When C.J. Wilson delivers his first offering to Desmond Jennings at 5:07 p.m. ET this afternoon, it will officially open the fifth consecutive MLB postseason without your New York Mets on the marquee.
It's not easy to write that. Who among you truly believed it was possible as we coped with what Yadier Molina did to cap the 2006 NLCS, or in the fleeting moments of 2007 before the Collapse was complete? I'm supposed to be rooting for the Mets right now, not adopting another club's plight for playoff glory.
I have no say in that matter, but I can at least continue to root for players and managers who adorned the orange and blue in a former life in hopes that at least they can lift a World Series trophy on their former Mets teammates' behalf. So if you're looking to live vicariously through someone else's favorite team this October, here's a partial and very un-scientific list of recommendations about who should be your de-facto favorite player during the ride.American League
Pedro Feliciano, New York Yankees -- I have this longstanding policy that the easiest Yankees to root for are the ones who aren't playing. For Perpetual Pedro, it's doubly enjoyable considering the frustration he inflicted on the Yankees' bullpen shortly after concluding his long Mets tenure. Sure, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman likes to blame the Mets for abusing Feliciano over the years. And a quick glance at the back of Feliciano's baseball card would also reflect the reliever's heavy workload in his years at Shea and Citi Field. And a brief review of Mets blogs and chatter would've reflected a concern that Feliciano's magic carpet ride had to end one of these years.
Don Zimmer, Tampa Bay Rays -- Rays owner and longtime Mets fan Stuart Sternberg isn't cutting any checks to ex-Mets this postseason, but he is ponying up some dough to pay for the services of one on the bench. Zimmer's best days certainly happened elsewhere, from his playing days with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers as well as the Chicago Cubs to his managerial turns in Chicago, Boston, and elsewhere. Or maybe you just associate him as Joe Torre's old bench coach with the Yankees, the one who Pedro Martinez threw to the ground in self-defense from a charging bald bull.
Zimmer's an original Met, though -- a dyed-in-the-wool 1962 vintage that played all of 14 games for the Amazin's that year before being dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in May. That should give him a pass in case Jonah Keri's The Extra 2% didn't woo you about the good things going down in Tampa these days.
Omir Santos, Detroit Tigers -- Some might call it an Omiracle that the light-hitting Santos caught on with another Major League club after failing to stick with the Mets following his 2009 season. But hey, someone needs to back up Alex Avila and that's a role where a replacement-level catcher of Santos's caliber will do little damage to a club's playoff chances. Santos only appeared in 11 games for the Tigers this season and started six, but did see a reasonable amount of action in September while posting a repetitive .286/.286/.286 slash line in the league's final month.
But Santos will be easy to root for because he adorned one of the more memorable Mets t-shirts in recent memory. Maybe not memorable for all the right reasons, but it still left a mark that countless others failed to leave in the short stints in Flushing. It's at least more of a mark than what was left by Tigers batting coach Lloyd McClendon, who was drafted by the Mets in 1980 but was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before reaching the Majors.
Darren Oliver, Texas Rangers -- Yes, Darren Oliver is still in the league. Yes, Oliver is still effective with a 7.6 bWAR since departing the Mets for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim following the 2006 season. He was an afterthought in 2006 following a year where was released from two different minor league organizations, but the Minaya touch unearthed another gem that added gusto to the southpaw's second wind in the Majors.
Oliver was on the roster for the last Mets playoff appearance, which should make it even easier for you to root him on. He'll also be joined by fellow 2006 teammate Endy Chavez, another player who needs no introduction to Mets fans. And Oliver will be cheered on by a few ex-Mets alumni in Rangers co-owner Nolan Ryan and pitching coach Mike Maddux.
Brian Schneider, Philadelphia Phillies -- Ok, so maybe Schneider's now plying his trade for the club he idolized growing up, the very same club that sent the Mets to the playoff exile now reaching its fifth year. He was the guy charged with replacing Paul Lo Duca, which wasn't terribly difficult from the performance perspective but moreso from the fans' point of view. And he only arrived as the end result of Omar Minaya trading Lastings Milledge well after the outfielder's star prospect status had faded away.
Schneider never did anything terribly wrong, though. He didn't hit that well, but covered up his shortcomings at the plate with his respected defense behind it. He earned $9.8 mllion for his services across 2008 and 2009, but the Washington Nationals signed him to that contract. He might ultimately be forgettable in Mets history, but he's probably easier for Mets fans to root for than Phillies third base coach Juan Samuel.
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers -- After watching Jason Isringhausen show his age and Bobby Parnell show his unpreparedness for prime time, it's perfectly OK to admit that you miss K-Rod a little -- and not just because the Mets are paying $5.9 million for the privilege of seeing their former closer pitch for another team.
Yes, Minaya overpaid him and yes that 2012 vesting option hung over Metsopotamia like a guillotine's blade. Let none of that blind you to the fact that he was one of the more effective Mets relievers in recent years. Maybe not $17.5 million good, but good enough. Then again, Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez was one of the linchpins that brought Johan Santana to Flushing. So it's a toss up, but there's no losers here.
Octavio Dotel, St. Louis Cardinals -- Speaking of ex-Mets closers, the Cardinals reliever has seen his share of success as one but never accrued a save as a Met. Dotel was still a starter back in 1999, but his mixed progress to that point left him vulnerable to be included in the trade by then-GM Steve Phillips that brought Mike Hampton to New York.
He was a victim of Phillips's strategy to mortgage the future for a shot at the 2000 Subway Series, but that never gets mentioned much as Hampton's departure ultimately resulted in the Mets drafting David Wright. Dotel battled injuries that stole the shine from his prospect star, but that trade combination contributed more to the Mets than anything Cards third base coach Jose Oquendo ever provided in his short stint with the team back in 1983 and 1984.
J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks -- The D'backs meteoric rise to the MLB Posteason resulted in a thorn in Mets' fans sides finally being dislodged. With Arizona KOing any chance for the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants to repeat, it means this 2011 postseason will be the first since the Collapse of 2007 in which Guillermo Mota will have nothing to do over the next few weeks.
Putz didn't exactly win the hearts and minds of the Shea Faithful with an injury-plagued and sub-par tenure, but it was the comments following his departure about his handling by the team's medical staff that finally made the media focus in on what Mets fans knew what a glaring problem under Minaya. That's more than current teammates and Mets expats Xavier Nady and Henry Blanco as well as current D'Backs hitting coach and former Mets bench coach Don Baylor ever contributed, and for that, we thank him.