Saturday, December 4, 2010

At 27, Jose Reyes Is Now The Mets' Longest Tenured Player

With Pedro Feliciano not accepting the Mets' arbitration offer, he can now sign with another team. When he does leave the Mets, he will hand over the title of longest tenured player to Jose Reyes, who has been a Met since 2003.

Feliciano became a Met on August 15, 2002, when Cincinnati traded him to New York for Shawn Estes, the man who couldn't hit Roger Clemens with a pitch, but then hit a Roger Clemens pitch over the wall.

Since then, Feliciano has bounced back and forth, being selected by the Detroit Tigers off waivers in December 2002, then re-signing with the Mets the following April, then leaving for a year to Japan to play for the Fukuoka (watch your mouth!) Daiei Hawks, before returning to the Mets for good in 2006. However, since he never played for another major league team since becoming a Met in 2002, Feliciano kinda sorta held the title of longest tenured Met since the end of the 2006 season.

For all you stat geeks out there, here is the list of longest tenured players on the Mets, going back to the players who were on the Opening Day roster in 1962.

Jim Hickman (1962-1966): Although Ed Kranepool played three games for the Mets in 1962 and then remained with the team until 1979, he was not on the Opening Day roster. Hickman was. The man known as "Gentleman Jim" is known for two "lasts" and two "firsts". He was the last player to hit a home run at the Polo Grounds, accounting for the only run in a 5-1 loss to the Phillies on September 18, 1963. He was also the last of the original Mets, being traded to the Dodgers after the 1966 season, a year in which he became the only Met to appear on the Mets' Opening Day roster in each of their first five seasons. Hickman became the first Mets player to hit for the cycle when he accomplished the feat in 1963 against the Cardinals and was the first Met to hit three home runs in a game, which he achieved in 1965, also against St. Louis.

Ed Kranepool (1967-1979): After Hickman was traded to the Dodgers prior to the 1967 season, Ed Kranepool assumed the role of longest tenured Met, a title he did not give up until he played his last game for New York in 1979. Upon his retirement, Steady Eddie was among the franchise leaders in almost every major category and to this day, remains the Mets' all-time leader in games played (1,853), at-bats (5,436), hits (1,418), singles (1,050) and total bases (2,047).

Ron Hodges (1980-1984): Both Ron Hodges and Craig Swan played for the Mets from 1973-1984, but Hodges made his debut three months before Swannie (Hodges appeared in his first game on June 13, while Swan debuted on September 3). The hard-nosed catcher was with the Mets in good times (the "Ya Gotta Believe" Mets of 1973) and in bad times (the dark ages following the Midnight Massacre in 1977) and finished his career just as the Mets were becoming relevant again in 1984. His last appearance as a Met came as a pinch-hitter in the 1984 season finale. The next time the Mets played a regular season game, Gary Carter was their catcher.

Jesse Orosco (1985-1987): The man who perfected the art of the championship clinching glove toss made his debut with the Mets in 1979 after being traded to the Mets from Minnesota for the other man who specialized in championship clinching victories, Jerry Koosman. Although Orosco did not pitch in the major leagues in 1980, he returned for good in 1981. Once Ron Hodges retired after the 1984 season, Orosco became the only Met left who played for the team in the 1970s. He was traded to the Dodgers after the 1987 season and eventually pitched for just about everyone else on his way to becoming the major league's all-time leader in pitching appearances (1,252 games).

Wally Backman (1988) and Mookie Wilson (1988-1989): After Jesse Orosco left the team, the title of longest tenured Met fell on two players. Both Mookie Wilson and Wally Backman made their major league debuts for the Mets in the same game on September 2, 1980 in Los Angeles. Technically, Mookie Wilson appeared first, batting leadoff against the Dodgers, while Wally Backman batted eighth. The two continued to be integral parts of the Mets from their first game together in 1980 through the 1986 World Series championship and beyond. Backman remained a Met until he was traded to the Twins following the 1988 season, while Mookie Wilson was a Met until the middle of the 1989 season, when he was traded for (gasp) Jeff Musselman.

