Mar 05

Today In Mets History: Staub Ends Holdout

On this date in 1973, outfielder Rusty Staub ended a holdout and signed a three-year contract for $100,000 a season.

Staub played nine years with the Mets spanning two stints (1972-75 and 1981-85). He retired after the 1985 season with 2,716 career hits, including 709 with the Mets. He is the only player having at least 500 hits for four different teams (Mets, Montreal, Detroit and Houston).

STAUB: A great Met. (TOPPS)

STAUB: A great Met. (TOPPS)

Mets fans remember Staub for his gritty performance in the 1973 postseason. The odds were stacked against them as Betfair.com would attest. In Game 4 of the NLCS against Cincinnati, Staub separated his right shoulder when he plowed into the outfield fence while robbing Dan Driessen of extra bases. In the World Series against Oakland, Staub was forced to throw the ball underhand, but hit .423 with a homer and six RBI.

A six-time All-Star, Staub ended his career as one of the game’s best pinch-hitters with 99 hits, including eight homers with 72 RBI.

Staub originally signed with the expansion Houston Colt .45s (later Astros), but was traded to Montreal before the 1969 season and became an original Expo. After three years he was traded to the Mets in exchange for first baseman Mike Jorgensen, shortstop Tim Foli and outfielder Ken Singleton.

Staub also played with Detroit and Texas.

A noted wine connoisseur, in retirement Staub owned two restaurants in Manhattan and founded the “Rusty Staub Foundation,’’ which raised over $112 million for New York City police and fireman following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

ON DECK: Mets On Tap Today: Bartolo Colon starts against Washington.

Feb 28

Today In Mets History: Dave Kingman Signed

On this day in Mets’ history in 1975, the contract of outfielder and first baseman Dave Kingman was purchased from the San Francisco Giants. The 6-foot-6 Kingman, nicknamed Kong for his prodigious strength and power, was to give the Mets the fearsome hitter they had never had this early in their existence.

“He was going to make us a winner,’’ said Joe, a life-long Mets’ fan. “He had such awesome power. We had never had a guy like that before.’’

KINGMAN: Hit 154 homers at a Met.

KINGMAN: Hit 154 homers at a Met.

During his 17-year career, Kingman played six seasons with the Mets, more than any other team. He gave the Mets the power they wanted with 154 home runs. However, the all-or-nothing Kingman also hit .219 with a .287 on-base percentage, and with only 389 RBI and just 211 walks in comparison to 672 strikeouts. He had more strikeouts than hits (509) with the Mets.

In addition to the San Francisco and the Mets, Kingman played for Oakland, the Cubs, San Diego, the Angels and Yankees. Kingman had two stints with the Mets (1975-77 and 1981-83).

Kingman also struck out a lot in his interactions with fans and the media. Of all the things Kingman is known for, perhaps most disturbing was sending a live rat to Susan Fornoff, a female reporter covering the Athletics.

Kingman hit 30 or more homers seven times, including 48 in 1979 with the Cubs and 37 in 1982 with the Mets, when he lead the National League in homers.

Kingman also struck out 1,816 times – an average of 152 times a season – and in 14 years struck out at least 100 times, and eight times fanned at least 125 times. Only once, in 1985, did he draw as many as 60 walks.

History is filled with numerous all-or-nothing sluggers like Kingman, such as Adam Dunn, Greg Vaughn, Frank Howard, Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds and a case can also be made to lump former Met George Foster into that group.

Kingman’s 154 homers ranks fifth on the club’s all-time list, behind Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Mike Piazza and Howard Johnson.

Kingman finished with 442 career homers and speaking at the closing of Shea Stadium, said if he played longer: “I’m sure I could have hit 500 (home runs). That’s all right. I’m very happy with (my career). I enjoyed my time in the big leagues.’’

Prior to the steroid era, 500 homers used to be an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame, along with 300 pitching victories and 3,000 hits. Had Kingman played two more years and reached that milestone he would have been an interesting test case.

