Heading into the 2009 offseason, GM Omar Minaya had the unenviable task of rebuilding a team that had utterly fallen apart during the previous 162 games. Injuries decimated the roster, particularly the starting rotation as the Mets' top three pitchers from the year before, Johan Santana, John Maine, and Oliver Perez, all missed significant time. Needing depth, on December 21, 2009, Minaya offered a minor league deal to a 35-year old knuckleballer named R.A. Dickey. Here's what the Daily News had to say about the transaction:
Unlike [Javier] Vazquez, who joined the Yanks [via a trade with the Braves consummated the same day], Dickey is not a 15-game winner with an ERA under 3.00, but the signing is a move of some kind for the relatively quiet Mets.
For the record, Vazquez finished the 2010 season with a 10-10 record and a 5.32 ERA. Dickey, meanwhile won 11 games with a 2.84 ERA. If you're wondering how Amazin' Avenue covered the news, our own Sam Page was all over it. Here's the money quote:
This rumor excites personally because Dickey went to my high school. I actually photocopied a funny picture of him painting a bird or something out of an old yearbook in case this happened.
Perhaps Dickey was predicting his future as a member of the Blue Jays? Also, how sad is it that our R.A. Dickey is a member of the Blue Jays? The only thing that would cheer me up, aside from Alex Anthopolous's heart growing three sizes today and offering R.A. back to the Mets for a game worn Mike Nickeas jersey from the Mets Clubhouse Shop, would be to see that photocopy of Dickey's bird painting.
- Former farmhand Philip Humber is 30. One of the key prospects included in the trade that made Johan Santana a Met, Humber and the man he was dealt for both threw no-hitters this year. Both were pretty terrible after doing so, too. Batters hit .297/.372/.542 against Humber post-perfecto, while hitters smacked No-han to the tune of a .327/.377/.587 line. Yikes.
- Dave Kingman, the first Met to ever lead the league in home runs, is 64. Kong blasted 154 of his 442 career homers, including an NL-best 37 in 1982, over the course of two stints with New York. Kingman currently holds the fifth spot on the franchise home run list, a place in history he'll probably occupy for a while, as the nearest active challenger is Ike Davis, who sits in the #29 slot with 58 career four-baggers.
- Elliott Maddox turns 65. A versatile player, Maddox spent three seasons as a Met, suiting up in orange and blue at all three outfield positions, plus the infield corners. His one above-average skill was getting on base, managing a nice 143:109 BB/K ratio from 1978 to 1980, not to mention he was struck by a league leading six pitches in his last season at Shea. A convert to Judaism, Maddox is one of three former Mets in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, joining Shawn Green and Art Shamsky as members of that chosen few.
- Hot foot aficionado Roger McDowell is 52. A key member of Mets bullpen from 1985 to 1989, Roger racked up 84 saves in that time as the northpaw in manager Davey Johnson's closer platoon. He later gained notoriety in 1992 when it was revealed he was the "second spitter" in an infamous altercation with two loudmouth Mets fans.
- Lefty Royce Ring, one of the prospects heisted from the Chicago White Sox in return for the moldering remains of Roberto Alomar, is 32. Ring chucked 23-plus innings for the Amazins between 2005 and 2006 before being shipped to the San Diego Padres along with Heath Bell.
The Mets signed a pair of relievers that helped solidify the bullpens of playoff-bound teams on this date. In 1998, GM Steve Phillips inked Pat Mahomes to a two-year deal, though the lank right hander contributed most of his value to the team in his first Mets season, going 8-0 in relief for the '99 Wild Card champs. Exactly seven years later, Phillips's protégé Omar Minaya signed submariner Chad Bradford to a one-year contract. Used almost exclusively as a ROOGY in 2006, Bradford slung 62 innings of 2.90 ERA ball over 70 appearances, allowing just 59 hits and a lone home run.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On December 21, 1913, the New York World published Arthur Wynne's first "word-cross", a word game that, due to a typesetter's error several weeks later, would become known as the crossword puzzle. Fans of cruciverbalism and the Mets know that SHEA turns up in puzzles with regularity, often clued with some variation of "Mets' former home".