Terry Leach (1989): Bet you didn't see this one coming, although this one carries an asterisk similar to Pedro Feliciano. Leach made his debut for the Mets in 1981, pitching in 21 games. He repeated his 21-game salute in 1982, then spent the 1983 season in the minors. He was then traded to the Chicago Cubs, who later shipped him off to Atlanta in April 1984. One month later, he was released by the Braves and the following day, the Mets re-signed him. He came back up to the Mets in 1985, where he continued to pitch until the end of the 1989 season. His finest year as a Met came in 1987, when he was moved into the starting rotation because of injuries to various starters. Leach surprised everyone by going 11-1 in his spot-start duties. Short story long, after Mookie Wilson was traded to Toronto in July of 1989, Leach became the longest tenured Met for the rest of the season. Although he was traded twice between 1981 and 1989, he never pitched in the major leagues for a team other than the Mets during that time. But if you don't think Leach should be on this list, then perhaps you'd choose...

Darryl Strawberry (1990): Darryl Strawberry was once dubbed "the black Ted Williams" when he still playing high school ball. Although he never approached the Splendid Splinter's career marks, he is still the most explosive power hitter in Mets history. The franchise leader in home runs (252), RBI (733), runs scored (662), walks (580) and unfortunately, strikeouts (960), the Straw Man first played for the Mets on May 6, 1983 and became the only Met to play from the George Bamberger managerial era to the 1990s.

Ron Darling (1991): When Darryl Strawberry switched coasts to play for his hometown Dodgers, him teammate since the end of the 1983 season, Ron Darling, became the veteran of the team. The answer to the trivia question, "who was the last National League pitcher to win the Gold Glove Award before Greg Maddux started his streak of a bajillion straight Gold Gloves?", Ronnie fell one victory short of becoming only the fourth pitcher in franchise history to win 100 games when he was traded to Montreal on July 15, 1991. Sixteen days later, he was moved to Oakland, where he stayed until his last game in 1995. To this day, the former All-Star and Gold Glove winner remains a beloved Met and his 99 wins rank fourth in franchise history behind Tom Seaver (198), Dwight Gooden (157 - more on him later) and Jerry Koosman (140).

Dwight Gooden (1991-1994): He never went to med school, but the doctor performed surgeries every fifth day, operating on hitters with a blazing fastball and devastating curveball (dubbed Lord Charles). He had the best three-year stretch to start a career of any pitcher, when he went 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA from 1984-1986. He also completed 35 of his 99 starts, with 13 shutouts. And, oh yes. There were the strikeouts. Dr. K set the all-time rookie strikeout record in 1984 when he fanned 276 batters. He followed that up with 268 Ks in his Cy Young Award-winning season (1985), then "only" struck out 200 batters in the Mets' 1986 championship season. Substance abuse and injuries prevented Doc from ever regaining the dominant form he displayed in his first three seasons. However, he did have one final great year in 1990, when he finished 19-7 and registered his fourth (and first since 1986) season of 200 or more strikeouts, by finishing with 223. When he pitched his final game for the Mets in 1994, he became the last member of the 1986 World Champions to take the field as a player in blue and orange.

John Franco (1994-2004): After Ed Kranepool's 18 seasons in New York, John Franco played the most years as a Met, playing from 1990-2004 (he missed the 2002 season with an injury). Once Gooden pitched his last game for the Mets, Franco became the longest tenured Met and didn't give it up until after the 2004 season. Franco is the only Met pitcher to have played for the two winningest managers in Mets history, playing for Davey Johnson in 1990 and Bobby Valentine from 1996-2002 (Todd Hundley is the only other player who did it, having played his first game as a Met ten days before Davey Johnson was fired). He holds the franchise records for games pitched (695 - Pedro Feliciano is a distant second with 459) and saves (276 - Armando Benitez isn't even in the rearview mirror with his 160). Franco is also appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2011.