As a Hall of Fame voter, I wouldn’t give him my vote because his numbers other than homers were terribly weak and non-deserving.

ON DECK:  Mets Matters: Today’s news and notes.

Feb 18

Today In Mets History: Pitchers And Catchers Report For First Time

On this date in 1962, Mets pitchers and catchers had their first workout in St. Petersburg. It is the first time the Mets’ uniform was seen in public.

The Mets have always struggled to find their own identity in New York, and part of that can be attributed to the design of their home uniform and colors. Orange was taken from the Giants; blue from the Dodgers, and pinstripes from the Yankees. If you consider Shea Stadium, the walls were Dodger blue and the foul poles were Giant orange.

There have been uniform modifications over the years, but basically the same color scheme with pinstripes.

Pitchers and catchers report today, undergo physicals tomorrow and have their first workout Saturday.

Manager Terry Collins will be away from the team for several days after the passing of his father, Loren Collins, 95, in Midland, Michigan.

 

Feb 17

Today In Mets History: Roger Craig Born

One of original Mets, pitcher Roger Craig, was born in Durham, N.C., on this date in 1930.

CRAIG: Happy Birthday to an original Met.

CRAIG: Happy Birthday to an original Met.

Craig was signed by Brooklyn in 1950 and broke in with the Dodgers five years later. He accompanied the team to Los Angeles and spent four years there before being selected in the expansion draft by the Mets prior to the 1962 season and pitched two years in the Polo Grounds and compiled a 15-46 record with a 4.14 ERA.

He became the answer to a trivia question when he started and lost the first game in Mets’ history.

Craig left the Mets following the 1963 season and went on to pitch with St. Louis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia and retired after 1966 with a 74-98 record, .430 ERA and 1.334 WHIP.

After he retired, Craig went on to manage San Francisco from 1986-1990, however his real niche was as a pitching coach where he taught the split-finger fastball.

Box Score: Craig’s first game as a Met.

Feb 02

Today In Mets History: Traded For Santana

In 2008, the Mets pulled off one of the most stunning trades in franchise history with the acquisition of Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for prospects Deolis GuerraCarlos GomezPhilip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

SANTANA: Became a Met today (AP)

SANTANA: Became a Met today (AP)

The Yankees and Red Sox were hot at the time after Santana in the free-agent market, but the Twins pitted them against each other until they got fed up and pulled out of the bidding. That opened the door for the Mets, but to seal the deal they were given a negotiating window and signed Santana to a six-year, $137.5 million contract.

It was a pricey deal in terms of salary and prospects, but it was supposed to put them over the top and return them to the playoffs. Santana’s first season was the only one in which the Mets had a winning record.

The fuel behind the trade was a late-season collapse in 2007 in which the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 remaining to reveal a lack of pitching. Santana’s best season with the Mets was his first when he went 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA in 34 starts, but underwent knee surgery following the year.

That would be a prelude of things to come, as he never again pitched a full season because of a variety of injuries and missed all of 2011 with a torn shoulder capsule. He returned in 2012 to pitch just 117 innings, but also author the only no-hitter in franchise history.

Santana re-injured his shoulder in spring training of 2013 when he rushed himself and threw against the program laid out for him and needed a second surgery. Santana went 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA during his tenure with the Mets, but his most important statistic was missing a potential 96 starts.

Santana is currently attempting a comeback with Baltimore.

Was it a good trade for the Mets?

In theory, they needed a pitching upgrade, but that wasn’t their only weakness. They especially needed to improve their bullpen. Of the players the Mets gave up, only Gomez became a viable player.

I thought the Mets gave up too much because there was no competition. With the Yankees and Red Sox gone, there was nobody else in the market. Plus, the Twins knew they had to deal him because there was no way they would re-sign him for anything close to what the Mets paid.

Nobody could question Santana’s heart, but I would have spent the money to fill other holes.