Steve Phillips was a busy man on December 1, 1998. The Mets GM orchestrated a three-way deal on this date, roping in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles into a trade that would net his team reliever Armando Benitez and outfielder Roger Cedeño. Phillips put the whole thing into motion by sending Todd Hundley, who'd been passed on the Mets depth chart by the recently resigned Mike Piazza, to L.A. for Cedeño and catcher Charles Johnson (who, incidentally, had been a part of the Marlins-Dodgers Piazza trade earlier in the year). The All-Star backstop was merely a paper Met, though, as he was immediately flipped to Baltimore for Benitez.
In Cedeño and Benitez, the Mets bought low on two youngish players who'd at one time been highly prospects, but were on the outs with their original teams. Both blossomed after the change of scenery. Particularly Benitez. His 1999 is one of the greatest seasons ever turned in by a reliever. In 78 IP, the fireballer struck out 128 batters (good for a 14.8 K/9) and allowed just 40 hits. Home runs would eventually become Benitez's bugaboo, but in '99, only four players took him deep, which helped him post a 1.85 ERA. Cedeño's breakout was less explosive, but still quite impressive. Given a chance to play everyday, the speedy Venezuelan got on base at a .398 clip, which gave him plenty of opportunity to swipe a then-Mets record 66 bags. The contributions the Mets received from these two players was a big reason the team's 13-year playoff drought came to an end in 1999.
- Tom Filer is 56. The righty ended his career with the Mets after appearing in nine mid-summer games with the 1992 club. Filer made one spot start in the back half of an Independence Day doubleheader at Shea and it went pretty well, allowing just one run over seven innings, but he took a no decision.
- Between 1966 and 1991, there was only one player who managed to hit more than 50 home runs in a season: George Foster, 64, who connected for 52 bombs in 1977 as a member of the Big Red Machine. The Mets acquired Foster five years after his MVP campaign, which also happened to be when the decline phase of his career began. The slugger's first two years in Flushing were brutal, though he rebounded in 1984 and '85 to put together somewhat useful low OBP/high SLG seasons. Foster's skills cratered in 1986, though, and the Mets released him in August to make room in the outfield for Lenny Dykstra and Mookie Wilson to play everyday.
- Cookie Lavagetto, one of the original coaches on Casey Stengel's staff, would have celebrated his 100th birthday today. Lavagetto's claim to fame came during the 1947 World Series, which he played in as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In Game Four, Dem Bums came within one out of being no-hit by the Yankees' Bill Bevens, but Cookie lashed a pinch hit, two-out, two run double to ruin the no-no, the shutout, and the win for Bevens.
- Julio Machado turns 47. A short right-hander with control problems of many sorts, Machado made his MLB debut for the Mets in 1989. Traded to the Brewers in August of 1990, Machado posted good numbers for Milwaukee, but his career ended the following year after he was arrested and subsequently convicted of murdering a woman in his native Venezuela.
- Frequent trading chip Greg McMichael is 46. The sidearmer came to the Mets from the Braves prior to the 1997 season in exchange for Paul Byrd. The following year, the team shipped him to Los Angeles for Hideo Nomo, only to reacquire him a month later for Brian Bohanon. McMichael remained with the Mets until the 1999 trade deadline, at which point they divested themselves of the reliever for good, sending him and Jason Isringhausen to the Oakland A's for Billy Taylor.
- Dan Schatzeder, 58, posted a sparkling 0.00 ERA for the 1990 Mets. Granted, he did it in just five and two-thirds innings and all but one of those frames came in a late September loss. Still, the margins of defeat could have been larger, had it not been for Schatzeder's staunching efforts.
- Current Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen turns 60 today, which surprised this blogger, seeing as Warthen has the orneriness of a man twice as old. Then again, it's possible he's just a habitual liar when it comes to his age.
- Finally, Herm Winningham is 51. A former first round pick, the fleet-footed outfielder stole 116 bases over the course of four seasons in the Mets minor league system. Herm earned a September call up at the end of 1984 and put together a ridiculous .407/.429/.519 line in 27 at-bats. Selling high, the Mets included him in the Gary Carter deal that offseason.
In addition to the trades profiled at the top, the Mets have made two other swaps on this date. On December 1, 1962, they sent the right-handed Bob Miller to the Dodgers for infielders Larry Burright and Tim Harkness. Eight years later, they shipped pitcher Ron Herbel to the Braves for third baseman Bob Aspromonte. Cumulatively, the Mets added -1.1 rWAR with these deals, so the team probably would have been better served by giving everyone in the front office December 1 off.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Fifty-two years ago today, the Beatles' run of shows in Hamburg, Germany came to an abrupt end, as Paul McCartney and then drummer Pete Best were deported after being arrested for attempted arson. Thankfully, the band brought their firebug tendencies under control by the time they played Shea Stadium five years later.