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We also wave a birthday hello to former coach Cookie Rojas.
A quick look at some of the spring training action on this date may help put some of the current goings-on in Port St. Lucie in perspective.
On March 6, 2007, 20-year-old Mike Carp struck a bases-clearing double and drove in two more in a 7-2 win over Houston. He looked like the first baseman of the future, yet less than two years later he was deemed expendable, going to Seattle in the ill-fated trade that netted the Mets Sean Green, J.J. Putz, Shawn Green, and Jeremy Reed. An account of that same game also sang the praises of 22-year-old sidearmer Joe Smith, comparing him more than favorably to the departed Chad Bradford. Smith would also be a pawn in the above-mentioned deal.
On this date in 2006, it was Lastings Milledge who was being lauded as a can’t-miss prospect and impressing onlookers by choking up with two strikes to deliver a sharp single to contribute to the Mets' 6-3 victory that day.
In 2001, Robin Ventura went 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI as the Mets trounced the Marlins, 13-1. He looked poised for a bounce-back season, but his power and run production that season would continue to slide downward.
In an account of that day’s action, manager Bobby Valentine waxed philosophic about the vagaries of spring training, pointing out that the previous March Jon Nunnally was a lock to be in the Mets’ outfield mix while Benny Agbayani was ticketed for AAA. Both made the club, but Nunnally would be gone by the end of May while Agbayani made 415 plate appearances and cemented his folk hero status with a game-winning pinch grand slam in Japan and walk-off 13th inning home run in the NLDS.
On March 6, 1998, Preston Wilson singled and scored the winning run in the ninth inning of the Mets' 9-8 win over the Royals. We all looked forward to seeing Mookie’s son patrolling the outfield at Shea for years to come, but we only got a brief glimpse of him wearing blue and orange. The Mets used him to land Mike Piazza, so we can’t carp about that.
Cookie Rojas celebrates his 74th birthday today. He served for four years (1997-2000) as Bobby Valentine’s third base coach and infield instructor. In the latter role he presided over “The Best Infield Ever” in 1999, when John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez, and Robin Ventura collectively made only 27 errors and posted a mark of 81 runs saved above average, and all but Alfonzo would be awarded Gold Gloves. Rojas missed most of the NLCS that year, however, having been suspended five games for shoving umpire Charlie Williams during the Mets' NLDS clincher against Arizona. And it was Rojas, ever the stand-up guy, who fell on his sword during the World Series against the Yankees, taking the blame for waving Timo Perez to his doom after the outfielder’s sightseeing tour around the bases.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court handed down its infamous Dred Scott decision, ruling that Scott, a slave, could not sue for his freedom in federal court. Parallels to this case would be drawn when Curt Flood refused to be traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies and challenged the legality of the reserve clause, bringing an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against Major League Baseball before the Supreme Court. This inspired columnist George F. Will to refer to Flood as “Dred Scott in spikes.” Among the other players in that deal were Cookie Rojas and Tim McCarver, as well as Willie Montanez, whom the Cards eventually sent to the Phils in place of Flood.
March 4 — Several Birthdays, Darren Oliver Beats Jordan One-on-One
March 3 — Jorge Julio's Birthday, City Won't Present Giants with a New Stadium