I couldn’t help noticing that both Hubie Brooks and Todd Zeile belong the category of Reacquired Mets, which is always an interesting one.
By my count (which is almost certainly wrong) there are 23 members of
this club, and a look at their mostly-not-august ranks shows how rarely
this works. What you’re hoping for is a Nice Comeback: Lee Mazzilli, Tom Seaver and Rusty Staub, though Seaver’s return got botched and Al Jackson was a story that should’ve been nice but didn’t wind up mattering much. Against that you have to set Bad Idea Comebacks: Bobby Bonilla, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedeno and Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Then there are Shrug Your Shoulders Comebacks (Mike Jorgensen, Dave Kingman, Bill Pulsipher), Aggressively Pointless Comebacks (Lenny Harris, Kevin McReynolds, and I guess Mr. Jackson), Second Comings of Inconsequential Players (Bill Almon, Mike Birkbeck, Jeff McKnight, Pete Walker), Weird Comebacks (Tim Foli, Bob L. Miller, Alex Trevino) and the one Truly Weird Comeback (Greg McMichael‘s reacquisition in the same season he was sent away). To this we can add Comebacks That Almost Were (Jesse Orosco, Seaver III before the mighty Barry Lyons stepped into the cage, others I’m no doubt forgetting) and Future Comebacks (Pat Mahomes is lurking somewhere, and I’d be shocked if some combination of Edgardo Alfonzo, Octavio Dotel, Alex Escobar, Mike Kinkade, Terrence Long, Melvin Mora, Jay Payton, John Thomson, Ty Wigginton and Vance Wilson
doesn’t return one day.) Todd Zeile’s return falls somewhere between
Nice and Aggressively Pointless; Hubie’s, alas, probably goes under Bad
Frank Viola, in retrospect, was
an early warning sign that we were about to embark on nearly a decade’s
worth of screwing things up. Like a rocket, the franchise managed to
keep going roughly sideways until the All-Star break at ’91. After
that, hoo boy. It’s getting a little Torborg in here.
I still maintain that Willie Mays
doesn’t merit a historical mulligan, though I admit this is probably
because I have no memory of seeing him play and only read about him.
(The same goes for Hank Aaron, who for me existed only as a 1976
Milwaukee Brewers baseball card.) The Say Hey Kid did get an iconic
moment out of pleading a call in the ’73 Series, but it didn’t work.
Kind of like the ’73 Series and his return.
In 1979 I proudly displayed the Topps ERA Leaders card (that’d be #7 in
the set) to all the little Yankee-fan dirt-bike kids who’d ride up and
down Miller Place demanding to know what I was doing with a ten-speed
and a Mets cap. “Look at that,” I’d say, “Craig Swan won the ERA title in the NL last year! So there!” The things I thought mattered.
God I loved Tank. Yep, in an alternate universe we’re tortured by having had two
consecutive postseasons turn to shit because players spectated instead
of running — Rey Ordonez wasn’t doing what he was supposed to, either.
Todd Pratt had a bad but
endearing habit of reverting to something close to fandom, possibly
derived from his exile in pizza delivery or all those nights of
cheering for Piazza, which he did wonderfully. I’ll always remember his
only barely sane mask of fury in the game Hampton won after the
Antichrist tried to decapitate Piazza. That night Pratt was every bit
as furious as I was and then some. He cared,
and in this era, you can’t count on that: Think of the nauseating story
of Shawn Estes and a gaggle of Mets giggling and chowing down with the
Antichrist and a bunch of Yankees in a Meatpacking District steakhouse
– we’ll save whether Estes lost the battle and won the war or vice
versa for another post. Tank wouldn’t have been at the table — and if
by coincidence he’d happened to be dining there, I know he would have
tried to put an end to the Antichrist with a steak knife or at least
crowned him with a gravy boat. You couldn’t always count on Tank to do
the right thing, but you could always rely on him to do the Right Thing.