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/Part three.
We left off in 2001, where we were ready to rebuild. Instead of "rebuilding," we tried to continue to build upon the aging stars who graced the diamond at Shea. You can't create a durable structure on a fragile and old foundation.
The Mets fell for the common misconception, as did many, joining the New York Yankees in the old “if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em,” game plan entering the 2002 season.
It has yet to pay off for the Yankees, but hey, maybe spending $400 million on C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira will change that.
Anyway, Steve Phillips decided if we can’t BEAT the other team in New York, we should BECOME them! Phillips signed Mo Vaughn, drained our farm system to trade for Roberto Alomar, and even brought Jeromy Burnitz and his hickory bat back for a second helping in New York.
How did those enormous moves work out for us? They put us in the dumpster for a few years. We’re actually still paying Big Mo. No joke. He took a deferred payment plan, kind of like what Ichiro has with the Mariners.
Our pitching staff was still atrocious, and Fonzie and Piazza couldn’t carry the team on their backs.
Vaughn played in a decent amount of games in ’02, but then a knee injury permanently sidelined him a month into the ’03 season.
Alomar was miserable as a Met, atop the list of worst second basemen in Mets history. To be atop this list is quite an accomplishment. Luis Castillo has a chance to overtake him, but only if he sticks around through the rest of his contract.
There isn’t much else to say about 2002. It was Bobby Valentine’s last year at the helm.
Following the embarrassing ’02 campaign, we looked even worse in ’03. Art Howe replaced Bobby V., and Steve Phillips was fired during the season, but not before he brought Tom Glavine, Cliff Floyd, and Jae Weong Seo aboard.
Phillips also managed so sign a Japanese player by the name of Kazuo Matsui before he rode the magic whirlpool down Flushing’s toilet.
Jim Duquette replaced Phillips, and we had no idea what nightmares lay ahead with him.
Steve Trachsel and Al Leiter were our only pitchers worth anything in ’03, and our infield was a long way from where it was four years earlier:
Jason Phillips/Vance Wilson, Roberto Alomar, Rey Sanchez, and Ty Wigginton instead of John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez, and Robin Ventura.
We brought up Jose Reyes in the ’03 season, but he was just an injury-prone youngster then. He did decently, but wasn’t anything to get excited about. Mets fans knew better.
We finished last in the division, 16.5 games worse than the Expos, and we were the only team in the NL East under .500.
Everyone kept their jobs. We won’t impeach Obama if he can’t clean up this economic mess after a year, right?
So let’s have a little faith for ’04. We can work our way back into this. We’ve got some great youth on tap, including Reyes, a kid named David Wright, and another flame-throwing lefty by the name of Scott Kazmir.
Enter: Jim Duquette
Looking back on the 2004 season, we never should have had any expectations as Mets fans.
Mike Piazza was trying out first base, Vance Wilson and Jason Phillips shared duties behind the plate, Jose Reyes was our injured second-baseman, Kaz Matsui played shortstop, and Ty Wigginton was at the hot corner before we traded him for Kris Benson and brought up Wright.
It’s easy to write off this team now, but I guess in ’04 we still had high hopes. You know, like the Pirates and Royals do each year until a dozen games into the season.
We were all in denial about Piazza’s health and ability, optimistic about his move to first, we actually liked Matsui (see: home run in first at-bat two seasons in a row), and again, we had all the youth on tap.
Look at this outfield: Cliff Floyd, Mike Cameron, Richard Hidalgo. No, this wasn’t 2000 or ’01. This was ’04. Yuck.
The most notorious move for the Mets in ’04 will haunt us…forever. I know I’ll never get over it.
We were still apparently “buyers” at the trading deadline, so Mr. Duquette made a swap with Tampa Bay.
Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Victor Zambrano. No, not Carlos. VICTOR.
We all know how that worked out. And this isn’t one of those “in retrospect” things. We all knew it the moment the deal was done: Big mistake.
Al Leiter was the only starter over .500 and Tom Glavine still couldn’t beat the Braves.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve hit rock bottom.
Coming soon: Part Five: Save us, Omar Minaya
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I appreciate the reads, comments, and feedback. Keep reading, and even more, keep writing!