Joe Orsulak became a Met 20 years ago today, signing a three-year deal worth about $2.4 million. Some might say that Orsulak, whose numbers were unremarkable, was overpaid. Maybe so. But in 1993, on “The Worst Team Money Could Buy,” he was a bargain. We Mets fans spent a good deal of that bad-deal season alternately booing its core of overpaid and unlikable "superstars," shaking our heads at the decline of the last holdovers from the ’86 World Champions, and rooting in vain for some young up-and-comers to up their game and come into their own. Then there was Joe.
Joe Orsulak was a hard-nosed, grind-it-out everyman who seemed to be everywhere, playing all three outfield positions as well as first base and hitting anywhere from leadoff to sixth in the batting order as needed. He was a pretty good defensive outfielder with a strong arm, as his 10 assists in 1993 will attest. Left field was his best position, where his eight Total Zone Runs was fifth best in the NL that year.
He did have some adventures in the field, however, but that just made him more fun to watch. I seem to recall him sometimes taking a circuitous route to a fly ball, getting himself turned around the wrong way and looking a bit lost, only to spear the ball with a last-second stretch or lunge. On offense, his home/road splits show that he did his best work at Shea, another reason to root a little harder for this Regular Joe.
Bobby Bonilla made more than nine times what Orsulak was paid in 1993. The Mets might have been better off spreading Bobby Bo’s salary around to pay for eight more Orsulak-type players. They probably would have won more than 59 games and they certainly would have been more fun to watch.
Joe Orsulak hung around for two more seasons, outlasting the likes of Bonilla, Eddie Murphy, Vince Coleman, and Tony Fernandez. His last hurrah was an unsuccessful audition with the Mets in March 1998. Orsulak is a largely forgotten Met who deserves to be remembered.
Happy 47th birthday to Willie Blair. He pitched very well in his two months with the 1998 Mets and one wonders if they might have grabbed the Wild Card spot had he been given a few more starts in place of, say, the struggling Hideo Nomo. Blair was traded in the offseason for Met-on-paper Joe Randa who, coincidentally, is also celebrating a birthday today — his 43rd.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
On Dec. 18, 1888, Robert Moses, New York’s megalomaniacal master builder and urban planner, was born. “The Power Broker” was indirectly responsible for the existence of the New York Mets. Moses played hardball with Walter O’Malley in the mid-1950s, insisting that if they wanted a new ballpark, the BROOKLYN Dodgers would have to relocate to Queens. Ironically, the site O’Malley wanted for a park to replace Ebbets Field – a site the mass-transit-hating Moses deemed unsuitable despite it being just a few blocks from more than half a dozen subway lines and the Long Island Railroad – is the present location of the Barclays Center. The Dodgers left town, the Giants followed, the Mets were created to fill the void... and Moses got his ballpark in Queens.