The '86 champs learned they'd have to defend their title without the services of postseason hero Ray Knight on this date in 1987, as the third baseman chose to ink a two-year deal with the Orioles rather than re-up for one with the Mets. The agreement earned Knight the distinction of becoming the first reigning World Series MVP to switch teams in the offseason. What it didn't gain him, however, was more money. The AAV of Knight's contract with Baltimore was only worth about 60% of what the Mets offered him to stay in Flushing. As he told Newsday at the time:
If you base it on the monetary situation, I made a mistake by not coming back to New York. The only thing is, I never would have dreamed that the free agent market would be like this.
One reason Knight may not have expected the bearish economic climate was the fact that, between 1985 to 1987, owners colluded to keep salaries down, a practice that would later cost them $280 million in damages payable to the Players Association. Was Knight a victim of the conspiracy? Hard to say. The Mets are probably in the clear, as their one year, take it or leave it offer included a $200,000 raise over his 1986 salary and, with Howard Johnson waiting in the wings, the ultimatum made baseball sense. Still, the deal Knight signed with Baltimore represented a 20% pay cut from what he earned in 1986. That's more or less in line with the 16% drop the average free agent salary experienced during the collusion years, which also happened to be the first time since the advent of unrestricted player movement that average free agent salary failed to increase. It's hard to imagine that no team, especially those that stuck luminaries such Tim Hulett and Steve Buechele at the hot corner, felt the 1986 Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year winner was worth at least what he made in said comeback season.
- Brian Daubach is 41. Originally drafted by the Mets in 1990, the team let Daubach walk as a minor league free agent six years later. He finally made it to the bigs around the turn of the century and had four consecutive 20-plus home run seasons for the Red Sox from 1999 to 2002. Daubach finally suited up for the franchise what picked him in 2005, cobbling together a .120/.324/.320 line across what proved to be the last 15 games of his MLB career.
- Steve Springer, another longtime Mets farmhand with a circuitous route to the big league club, turns 52. Springer also spent six years in the minors before getting traded to the White Sox in 1988. He returned in August 1992 and got two hits in five at-bats before once again descending the Mets' organizational ladder.
- A former first round pick out of Long Island's Islip High School, Tom Veryzer is 60. The Detroit Tigers took Veryzer, an all-glove, no stick shortstop, eleventh overall in the 1971 June amateur draft. Eleven years later, he hit a career-best .333/.362/.370 for the 1982 Mets, albeit in a career-low 58 plate appearances.
Omar Minaya made a nice international signing on this date in 2010 by getting Hisanori "Don't Call Me Ken" Takahashi "Don't Call Me Ken" to agree to terms. Tak2 proved to be an excellent swingman, starting 12 games (including a 10 strikeout performance against the Diamondbacks on July 31) and saving eight after closer Francisco Rodriguez busted his thumb in a fight with his girlfriend's father. Takahashi was worth 1.2 wins above replacement in 2010, according to Baseball Reference. for the record, that's roughly three times as valuable as Ken "Tak1" Takahashi was the year before.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff to resign the papacy since Celestine VI all the way back in 1294. The term pontiff comes from the Latin pontifex, which translates literally as bridge-builder. In a sense, a baseball manager is a bridge-builder between the front office and the players, so the last Mets pontiff to resign was George Bamberger on June 3, 1983. Pope Benedict XVI cited exhausting and "an advanced age" as his reasons for stepping down. Bamberger, meanwhile, told reporters during his farewell remarks that his decision to quit came after realizing, "the nature of managing is to suffer and I probably suffered enough."