Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Saints and Sinners: Mets Players Named Patrick

Today is St. Patrick's Day, a day that commemorates St. Patrick on the anniversary of his death in 461 A.D.  For the uninformed who spend the entire year watching and/or thinking about the Mets (such as myself), St. Patrick was the driving force in teaching the doctrines of Christianity to the Irish people.  How this caused people to celebrate his life with drunkenness and debauchery is a mystery to me, but what is not a mystery is that the Mets have had several players who shared a first name with the patron saint of Ireland.

A total of six players in Mets history have gone by the name of Pat.  Some of these players have been saints in blue and orange uniforms, doing their best to help the team win, while others ...well... let's just call them sinners.

So let's put on our green Daniel Murphy shirts, raise the volume on our Dropkick Murphys/Flogging Molly music compilation, and enjoy our bangers and mash while we review the six Pats who have taken the field for the Mets over their 50 years of existence.

Pat Zachry (1977-1982)

The first player in Mets history to go by the name of Pat was also one Mets fans would rather not have had.  Patrick Paul Zachry was the pitcher who replaced Tom Seaver in the rotation after the infamous Midnight Massacre trade in 1977.  Zachry was traded to the Mets for "The Franchise" on June 15, along with Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman, and was immediately thrust into the New York spotlight.

Although Zachry had won the National League Rookie of the Year Award as a member of the 1976 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds (sharing the award with the Padres' Butch Metzger), he began the 1977 season poorly for the Reds, going 3-7 with a 5.04 ERA in his first 12 starts.  After his trade to the Mets, Zachry performed well.  In fact, despite three consecutive last place finishes for the Mets from 1977 to 1979, Zachry finished each season with a winning record, going 7-6 in 1977, 10-6 in 1978 and 5-1 in 1979.

Zachry's combined 22-13 record from 1977 to 1979 was the best on the staff during that time period and it earned him a trip to the 1978 All-Star Game, but alas, he only made 47 starts for the Mets over those three seasons, as injuries prevented him from realizing his full potential.  From 1980 to 1982, Zachry was a shadow of his former self, going 19-33 for the Mets and leading the league in losses during the strike-shortened 1981 season.  Ironically, it was in that same 1981 campaign that Tom Seaver led the league in victories for the Reds.

Two years later, Zachry's time with the Mets came to an end, as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers shortly after the Reds traded Tom Seaver back to the Mets.  Seaver went 9-14 for the 1983 Mets, while Zachry went 6-1 with a 2.49 ERA out of the Dodgers' bullpen, helping Los Angeles win the National League West division title.

Pat Tabler (1990)

Patrick Sean Tabler was nicknamed Mr. Clutch by his teammates for his uncanny ability to hit with the bases loaded.  From 1981 to 1988, Tabler hit .291 for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals.  But with the bases loaded, he became one of the most feared hitters in the league.  Over the first eight years of his career, Tabler hit an ungodly .587 (37-for-63) with the bags full, driving in 88 runs in those situations.

With the Mets in the heat of a tight race with the Pittsburgh Pirates for National League East supremacy in 1990, the team acquired Tabler on August 30, hoping he'd bring his clutch-hitting abilities to New York.  He did bring those abilities to Shea Stadium, but it was the Mets who failed to give him enough opportunities to use them.

In 17 late-season games with the Mets in 1990, Tabler came to bat a mere three times with the bases loaded.  However, he did come through every time, driving in a total of five runs in his three plate appearances with the bags full.  Tabler delivered a pair of two-run singles and drove in a run by getting plunked with a pitch, but the Mets still fell short in their failed quest to win their third division title in five years.

Pat Tabler left the Mets via free agency following his month-long stay in New York to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he played the final two seasons of his career.  The Mets finished the 1991 and 1992 campaigns with losing records, while Tabler won two division titles and retired after winning a World Series ring as a member of the 1992 Blue Jays.

Pat Howell (1992)

In 1989, after Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra were traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, the Mets' lineup lacked a true speedster and leadoff hitter.  But at the same time, there was one player in their minor league system who was becoming a premier base-stealing threat.

Patrick O'Neal Howell stole a total of 188 bases from 1989 to 1991 as he made his way up through the Mets' minor league system.  When he was called up to the big leagues midway through the 1992 season, the Mets thought they finally had the speedster they had coveted since the days of Wilson and Dykstra.  Howell showed some early promise, stealing bases in each of his first three games as a Met.  But to steal bases, a player first has to reach base, and that's something Howell had a little problem with.

From July 21 to the end of the season, Howell played in 25 games for the Mets, batting only .185 (10-for-54).  How many walks did he draw during those 25 games?  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  In fact, the only other time he reached base over those 25 games was by getting in the way of a poorly pitched ball.  That hit-by-pitch did push his on-base-percentage to an even .200 over the two-and-a-half month stretch.  But when a player has difficulty reaching the Mendoza line with his on-base percentage, especially when that player is being paid to set the table for his teammates by getting on base, then that player probably doesn't have much of a chance to stick in the major leagues.

