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March 18 saw the comings and goings of two scrappy players held in very different esteem by the fan base.
Thirteen years ago on St. Patrick's Day, the Mets signed a Dominican outfielder with a vaguely Irish-sounding name. On March 18, 2000, the team acquired a lad of true Hibernian stock by trading for Joe McEwing of the St. Louis Cardinals. A seven-year veteran of the Cards minor league system, McEwing graduated from the farm in 1999 and, being a Caucasian slap hitter capable of manning multiple positions, he quickly became one of manager Tony LaRussa's favorites. That the Cardinals would be willing to part with Super Joe was a bit surprising, but Mets GM Steve Phillips dangled as trade bait the only archetype LaRussa loved more than the utility player capable of playing all positions without being good enough to start at any: a situational lefty.
To land McEwing, Phillips traded Jesse Orosco, the 43-year old southpaw he'd picked up in a swap with the Orioles just three months earlier. Had Orosco gone north with the New York in 2000, it would have marked his first appearance on a Mets roster since 1987. While a reunion 13 years in the making would have been cool, a nice story is pretty much the only thing of value the Mets lost by executing the deal. McEwing wasn't very good during his New York tenure (though he accumulate a career-best 1.3 rWAR in 2001), but Orosco broke down after just six appearances as a Cardinal and missed most of the 2000 season with assorted injuries. Plus, during the NLCS matchup between the two teams, Super Joe scored a pair of runs after being double-switched into the Mets lineup, which almost certainly had to steam Tony LaRussa enough to fog up his transition lenses. That alone makes the trade a win for the good guys.
The Mets and Luis Castillo parted ways on this date in 2011. Castillo's biggest sin, aside from dropping an eminently catchable pop up at Yankee Stadium, seems to be accepting a large amount of money that was not commensurate to his talent at the time, as if being ridiculously overpaid is not something we would all like to experience at some point in our own lives. Point being, if you put contract status aside and look aesthetically at how he played the game (a compact, line drive swing that deemphasized power, excellent bunting skills, value added through savvy base running, a willingness to play while injured), then Luis Castillo is a better version of Joe McEwing, minus the positional versatility.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Today would have been the 81st birthday of John Updike. He's probably best-known for his Rabbit Angstrom novels, but he also penned one of the great pieces of baseball journalism, Hub Fans Bid the Kid Adieu, a detailed profile of Ted Williams's last game. Williams memorably homered in his final MLB at-bat, a feat that several Mets have replicated, most recently Todd Zeile in 2004. To the best of my research skills, no one has described any of those blasts as "the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge," though I was in attendance for Zeile's fence-clearing line drive to left. I'd say, as far as metaphors go, it was like the bike path on the Pulaski Bridge: an afterthought added to a low-grade edifice that isn't fancy, but gets you from point A to B easier than the alternatives.