The following is an elaborate spin-off of an essentially live blog entry I wrote in August as the New York Mets bullpen blew a lead for Johan Santana for the sixth time in the 2008 season. Part one/Part two.
Well, we’ve got 1999 out of our way, it’s clear sailing from here!
Let’s pretend 10 seasons in between never happened and jump right 2009!
Damn. I can’t get away with that without a few people (Yankees, Braves, Cardinals, and Phillies fans) calling me out.
Here’s how 2000 went down. If there are any Yankees fans reading this, stop. Just stop. Go away. Go read this despicable article written by my front-running co-blogger. Thanks.
It’s unfair to call the 2000 season a hangover from 1999, but it’s impossible to argue our team got better in the offseason. Our boy Johnny O headed home to Seattle to be closer to his family, so we replaced him with Todd Zeile.
Getting Zeile to fill Olerud’s shoes is like when Tino came to the Bronx in place of Donnie Baseball. It’s hard to like the new guy right away. Tino helped the Yankees win four rings. Zeile didn’t do the same with the Mets.
I will admit I took Zeile for granted, but it’s only because he was 10-times more appealing than the man who eventually replaced him. In time, friends, in time. Big Mo Daddy will get his moment in the spotlight.
Derek Bell, Jay Payton, and Benny Agbayani roamed the outfield at Shea, and when Ordonez went down with injury, Melvin Mora got his chance in the spotlight, playing shortstop. He was looking great, and I think all Mets fans loved him.
Then our good buddy Steve Phillips traded him to the Orioles for Mike Bordick. More on Phillips later.
Mike Hampton joined the Amazins' pitching staff, as did Glendon Rusch.
Ah, highlights of the 2000 season: Agbayani threw a live ball to a kid in the stands, thinking it was the third out, prompting the infamous Rick Reilly zinger:
“Mets fans root for outfielder Benny Agbayani, who once tossed a live ball into the stands. Yankees fans root for infielder Chuck Knoblauch, who once tossed a live ball to first base.”
Score one for...neither of us. His World Series article is archived here.
I thought Matt Franco’s game-winning hit off Mariano Rivera in the regular season Subway Series was in 2000. Turns out it was in ’99. I dropped the ball there.
Instead, I’ll share another favorite memory. Trailing 8-1 against the Braves, the Mets put up a 10-spot in the eighth inning, capped by a Piazza three-run bomb. Where would we be without him?
Speaking of Piazza and interleague play, a Roger Clemens fastball met Piazza’s head during the regular season, putting him on the disabled list for awhile, and adding fuel to the already fired-up rivalry.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe our “retaliation” was an 84 mph Glendon Rusch “fastball” to the lower part of Tino Martinez’s back. Thanks for the closure, Glendon.
Our starting rotation was solid all year, each pitcher winning at least 11 games, and our position players were solid, too, led by stellar seasons by Alfonzo and Piazza.
In addition to all the regulars being great, our pride and joy was on our bench. We again had some of the best role-players in the game.
Joe “Mini-Mac” McEwing (thanks to Tyler S. for reminding me), pinch hitter extraordinaire Lenny Harris, Jason “really hot wife” Tyner, and fan-favorite Timo Perez all played special roles.
Still no division title, but 94 wins and another wild card berth were on tap. It was still impossible to beat out the Braves for the division. They had John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and TOM GLAVINE!
We entered the playoffs with confidence, beating the Giants in the division series. As luck would have it, the Cardinals beat the Braves! Memorable moments from the 2000 NLCS include beating the late Darryl Kile, who was mentioned in part one for throwing a no-hitter against the Mets earlier in his career, and Rick Ankiel not getting out of the first inning of his start in Game Two due to…wildness?
It was the beginning of the end of his pitching career. Nice to see things have worked out for him eight years later.
None of us will forget the image of Timoniel Perez catching the final out and jumping up and down wildly. Little did we know Timo was at the top of the mountain right there, and fell fast out of New Yorkers’ hearts.
Due to the pain and anguish I suffered writing about the ’99 season, I’ll make this next part as quick and as painless as possible.
As I alluded to in part one, Jose Vizcaino came back to haunt us by getting the game-winning hit in game one for…ah, I can’t remember which team we played in the World Series.
Vizcaino got the hit off Armando Benitez. If you caught the foreshadowing (I may have actually noted it) in part two, it was the second time he blew a save against a bitter rival in the playoffs in two years.
I don’t think we liked him anymore after that.
Game Two was everyone’s favorite to talk about. Clemens and Piazza met again for the first time since the head-hunting incident earlier in the season.
Piazza fouled off a pitch, breaking his bat, and Clemens greeted him by throwing a shard of it in his general direction. Just about everyone in the stadium and watching anywhere in the world was at a loss for what had happened.
Maybe he ingested something which gave him extra rage as a side effect (still can’t sue me).
Piazza homered later in the game off Jeff Nelson, but we still lost. I hate Roger Clemens.
Everything from there is pretty much an insignificant blur until the last out, where Piazza flied out to Bernie Williams. It looked like a home run off the bat, but didn’t even travel 350 feet before it was said and done.
I’m over it. We’ll get ‘em next year!
Not exactly. Heartbreak two years in a row (sounds eerily familiar, except we’ve upstaged ourselves of late with THREE straight heartbreaking years) was too much for the team to rebound from in 2001.
Mike Hampton bounced (dodged a bullet there), and rather than replacing him with any of the Athletics’ GOOD pitchers, we acquired sloppy seconds, if not thirds, in Kevin Appier.
In hopes of finding the next Ichiro (part one), we signed import Tsuyoshi Shinjo. He was a fan favorite, and his orange arm bands were great, overshadowing the fact he…didn’t meet our standards.
The bullpen was the same, highlighted by Turk, Cook, Franco, and Benitez. Rick Reed was still the man when he was healthy, and Steve Trachsel started his tenure with the Mets. I’ll always be on the fence with Trachsel. I liked him, but didn’t love him. Giving him the ball wasn’t like giving Josias Manzanillo or Anthony Young the ball, but it also wasn’t like giving Leiter the ball.
Desi Relaford joined our Amazin’ bench for a year, and Fonzie began his downfall. Terrible culmination to a rollercoaster three years for the Mets.
82-80. Time to "rebuild."
Coming soon: Part four: If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.