In a move that would prove crucial to the team's run for the Wild Card in the upcoming season, the Mets signed free agent Rickey Henderson on this date in 1998. The enormously talented Rickey, who would thrill fans with his speed and power one inning and exasperate them with his sometimes indifferent playing style the next, made a potent offense even more explosive. Not only was he the true leadoff hitter (.423 on-base percentage and 37 stolen bases) the Mets had lacked for so many years, but he also took Roger Cedeno under his wing – and the young outfielder responded, posting a .396 on-base percentage and stealing a club record 66 bases (eclipsed by Jose Reyes in 2007).
The presence of either speed merchant at the top of the batting order meant more fastballs for Edgardo Alfonso, a contributing factor to the second-baseman's career year. When not batting leadoff Cedeno usually batted seventh, helping Rey Ordonez post a career-high 60 RBI.
On Sept. 26, with the Mets sinking fast after losing five straight, Rickey's failure to run hard on a grounder, that was subsequently bobbled, turned what should have been a game-tying play into game-ending double play. But the Mets rebounded and Rickey helped them reach the NLCS. After being double-switched out of Game 6 against Atlanta, he retired to the clubhouse to play cards with Bobby Bonilla. Bonilla was vilified, but Henderson’s role was chalked up to “Rickey being Rickey.” A slow start and more indifferent play led to Rickey's early departure the following season.
Coincidentally, on this same date in 2001, the Mets re-signed Roger Cedeno, who had been traded with Octavio Dotel in the deal that brought Mike Hampton and Derek Bell on board in 2000. But the 2002 model Cedeno had reverted to the player his original team, the Dodgers, had given up on, which led to his first tour of duty with the Mets in the first place. Worse, his outfield play, never his strong suit, deteriorated as he was no longer capable of outrunning his mistakes. Other than a steal of home against the Yankees on June 29, 2002, he gave the Mets nothing to cheer about this time around.
A shuffling of the 1993 Mets’ defensive alignment opened the door for third-round draft pick Doug Saunders, who turns 43 today, to take over as the everyday second-baseman. After an impressive first few games, he fell off, was demoted, then brought back for another look in September. He finished with 0 RBI in 67 at-bats, a Mets club record we hope will never be broken.
Two of the 1969 Miracle Mets were born a year apart on this date. Back then they were usually found 60'-6" apart. Closer Ron Taylor is 75 today and backup catcher J.C. Martin turns 76. Taylor went unscored-upon in four postseason starts that year. Martin, in his only plate appearance in the 1969 World Series, sacrifice bunted in the 10th inning of Game 4 and reached base on an error when pitcher Pete Richert’s throw hit him in the back. It should have been ruled interference as Martin was clearly in fair territory, but instead the winning run scored and the Mets went up three games to one.
Happy 77th birthday to original Met Joe Christopher. The first Virgin Islander to ever play in the majors, he looked like he had put it all together in 1964, leading the team with 76 RBI and an .826 OPS – the latter a club record that no Met would even come close to until both Cleon Jones and Art Shamsky eclipsed it in 1969. But Christopher dropped off alarmingly the next year and after a handful of at-bats with Boston in 1966, his big league career was over.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Dartmouth College in New Hampshire received its charter on this date in 1769. Not quite 200 years later while the Mets were mounting a miracle, future GM Sandy Alderson graduated from that very institution. Son Bryn Alderson, class of ’03, is a Mets scout and David Howard, class of '82, has been in the Mets front office since 1992. Former Mets players Mark Johnson and Mike Remlinger are also Dartmouth alumni. All but Howard played for the Dartmouth baseball team, nicknamed the “Big Green” – and we bet the senior Alderson wished he had some “big green” to spend on free agents right now.