Pat Howell was back in the minors in 1993 and 1994 before playing four seasons in Mexico.  He then came back to the States to play in independent baseball leagues from 1999 to 2004 but never again played in the majors.  Perhaps it had something to do with his .297 career on-base percentage in 14 minor league seasons.  At least that was better than Mario Mendoza's OBP.

Pat Mahomes (1999-2000)

Judging by his career record with the team, Patrick Lavon Mahomes was the most successful Pat to ever play for the Mets.  Then again, he also might have been the luckiest.  In 1999, Pat Mahomes was not expected to be an important member of the New York Mets.  In fact, he didn't even break camp with the team out of spring training, beginning the season in the minor leagues at AAA-Norfolk.  But once he got called up in mid-May, he never went back to Norfolk.

With injuries and a poor start hurting the Mets in the National League East, Mahomes was called upon to be the long man in the bullpen.  As the Mets began their ascent towards the top of the wild card standings, so did Mahomes' confidence, both on the mound and at the plate.  Mahomes finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record and 3.68 ERA.  (Mahomes' eight wins are the most by a Mets pitcher who didn't suffer a loss in that season.)  He was also a pleasant surprise on offense, batting .313 (5-for-16) with three doubles and three RBI.

In the postseason, Mahomes made four appearances against the Diamondbacks and Braves, allowing two runs in eight innings of work.  Mahomes pitched a scoreless inning of relief in the epic 15-inning Game 5 against the Braves and relieved Al Leiter in the first inning of Game 6 after the Mets' starter allowed five early runs.  Mahomes then went on to pitch four scoreless innings against Atlanta to allow the Mets to come back in the game, although they eventually lost the game in extra innings.

Mahomes wasn't nearly as perfect in 2000, going 5-3 with a 5.46 ERA for the National League champion Mets, but he still finished strongly as the Mets were trying to clinch their second consecutive wild card, pitching six scoreless innings of relief during the final week of the regular season.

Pat Strange (2002-2003)

In 1998, the Mets drafted a high school pitcher from Springfield, Massachusetts in the second round, thinking he'd be part of their future.  Of course, his future didn't come until the Mets started playing like the horrible teams of the past.

Patrick Martin Strange was one of the top prospects in the Mets' minor league system at the turn of century.  Prior to the 2000 season, Baseball America ranked Strange as the No. 78 prospect in the minors.  By 2001, he had been elevated to No. 63.  And who was going to argue with Baseball America?  After all, Strange had performed exceptionally well for the Mets over his first four professional seasons, going 39-16 with a 3.67 ERA.  As a result, the Mets promoted him to the big show as a September call-up in 2002.

Strange performed well in his late-season tryout, allowing one run on six hits, while walking only one batter in eight innings of work.  The 2003 season was a totally different matter.

For as good as Strange was during his late-season outings in 2002, he was the exact opposite in his early-season outings in 2003.  Strange appeared in five games for the Mets in May 2003 and redefined the word brutal.  In five innings of work, Strange allowed 11 runs on 11 hits, four of which left the park.  He wasn't always grooving pitches to opposing batters, as he also found time to walk eight batters in his five nightmarish innings.  Strange made only one more appearance for the Mets in 2003, pitching four scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 5.  But even that performance only "lowered" his ERA to 11.00.  Although Strange was only 22 at the time, that appearance would be his last in the majors and by age 24, he was out of baseball.

Pat Misch (2009-2011)

From 2006 to 2009, Patrick Theodore Joseph Misch made 11 starts and 27 relief appearances for the San Francisco Giants without earning a win in any of his 38 appearances.  After losing all seven of his decisions as a Giant, he was placed on waivers by San Francisco in 2009 and claimed by the Mets in June.  Upon becoming a Met, Misch was instantly put in the bullpen, but did not record a victory in relief.

Misch made 15 appearances out of the bullpen for the Mets before getting a spot start against the Cubs in late August.  Misch pitched beautifully, allowing one run in seven innings, leaving the game with a 2-1 lead, needing only six outs for his first big league victory.  Of course, this was the 2009 Mets we were talking about and the Mets allowed four runs in the eighth to deny Misch his first win.

Six days later, Misch made his second start and finally earned his first big league victory in an 8-3 win over the Colorado Rockies.  His post-win hangover lasted three games, as Misch lost his next three starts before surprising everyone with a complete-game shutout against the Florida Marlins.  It was his first shutout and complete game in four years in the majors.

Misch won his last start in 2009 to finish the year with a 3-4 record.  Over the next two seasons, he made 18 appearances for the Mets, including six starts, but only recorded one more win.  After finishing the 2011 season with a 10.29 ERA in six relief appearances, the Mets allowed Misch to leave via free agency.  A month after the season ended, Misch was signed by the Phillies and is now currently trying to make the Phillies as a lefty specialist in the bullpen, hoping the luck of the Irish will finally get him another big league victory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You forgot Pat Magroin