Reliever J.J. Putz turns 36 today. Four years ago, he celebrated his 32nd birthday in Port St. Lucie as a newly-minted member of the Mets organization. Acquired from the Mariners in a massive three team, 12-player swap, Putz was supposed to shore up a Mets bullpen that posted a 5.63 ERA in the final two weeks of the 2008 season. The team went 6-8 in that same span (with relievers taking the L in three of those defeats) as and, for the second consecutive year, failed to convert a slight divisional lead into an opportunity to play meaningful October games.
Of course, the bullpen wasn't the reason that the Mets missed the postseason in 2009. The team was beset by injuries, literally hamstrung in some cases, and Putz was one of the more severe casualties. Nor should that have come as a surprise. GM Omar Minaya chose to trade for J.J. despite knowing (according to an ex post facto statement released by the Mets in 2010) that the reliever had been throwing with a bone spur in his elbow since 2008. While, true to the Mets' assertion, Putz was able to deliver pitches with the osteophyte nestled in his right arm's hinge joint, they weren't of the command or quality of the BBs he tossed during his peak with Seattle. By the end of May, the pain proved too much and he elected under for campaign-ending surgery. The Mets elected not to pick up Putz's option at year's end and he signed with the White Sox for 2010. Since recuperating under the watch of baseball's best training staff, Putz has regained most of his All-Star form.
Between 1962 and 1965, the Mets were the NL's worst or second-worst team in terms of scoring runs. On February 22, 1966, GM George Weiss set out to bolster the team's anemic offense by trading OF Wayne Graham, IF Bobby Klaus, and C Jimmie Schaffer to the Phillies for slugger Dick Stuart. At the time of the deal, Stuart was coming off a five-year stretch in which he'd connected for 154 homers, peaking with 42 in 1963. Unfortunately for the Mets, the 33-year old Stuart must have left his big stick in the clubhouse of Connie Mack Stadium, as he only popped four over the wall during lone New York season. Nor could he provide any value on defense. Stuart was one of the worst fielding first basemen of the era and his lack of fielding prowess became a running joke for movie and pun loving sportswriters, who dubbed him Dr. Strangeglove (excellent), the Man with the Iron Glove (OK), and Stonefingers (just awful).
Despite Stuart's utter lack of production, the Mets actually wound up ahead in this trade. Of the three players George Weiss shipped to Philadelphia for E-3PO (only tangentially film-related, but nevertheless strong, I think), only Schaffer appeared on the the Phillies' roster and that was for all of ten games.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Per an agreement worked out in the the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, the Kingdom of Spain sold Florida to the United States on this date for five million dollars. Not a bad price, but had America passed on the deal, we would have been spared horrors such as Disneyworld, hanging chads, the most depressing episodes of Cops, instances of road rage that somehow escalate into full-on face-eating, and the Miami Marlins, which makes it's hard to say it was a wise use of government funds. Still, seeing the Mets during spring training is a blast and it's a quick flight from LaGuardia to Port St. Lucie, so you take the good with the bad.