We Didn’t Start the Fire – In the first inning of the Mets-Yankees October 22, 2000 World Series game, Roger Clemens throws a shattered piece of Mike Piazza’s bat at the catcher as he runs out a ground ball. Granted this event took place at Yankee Stadium but it set off a series of showdowns between the two that would culminate in Shawn Estes, far too nice a guy for the job, throwing about a foot behind Clemens when the teams met the following June at Shea. Ironically, Piazza and Clemens could both be on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot five years from now if neither plays this season.
New York State of Mind – Mets defeat the Red Sox and win the 1986 World Series in seven games to capture the hearts of New York City…except for the Yankees fans. The Championship puts the Mets back on the New York sports map after nearly 20 years of anonymity and the brash personality and general obnoxiousness of the team further cements the world’s opinion of the Big Apple.
Goodnight Saigon – The Mets “all go down together…” and make history in 2007, becoming the first team to blow a lead of at least seven games after Sept. 12, as they fell to the Marlins at Shea Stadium while Philadelphia beat Washington to win the division and a post-season spot. Tom Glavine, in his final start as a Met, retired just one batter and allowed seven runs. After the game Glavine erased most of the good memories he built in New York by claiming the loss didn’t bother him that much. He signs with Atlanta during the off-season ensuring “Benedict Arnold” status in Mets lore.
Uptown Girl – Kris Benson’s stint with the Mets was fairly uneventful on the field. But off it, his wife Anna provided plenty of fireworks. Benson angered Mets management by appearing at a team Xmas party in a scantily clad Santa costume and agreeing to a tasteless pictorial in FHM magazine. She also publicly warned Kris that if he cheated on her, she would get even by sleeping her way through the clubhouse, medical staff and front office. Christie Brinkley, she ain’t.
Don’t Ask Me Why – July 30, 2004 will forever be a day of infamy for the Mets and their fans. On that day, GM Jim Duquette, who must’ve had a liquid lunch somewhere in the bowels of Shea that day, dealt phenom pitching prospect Scott Kazmir and pitcher Joselo Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for starting pitcher Victor Zambrano and relief pitcher Bartolome Fortunato. The Mets found themselves six games out of a playoff spot at the trading deadline and thought Zambrano was the answer. He was not. An injury-plagued Zambrano appeared in 39 games as a Met (35 starts) from 2004-2006 and posted a 10-14 record. Kazmir won 13 games last year and is considered one of the MLB’s best young pitchers.
Big Shot – Darryl Strawberry thrills Mets fans with monstrous home runs throughout his career in Queens. He wins the 1988 NL home run crown by belting 39. Of course he also took a shot at teammate Keith Hernandez during the team picture photo shoot in Spring Training and threatened to “bust that little redneck in the face” when talking about second baseman Wally Backman. Despite his unsteady personality, Straw will best be remembered for the dents he put in Shea’s right field scoreboard.
Angry Young Man – Gregg Jefferies, perhaps the most hyped prospect in Mets history (who can forget that picture in Sports Illustrated of his “swinging a bat in the pool a million times from each side” workout), can’t control his whining or temper and slams bats, helmets and anything else he can get his hands after every out for five seasons at Shea. Jefferies showed flashes of brilliance, and used a cool-looking bat, but never hit higher than .283 in a full season with New York. Following the 1991 season, the Mets dealt Jefferies, along with Kevin McReynolds and infielder Keith Miller, to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Bret Saberhagen and utility man Bill Pecota.
Only the Good Die Young – Doc Gooden is still alive and kicking but he certainly killed his Mets career at far too young an age. Entering the league as a fire-ball throwing 18-year old in 1985, Gooden packed the seats at Shea and generated intense electricity in the building every time he pitched. Perhaps the biggest “asses in the seats” player in team history, Gooden, who set a major league rookie record with 276 strikeouts in only 218 innings in ’85, posted 17, 24, 17, 15 and 18 wins his first five MLB seasons. But drug problems, off the field issues and injuries kept him from reaching his potential as one of the best pitchers ever. He also drove Mets fans crazy by not only joining the Yankees but pitching a no-hitter for the Bronx Bombers on May 14, 1996 against Seattle.
Pressure – Mookie. Buckner. Slow roller up the first-base line.
Keeping the Faith – As bad as the Kazmir deal was, had it not happened, the Mets might not have cleared the farm system to acquire the best pitcher on the planet – Johan Santana. After waiting patiently in the weeds for the Yankees and Red Sox to clear, GM Omar Minaya deals prospects Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber to Minnesota for Santana, the 29-year old, two-time Cy Young Award winner, the only move that could help turn the page on the 2007 season.
I Go To Extremes – In Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS against St. Louis, outfielder Endy Chavez goes full extension and beyond to pull back a Scott Rolen home run, turn a double play and keep the Mets World Series hopes alive…briefly. Just over an hour later, Carlos Beltran struck out and one of the most promising seasons in team history came to a screeching halt. But the catch will go down as one of the best in history, worthy of the two curtain calls Chavez received.
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