Mike Piazza (2005): Mike Piazza became a Met in 1998 after his one week stay as a Florida Marlin ended. His combination of power and batting average was never seen before in a Mets uniform. The future Hall of Famer is the only player to appear twice in the top ten single season batting averages in Mets history (.348 in 1998 and .324 in 2000, good for second and tenth all-time) and also appears twice in the top ten single season home run list (40 in 1999 and 38 in 2000 - his '99 total is now the third highest total in franchise history, while the '00 total is tied for sixth all-time). No other Met appears in BOTH top ten lists. In just eight years as a Met, Piazza left his mark all over the career all-time Met offensive leaders, finishing in the top five in career batting average (4th, .296), on-base percentage (5th, .373), slugging percentage (1st, .542), doubles (5th, 193), home runs (2nd, 200), runs batted in (3rd, 655) and extra-base hits (4th, 415). He not only replaced John Franco as the longest tenured Met after Franco pitched his last game in 2004, but also replaced him as #31 on the Mets, as Franco gave switched from #31 to #45 to accommodate Piazza. Piazza will become eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013 and might become the second player to be inducted into the Hall as a Met.

Steve Trachsel (2006): Once Piazza waved his final goodbyes as a Met at Shea Stadium, the longest tenured Met became a player who never got the respect he deserved - Steve Trachsel. Although Trachsel was sometimes referred to as the Human Rain Delay II (Mike Hargrove was the original Human Rain Delay) and The Slowest Pitcher On Earth for his deliberate approach to pitching once there were runners on base, he really did spend six years as a Met (2001-2006). It just seemed like one long season because he was so slow to get the ball to the plate. Despite never being a fan-favorite, Trachsel was the winning pitcher in the 2006 NL East division clincher against the Marlins. It might also come as a surprise that Trachsel ranks in the top ten in career wins (his 66 victories are 10th on the Mets' all-time list) and is one of only five Met hurlers to pitch two complete game one-hitters, achieving both in 2003 (the other four are Tom Seaver - who accomplished the feat an Amazin' five times, Gary Gentry, Jon Matlack and David Cone).

Pedro Feliciano (2007-2010): As mentioned before, his inclusion as one of the longest tenured Mets comes with an asterisk, as he was not exclusively the property of the Mets during his stay in New York that began in 2002. He was briefly a member of the Detroit Tigers organization in 2002, but never played for them, as he was released by the Tigers two months after they signed him and re-signed with the prior to the 2003 season. He then played for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in the Japanese Pacific League in 2005 before coming back to the Mets for what was arguably his best season in 2006. In that magical season, Feliciano finished with a 7-2 record and a 2.09 ERA. He was also stellar in that year's postseason, appearing in six games against the Dodgers and Cardinals, allowing only one run on two hits in 4 2/3 innings. He was credited with the victory in the NLDS clincher in Los Angeles. From 2008-2010, he earned the monicker Perpetual Pedro for breaking the franchise record for games pitched in each season. He also led the entire National League is appearances each year, pitching in 86 games in 2008, 88 games in 2009 and 92 games in 2010. Feliciano did not accept salary arbitration from the Mets after the 2010 season and is now free to sign with whoever he chooses.

That brings us to Jose Reyes. Since Doc Gooden became the longest tenured Met in 1991 at the age of 26, no Met had become the team veteran while in his 20s until now. Reyes will now assume that title, having played with the Mets since 2003. He and David Wright are the only two players left from the Art Howe era. In fact, with John Maine being non-tendered, Reyes is one of only four players left who played for the Mets in the 2006 postseason. (The others are Wright, Carlos Beltran and - shudder - Oliver Perez. Mike Pelfrey pitched for the Mets during the 2006 regular season, but did not make the postseason roster.)

Our 27-year-old shortstop has been called immature at times. He has also been accused of showing up the opposition and most recently, he has been mentioned in various trade rumors. Despite all this, one thing is certain. He may act like a spoiled child at times, but whether he likes it or not, he is now the veteran of this franchise. Younger players are going to come to him for advice and for tips on how to play the game. A more mature Jose Reyes will have to emerge on the playing field and in the clubhouse. A veteran wouldn't have it any other way.

1 comment:

Brian Joura said...

I enjoyed this piece. I like these historical time-line things and you had nice pictures, too.