(Before we proceed into the second circle of Met Hell, a word about a special brand of offseason Hell for baseball fans: evaluating a trade without getting to see the principals play ball. My 30-second take on Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady is that it's impossible to size up offseason trades and signings one by one. You have to wait until you're breaking camp in March, because all those offseason moves fit into the kind of plan you can't assemble during the regular season, when each day brings a win or a loss and a changed situation while you're scrambling for more pieces. Nady, if he stays, strikes me as a good complement to Mike Jacobs in a first-base platoon, which would eliminate one problem from this winter's lengthy list and free up some money to address the others. I'm also not sure what the trade's detractors thought we could get for Mike Cameron, a prince of a guy but a flawed hitter playing out of position and trying to recover from a devastating injury. For much more than 30 seconds' worth, check out Metsblog.com and MetsGeek.com. I think I reloaded those two sites approximately 15,000 times this afternoon.)
Those of you still left, well, let's move on to the exercise at hand. Dante's second circle of Hell was reserved for those overcome by lust, and while things are different in Met Hell, bad reputations are a factor here as well. For this is the domain of those less-than-beloved Mets beset chiefly by image problems. Their very souls seemed steeped in rancor and churlishness, and they marched to the fingers-in-the-ears beat of their own sneering drummer. So what are they doing out here on the margins? Well, for all their bad reputations, they never did anything too awful while they wore our uniform. We might have heard, thought or suspected they were jerks, and so regarded them with a certain wariness, but most of their jerkiness came before or after the Days of Orange and Blue.
Carl Everett — Doesn't believe in dinosaurs. Or, apparently, the authority of managers — he wound up as a Met after the Marlins suspended him for insubordination. Doesn't believe in the need to stay in the batter's box, the point of contention in the scary tantrum he threw on July 15, 2000 in Fenway Park while the Mets looked on in amazement. (Or perhaps Mike Piazza asked an innocent question about whether the most-famous sauropod should be properly called Apatosaurus or Brontosaurus.) Still, what did Everett do while wearing Mets colors? He got himself banned from winter ball after going Artest on a fan in Venezuela, but let's not pretend we care about that. Dallas Green didn't trust him, but it was Dallas' philosophy to never trust anybody under 30. What we're left with is the strange 1997 incident in which workers at the Met day-care center (a concept I found amazing to begin with) found bruises on his kids, which led to family court. My impression (which could be wrong) from the day-care mess was that Everett and his wife were believers in a level of corporeal punishment that's no longer generally accepted, but not abusive parents. It didn't matter: Carl was shipped to Houston for John Hudek, about whom I now remember absolutely nothing. I do remember a fair amount about Everett, particularly some amazing home runs, none more amazing than his '97 grand slam off Ugie Urbina in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-6 tie in a game we'd eventually win. Do I remember that Everett was also kind of psycho? Sure. But not for us.
Eddie Murray — A shy and strange man, deeply suspicious of fame and people, with those people employed by the media drawing the deepest suspicion of all. But an amazingly smart player and by all accounts a terrific teammate. I wish he hadn't left town as the same odd cipher he was when he arrived. But beyond that, who gives a shit that he was mean to Tim McCarver?
Julio Machado — It's among the more bland transactions in baseball history: On April 1, 1992 the Milwaukee Brewers placed Machado on the restricted list. Why? Well, he'd been accused of shooting a woman following a traffic accident in Venezuela. Now, it stands to reason that if someone who was once a Met goes to prison for murder, they get some place in Met Hell. Still, to be terribly shallow about it, it was practically in another hemisphere, and, well, he was a Brewer at the time. Extenuating circumstances? Not in the real world, God knows. But in Met Hell, it earns him a somewhat-awkward exile out here.
Juan Samuel — It's painful to even remember. This was the period where having two centerfielders (Mookie and Lenny) was somehow a problem, so the solution was to get rid of both and import a second baseman to play the position, an experiment that was such a flaming disaster that the Mets insisted on repeating it with the likes of Keith Miller and Howard Johnson, until finally we were all so shell-shocked that we wanted to cheer when some hapless Met broke back on a drive to center without falling down. That original player in the wrong position, of course, was Samuel, who floundered through half a miserable season before getting shipped off for the malingering Mike Marshall and the wretched Alejandro Pena, two more players to make the ulcers reignite. What's easy to forget is that while everybody hated the Dykstra and McDowell for Samuel trade from the get-go, most everybody also thought Samuel — a year removed from a 100-RBI campaign — was a pretty amazing player. He wasn't; in fact, in Carlos Baergaesque fashion he hung around for years afterwards and was never more than so-so again. But while I'll always remember him with a dull fury, I'm not sure how much of the whole disaster was his fault.
Jeff Kent — Another guy whose Met career was bookended by groan-inducing trades: Kent came to New York as an unknown in the exile of David Cone, then netted us Baerga in return. He certainly showed that he was wound too tight while in New York, with the most-famous incident coming at the beginning of his Met career, when he refused to go through the usual rookie hazing of being forced to wear a ridiculous outfit and seemed ready to fight the whole clubhouse over it. Kent's always seemed socially maladroit, and I never particularly liked him, but being out of step with the careening disaster that was the Mets of the early 1990s could be seen as a badge of honor. Hell, I was seething a lot of the time, and I didn't have to see the carnage from mere feet away the way Kent did. Certainly I remember he always played hard — too hard, if anything. And wouldn't you like to have found a place in our batting order for the 256 homers and 1,000+ RBIs he's racked up since leaving town? Me too.
Next stop: The third circle of Met Hell, home of two representative unfortunates who destroyed all prior goodwill with poor departures.