The old baseball joke about rooting for laundry means that donning the orange and blue (in its various migrating shades, to say nothing of white and black) absolves players of their former misdeeds against us. Hit Piazza in the wrist at Fenway and get in a war of words with him? We love Pedro now. Dismantle our hopes year after year after year with that aloof look on his face while 29,000 or so do the chop in Atlanta? We love Tom Glavine now. Or rather we like him. Or rather we've grown to accept him.
By the same token, take off that uni and you're the enemy. Pleasant memories didn't make any of us transfer our loyalties when Steve Bieser was dancing down the line against David Cone. Lee Mazzilli's tenure as poster boy didn't temper our distemper any when he started freelance-umpiring from the first-base line. When Charlie O'Brien was punching John Cangelosi in the back of the head, it was obvious he was the devil. I still mourn Edgardo Alfonzo's departure and root for him to do well, but not when he's in the box against us.
And yet there are those guys who are laundry-proof, those souls who can't be redeemed by sticking a Met hat on their heads. Some we can't get used to seeing in our uniform and never grow to trust. Others we start off liking well enough before their baser qualities become apparent. Some are arriving mercenaries we've already formed an opinion of. Others are homegrown children we quickly want to disavow.
So who are our least-favorite Mets? We'll get to that in a bit, but first some attempts at ground rules.
Not just anybody is eligible, regardless of how many boos rained down on them at Shea or whether or not we find ourselves wandering around years later still fuming over some play they didn't make or some pitch they did. However infuriating it is to watch, simple incompetence (Paul Gibson, Mike Maddux, Roger Cedeno, Rich Rodriguez, Danny Graves) won't get you on the list. Being frustrating (Jay Payton, Kaz Matsui, Victor Zambrano) won't get you there either. If you were good elsewhere but terrible for us, that's not black mark enough: Mel Rojas and Carlos Baerga aren't on the list. Family members we're quarreling with at the moment but will eventually welcome back to the fold are exempt — relax, John Franco and Al Leiter. Being a bad seed somewhere else won't get you enshrined if you didn't do anything particularly objectionable for us: Garry Templeton and Mike A. Marshall are in the clear.
No, it takes more than incompetence or not living up to your potential or saying the occasional stupid thing or becoming a Yankee or just being a lunkhead. There's got to be something worse, something that still makes the blood boil, something that made Met fans dread the smirking approach of the Yankee fans in their offices or on their blocks during that player's tenure. Mental or physical incompetence that stemmed from not being prepared. Being a quitter, a lousy teammate, spectacularly obnoxious to fans or the media, a bad citizen, a traitor.
In other words, it's not nearly enough to be a bad baseball player or an OK baseball player who had a horrible minute or month or year — there are plenty of such players, and the vast majority of them were trying as hard as they could. To make the list of our Least Favorite Mets, you have to have done worse than that. You have to have made us suspect you're actually a bad person.