Rick Reed Overcomes Controversy to Help Put the Mets Back in Contention

Jamie Squires / Getty Images

A pitcher with a lot of baggage earns a ticket to the World Series.

When the New York Mets signed free agent right-hander Rick Reed on November 7, 1995, nobody really noticed. After all, here was a 31-year-old journeyman with an underwhelming track record who was clearly ticketed for Norfolk.

The most notable item on his resume was the uncomfortable fact that, in the spring of 1995, he chose to become a replacement player. Even that aspect generated little more than a shrug at the time and wouldn't become a talking point until he was invited to spring training in 1997. The talk became more heated as he appeared to be pitching his way onto the opening day roster.

His status, or lack thereof, with his teammates is well documented in Amazin' Avenue and elsewhere. We won't dwell that here other than to say it does tend to tarnish what otherwise is a feel-good story of how, in baseball, those unnoticed, humdrum player moves can turn out to pay huge dividends.

"I decided to do what I did and I had my reasons, but in a way I feel differently now. I don't feel like I'm part of the team. I wouldn't say I've been ignored. But I'm not one of the boys." (NY Daily News)

Rick Reed became a linchpin in the Mets resurgence during that late ‘90s and early ‘00s, not only helping them reach the postseason twice, but pitching outstanding ball in seven of his eight NLDS/NLCS/WS starts. True, Reed pitched for some pretty good offensive Mets teams, not to mention having one of the greatest infields of all time behind him--no small factor for a groundball pitcher who averaged only six strikeouts per nine innings. But the bottom line is that Rick Reed's Mets winning percentage of .621 trails only that of Dwight Gooden. He was their stealth ace.

He was dealt to the Twins late in 2001 for Matt Lawton, one of the last of a dying breed of Astroturf hitters, whose unspectacular offense in a Mets uniform did little to keep the team from falling short of a third consecutive post-season appearance, nor did it earn him a return ticket for 2002. I hated to see Reed go. While the replacement player controversy still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I have to concede that Rick Reed is nonetheless one of my favorite Mets of all time.

"I wish I could've ended my career in New York. When I was traded, I was tore up... there's no place like New York." (NY Daily News)

Birthdays

  • Willie Collazo is 33 today. The diminutive lefthander (as Bob Murphy would've called him) pitched only 5.2 innings for the Mets in September of 2007, mostly in blowouts, making him more spectator than perpetrator in the collapse from Hell that year.
  • Happy 38th birthday to lefty Glendon Rusch, a solid performer for the last Mets team to reach the World Series. He kicked it up a notch in the 2000 post season, the highlight being Game Four of the NLDS. After Bobby Jones staggered through four innings and left the game with a tenuous 8-6 lead, Rusch slammed the door on the Cardinals for three innings to pick up a well-deserved win and put the Mets ahead three games to one.
  • Say what you will about Kris Benson, also 38 today, but his 10-8 / 4.13 season in 2005 was actually a career best for him. He might have had even better numbers if Rick Peterson hadn't been so busy fixing Victor Zambrano.
  • Andy Tomberlin, who turns 46 today, was a pretty good bench player in 1996, compiling an .810 OPS primarily as a pinch hitter.
  • That fact that Orlando Mercado, who celebrates his 51st birthday today, was behind the plate in one quarter of the Mets games in 1990 is all you need to know about the Mets catching situation between the departure of Gary Carter and the emergence of Todd Hundley.
  • In February 1966, the Mets traded for Dick Stuart, who would have been 80 today. He was only 33 and coming off a 28HR/96 RBI season with the Phillies, so the Mets expected a little better than the 4 HR/13 RBI/.356 SLG that he compiled in the 31 games before they released him. He did, however, show off the defensive prowess that earned him the moniker "Dr. Strangeglove." To obtain his services, they had to give Philadelphia Wayne Graham, Bobby Klaus and Jimmie Schaffer, so at least the Mets came out ahead on the deal.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection

November 7, 2012, is the birth date of Andrew White, founder and first president of Cornell University. Among that institute's notable alumni are a handful of major league ballplayers and a successful hedge fund manager named David Einhorn, who briefly shone a light through the post-Madoff gloom. In May of 2011, the Mets announced that Einhorn had agreed to buy a minority share in the team for $200 million with the option to purchase a majority stake after three years for $1 if Fred Wilpon could not meet his financial obligations by then. In all-too-familiar Mets second-half-swoon fashion, the deal fell through and by September 1st negotiations were called off.

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