On this Date ….

Looking Back ....

Looking Back ....

…. In 1998, the Mets dealt catcher Todd Hundley and minor league pitcher Arnold Gooch to the Dodgers for catcher Charles Johnson and Roger Cedeno. The Mets then swap Johnson to the Orioles for reliever Armando Benitez.

Benitez had a checkered career with the Mets, saving 158 games in parts of five seasons. Of course, what most remember about him was the games he didn’t save, particularly against the Braves. Benitez’s history was to unravel if something went wrong. A bloop or bad call could turn into a blown save, and it would start a string of three or four bad outings.

The Mets eventually traded him to the Yankees. Benitez would sign with the Giants and his last game was in 2008.

I covered Benitez with the Orioles and Yankees. I’ll always remember him spitting the bit in the 1997 ALCS, playing a significant part in at least three of the Orioles’ losses. The one moment that crystalizes in my memory is, when after giving up a homer, he plunked Tino Martinez in the back. Then he stood off the mound and gestured the Yankees to come get him.

They did.

ON DECK: What to do about Carlos Delgado later this morning.

10 thoughts on “On this Date ….

  1. I always felt like Armando was a bit too much of a scape goat for those Met teams of the late 90s early 2000s. But that is the life of a closer, not enough recognition for successes and too much recognition for failure. If a starting pitcher had to pitch every inning as perfectly as a closer they would self destruct.

    Armando was good enough for us to win with him, he was far from perfect and definitely had a problem with adversity, but when he was on he could be amazing. Course it has been hard to be a closer in NY not named Mariano for a couple decades now…

  2. 1. Ii agree about Armando. Billy the great (at least in his own mind) was a disaster against the Cards in the ’06 playoffs, lost key games vs the Phils in ’07 and was a bust in ’08 before he went on the shelf. He’s forgiven but not poor Benitez. K-Rod seemed to be the reincarnation of Benitez last year. For all his saves on the left coast, he seemed nothing more than an average closer last year. 7 blown saves (or so) is nothing to get 12 million bucks per for.

  3. #2, I give K-Rod a bit of a pass for last year, he was good when the team was remotely competitive for anything, the rest of the season I am not sure what to make out of any of the players that I can take into next season. Only a bit of a pass, but I am not writing him off yet :)

  4. This was one of Phillips better deals. Hundly had to be moved with the acquisition of Piazza. Especially after his adventure in LF. He was never the same player after getting hurt in 97. Turning him into Benitez and Cedeno was a key in the Mets getting back into the playoffs in 99 then they traded Cedeno for Hampton and that got them to the WS in 2000. Steve Phillips was looking pretty smart in those days.

  5. Benitez had the stuff to be good. When things were going well he would sail.

    The problem is that when he got into a tight spot you could see him freeze up and start to overthrow where he could not find the plate.

    A closer cannot do that. His talent said he could be a closer, his execution said he could not.

    Billy had his share of blow ups too. But when things got tight he kept going. He gave up his share of homers, but he kept throwing his pitches. hard , harder hardest. didnt always work.

  6. dave (5): I’ve told this story before, but when I covered the Orioles Chris Hoiles once told me Benitez didn’t have the stones to be a great closer, that he really didn’t want the ball at the end.-JD

  7. 8 JD, I dont like to judge a man on rumors and innuendo. He wasnt the same after he got hurt and lets leave it at that.