On this date in 2008, the FBI arrested investment advisor Bernie Madoff and charged him with securities fraud – specifically a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that wiped out thousands of people's life savings. It would later be revealed that Mets owner Fred Wilpon and minority shareholder Saul Katz had extensive business dealings with Madoff. How much they actually lost has been disputed, but the Mets owners did shell out $162 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged they either knew or should have known that Madoff’s operation was potentially fraudulent. Madoff later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Mets fans, many of whom have implored Wilpon to sell the team, have been effectively been sentenced to an indefinite period of mediocrity.
Two Bells are ringing in a personal new year today.
After a slow start in 2000, newcomer Derek Bell, who turns 44 today, caught fire in late April and went on an incredible tear for six weeks. He cooled off a bit, but still had a respectable .842 OPS as of August 9, then dropped off precipitously and finished the season at .773. Injuries cut his postseason short after one at-bat and his career ended a year later with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The right fielder won over a lot of Mets fans with his penchant for chatting with them between innings.
Infielder Jay Bell, 47, washed up on the shores of Flushing Bay in 2003 to finish his career. He fit right in with that season’s collection of under-performing retreads, including Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedono, Rey Sanchez, and Mo Vaughn.
The Mets made some big pitches for starting pitching on this date, acquiring the following in various maneuvers:
1962: Tracy Stallard: “Stalwart” Stallard, who surrendered Roger Maris’s then-record-breaking 61st HR (asterisk notwithstanding), was a fairly good pitcher by 1963-64 Mets standards.
1987: Wally Whitehurst and Kevin Tapani. Whitehurst, who had a great curveball and a penchant for being hit by batted balls, epitomized the Peter Principle: a decent reliever who proved incompetent when promoted to starter. Tapani, who went on to have a very good career, was among the five pitchers sent to the Twins for Frank Viola.
1991: Bret Saberhagen: When not sitting on the DL or squirting bleach at reporters, he was showing off the form that made him a two-time Cy Young Award winner with the Royals. In the strike-shortened 1994 season he went 14-4 for a sub-.500 Mets team, posting a 2.74 ERA and an unearthly 11.00 K/BB ratio.
2000: Kevin Appier and Steve Trachsel. Appier had an excellent year for the Mets and was rewarded with a trip to Anaheim to pitch for the World Championship-bound Angels. Trachsel could be maddening slow and methodical, especially with men on base, but after a rocky start and a demotion to the minors, he became a very reliable starter for the Mets through the 2006 season. After sitting out most of 2005 following back surgery, he went 15-8, despite an ERA of almost five, by consistently outpitching his opponents. He began to run out of gas in late August and, after winning the division-clinching game, had nothing left in the tank for the postseason.
Amazin’ly Tenuous Connection
On Dec. 11, 1816, Indiana became the 19th state. Thirteen Mets players hail from the Hoosier State, most notably Walt Terrell and Aaron Heilman, but the state's most significant – and beloved – contributions to the Amazins were Gil Hodges, skipper of the 1969 World Champions, and organist Jane Jarvis, who entertained the crowds at Shea Stadium from 1964 to 1979, most notably with her playful slow-it-down-then-speed-it-up rendition of the “Mexican Hat Dance” during the seventh-inning stretch.
Indiana also gave us radio legend Jean Shepherd, a diehard Mets fan who often waxed philosophically and humorously about his favorite team on his nightly WOR broadcasts in the '60s and early '70s. A number of these shows can be found via Google.
“You will not see a 100-1 [shot] team win the world championship again in your lifetime…The Mets did it–and they did it magnificently; there was no luck involved…There was just too much great play that went on to be luck.” –Jean Shepherd, October 1969
At 3 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 12, TBS will broadcast the "Big Shots" episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond," featuring 1969 Miracle Mets Tommie Agee, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, Art Shamsky, Ron Swoboda, and, most memorably, Tug McGraw.