On this date in 2001, the Mets sent right-hander Kevin Appier to the Angels in exchange for Mo Vaughn. They signed the slugging first baseman to a three-year, $46.5 million contract, but only got one season plus one month of play out of him. Vaughn, who had sat out the 2001 campaign with injuries, suffered a career-ending knee injury early in May 2003 and would never play again.
Appier, who would help the Angels reach their first World Series in 2002, had been the Mets’ stealth ace in 2001. His stellar performance down the stretch was one of the biggest reasons the Shea faithful were able to entertain notions about returning to the postseason deep into September.
Speaking of entertaining, Vaughn was certainly that, especially when he backpedaled in search of foul pop-ups. He usually managed to snag the ball at the last, staggering second, occasionally losing his footing and tumbling to the ground, sending seismic shockwaves through the field boxes behind first base. And he could still put a charge into a ball with his bat. I was witness to Mo’s prodigious bomb, estimated at 505 feet, which put a dent high up on the Shea scoreboard on June 26, 2002. Ten days earlier his three-run 8th inning homer lifted the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Yankees.
Overall, however, Vaughn’s production that season (26 HR, 72 RBI, .805 OPS) was his lowest in 10 years. On defense, he committed a career-high 18 errors while his range continued to deteriorate from even his customary abysmal showing. In the lone month he played for the Mets the following season, he looked even worse. Epic Fail.
In his first two months with the Mets in 2002, 6-foot-7-inch right-hander Jeff D’Amico, who turns 37 today, looked as if he had regained his impressive 2000 form (12-7, 2.66 ERA with Milwaukee) and might just pick up the slack for the departed Kevin Appier. Then, almost predictably, it all unraveled for both D’Amico and the Mets.
Raul Gonzalez, 39 today, was one of several “AAAA”-caliber outfielders the Mets auditioned in the early treading-water years of the last decade who would spend all or most of their post-Mets careers in the minors. (See also: Diaz, Victor; Valent, Eric; Watson, Matt; et al.)
Happy 75th birthday to Bobby Klaus, a good glove with a light bat in the Al Weis vein, who played second base, third base, and occasionally shortstop for the 1964-65 Mets. One of his four home runs for the Amazins was a 10th-inning walk-off blast at Shea on April 15, 1965, to beat the Astros, 5-4.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Radio City Music Hall opened on Dec. 27, 1932. Among the acts on the bill that night — and every night since, as it turned out — were the Rockettes. In April 1993, Jennifer Jiles, a member of that world-famous dancing troupe, began hosting "DynaMets," a weekly baseball show for kids on the SNY precursor SportsChannel. She would win an Emmy for her work on the series. On August 26, 1996, just minutes before Bobby Valentine made his debut as Mets manager, the versatile Jiles and fellow members of her Third Rail Comedy ensemble sang the National Anthem at Shea.