Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ex-Mets Come Out On Top At Winter Meetings

Earlier this week in Dallas at the Late Fall Meetings, the Mets came away with three new relief pitchers and a new centerfielder.  They made a trade to acquire centerfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez from the Giants, and signed free agents Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to close out games.

The Mets weren't the only team to wheel and deal in Dallas.  In fact, it seemed as if every transaction involved a former Met.  So which former Met left Dallas with the biggest smile on his face?  You may be surprised when you hear the answer.  Let's run through the list of former Mets who were involved in transactions since the beginning of December.  (Players listed alphabetically)

  • Rod Barajas (one year, $4 million from Pittsburgh)
  • Heath Bell (three years, $27 million from Miami)
  • Chris Capuano (two years, $10 million from Los Angeles)
  • Octavio Dotel (one year, $3.5 million from Detroit)
  • Jose Reyes (six years, $106 million from Miami)

All of those former Mets will be counting their millions all the way to the bank, but none of them has as big a smile on his face as another former Met.  So tell me, my fellow Mets fans, do you remember Jerry DiPoto?

That, my friends, is ex-Met Jerry DiPoto.  Please don't all say "who dat?" at the same time.

Jerry DiPoto came to the Mets in a trade conducted during the 1994-95 players strike.  The Cleveland Indians sent DiPoto, along with fellow pitchers Paul Byrd and Dave Mlicki to the Mets in exchange for outfielder Jeromy Burnitz and pitcher Joe Roa.

DiPoto pitched two seasons for the Mets, going 11-8 with a 3.98 ERA.  His line in 1996 was one of the oddest in baseball, as DiPoto had a sky-high 1.76 WHIP (allowing 136 baserunners in 77.1 innings), yet he finished the season with a 7-2 record.  Of course, that's what happens when the runs you give up belong to somebody else, as DiPoto allowed 18 of 38 inherited baserunners to score, with none of those runs being charged to him.

So why would Jerry DiPoto, a man whose pitching career ended in 2000 at the age of 32, have the biggest smile on his face coming out of this year's Late Fall Meetings?  Perhaps that has something to do with his current job as the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County near Disneyland.

After only four months as a general manager in the major leagues (two and a half months with Arizona in 2010 and six weeks with Los Angeles/Anaheim/Orange County/Disneyland), DiPoto made the biggest splash at the Late Fall Meetings, signing future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols to a ten-year, quarter billion dollar contract and top free agent starting pitcher C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.  DiPoto did all this despite being on the job for less time than it took Steve Trachsel to throw a pitch with men on base (men that DiPoto would likely have allowed to score had he been a teammate of Trachsel's on the Mets).

No wonder Jerry DiPoto is smiling.  He just heard that the 1995-96 Mets player reunion was canceled.

Within a matter of 24 hours, the Angels signed the best hitter on the planet (no offense to Val Pascucci, but Pujols has surpassed him at the plate) and took away their division rival's ace starting pitcher.

The Texas Rangers, who had to deal with Pujols for seven games in last October's Fall Classic, will now have to face Pujols a minimum of 18 times per season over the next decade.  And they also won't have C.J. Wilson, who did not allow a hit to Pujols in six World Series plate appearances against him.  Instead, the Rangers will have to face Wilson with Pujols backing up his new teammate at first base.  All this is due to the swift dealings of Jerry DiPoto.

When Jerry DiPoto was a Met in the mid-'90s, he was a vulture on the mound, swooping in to record seven victories in 1996 despite not being adept at keeping runners off the basepaths.  Although he is no longer an active player on the field, DiPoto has become quite active off the field and he clearly still hasn't given up his vulture tendencies.  Just ask the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and especially the Miami Marlins, who thought they had the right offers on the table for Pujols and Wilson until DiPoto swooped in and grabbed them away.

Many ex-Mets have had a December to remember so far.  But Jerry DiPoto has topped them all.  He played for Dallas (Green) when he was a Met in 1995 and 1996, then he went to Dallas (Texas) and played all the other general managers there by scoring the biggest free agent hitter and pitcher on the market.  It's no wonder Jerry DiPoto is the ex-Met with the biggest smile on his face.

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