One of the most fascinating and frustrating players to ever don the blue and orange was acquired on this date in 1988 when the Mets sent first baseman Randy Milligan to the Pirates for lefty-swinging catcher Mackey Sasser. He showed a lot of promise as a back-up to Gary Carter in 1988 and 1989. When Carter departed, Sasser’s playing time and production increased. In 1990–91, in fewer than 500 at-bats combined, he hit 11 home runs and drove in 76 runs. His OPS+ of 110 through his first four years was well above what Carter produced in his last three years as a Met. Sasser’s best game was on the night of July 24, 1990, in Philadelphia, when he fueled a comeback win with a pair of two-run homers.
During that season, however, he developed a peculiar problem: He couldn’t return the ball to the pitcher. He would double clutch or tap the ball in his mitt several times, and, when he released the ball it sometimes resembled a pop fly and wasn’t always on target. He was even known to throw the ball back to the mound on a bounce. It proved a distraction, to say the least, for the Mets’ pitchers.
It became even more chronic and more pronounced the following year, creating a dilemma for manager Bud Harrelson, who needed Sasser’s solid bat in the lineup, especially against right-handers, and resorted to playing the troubled catcher at first base and right field on occasion. Sasser was second only to Howard Johnson among Mets hitters in slugging percentage (.417) in 1991.
Interestingly, Sasser’s quirk didn’t seem to affect his throwing to second base. His 29 percent caught-stealing percentage from 1989–1991 was only a few points below league average. But in 1992 he only threw out 15 percent of runners and his OPS dropped to .575. The Mets chose not to re-sign him when he became a free agent that winter.
Happy 45th birthday to Jose Vizcaino, who played a solid shortstop in 1994–95 and a pretty good second base in 1996. Getting him from the Cubs in exchange for Anthony Young was one of GM Joe McIlvaine’s better moves; trading Vizcaino and Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga… not so much. Worse still for the Mets was the trade the Dodgers made in 2000, sending Vizcaino to the Yankees for Jim Leyritz. In the long-standing tradition of former Mets coming back to haunt them, Vizcaino set the tone for the 2000 World Series with a walk-off RBI single for the Yankees in Game One.
Shawn Hare, 46 today, dropped by Shea Stadium in 1994 for the third of his four major league cups of coffee. His Mets moment came on June 22 that year, stroking a game-tying pinch single in the eighth inning that also put the eventual game-winning run into scoring position in a 5–2 win over the Braves.
Right-hander Mickey Weston, 52, barely had time to sip any coffee in each of his five yearly visits to the majors, the last with the Mets: four games from April 22 to May 9, 1993. Something of a Crash Davis on the mound, he finished his minor league career in 1996 with 117 wins, 79 losses, and 3.37 ERA, including AAA totals of 74–47, 3.46.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler turns 65 today. He would deserve a mention here if only for co-writing and singing the hit “Amazing” (ironically released in late 1993 after one of the least amazing seasons ever for the Amazins). I for one will always be “Crazy” (and never “Jaded”) about the Mets, even if they often leave me “Cryin’.” As for 2013, I’d like to think the Mets have “What It Takes” to win the division, but a voice inside me says, “Dream On.” Still, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” this season.