abominable jersey is downright chilling. Spooky is as spooky does.

I can imagine you’re getting ready to give out candy to all the lovely trick-or-treaters who are about to ring your bell and then thank you for your sweet treats by throwing toilet paper all over your trees. So I will leave you with the most frightening moment in Mets history. What could be more frightening than the horrific injuries suffered by Mets players over the years? Is there anything that scared more Mets fans away than the Midnight Massacre? Is it possible that there is something more terrifying than the sight of Orel Hershiser in a Mercury Mets jersey?

Yes, my friends. I believe there is. The most frightening moment in Mets history began in 2006 and has continued to this day. That’s right, Mets fans. I’m talking about Jose Lima.

In 2006, the Mets used numerous starting pitchers because of injuries. The only starters to make more than 23 starts were Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel. Although Pedro Martinez and Orlando “The Dookie” Hernandez were also around during the first half of the season, a fifth starter was still needed. Unfortunately, one of the men they turned to was Jose Lima.

The Mets allowed Lima to make four starts for them in 2006. The self-proclaimed creator of “Lima Time” was worse than Charlie Brown facing a squad full of Peppermint Patties. In those four starts, Lima was only able to pitch 17.1 innings. His ERA was an abysmal 9.87 and he was the losing pitcher in all four starts. Although Lima’s career with the Mets was finished, Lima was not finished with the Mets.

Urban legend has it that Jose Lima did not leave the Mets quietly (not that he could ever be quiet if he wanted to). It has been told that when Lima left the Mets, he placed a hex on the team, vowing that they would never win another championship. Just as the “Curse of the Bambino” prevented the Red Sox from winning a championship for 86 years and the “Curse of the Billy Goat” is still haunting the Cubs, the “Curse of Lima Time” has been passed down to the Mets.

In 2006, the Mets appeared to be steamrolling towards the World Series until Carlos Beltran saw the “Do Not Swing” sign on Adam Wainwright’s curveball. The hex continued into 2007 and 2008 as the Mets failed to make the postseason in both years. Finally, in 2009, the injury portion of the curse took hold and choked the life away from the team.

Now tell me, Mets fans. How can there be anything more frightening than the “Curse of Lima Time”? It’s so frightening that the curse has even affected Lima himself. After being designated for assignment by the Mets in 2006, Lima never pitched again in the major leagues. Even his fledgling singing career never took off as he has only sold one of his CDs and that was to his mother (she bought it in the bargain bin).

I don’t know if the Mets will have to call in an exorcist, the guys from Ghost Hunters or the woman from Poltergeist, but there has certainly been some paranormal activity going around the Mets clubhouse over the years. It seems to have followed them from Shea Stadium to Citi Field. Whether the “Curse of Lima Time” is real or not, it needs to be erased before the Mets continue to experience frightening moments on the field.

Well, Scooby Gang, that’s all I have for you today. I hope you can sleep well tonight and that these stories of terror didn’t make you go running to that old box in the attic where you’ve been storing your Mets night light all these years. Remember, these moments have only affected the Mets, not their fans. At least they haven’t affected the fans yet. Have a great Halloween!

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