Thanks to the industrious fellow who maintains the singularly indispensable Ultimate Mets Database and his thoughtful posting of a very helpful and completely nonjudgmental list last April on the Mets board of Mets boards Crane Pool Forum, I have at my fingertips not just the names of every Met who has ever played but the dates on which they first played as Mets, last played as Mets and entered the world as future Mets (the day they were born, not the day they were signed). It became my ritual last season to update the list every time the Mets made a player move. This season I go one better and revise the “last game played” column after every contest.
It works like this: A game ends, I call up my Every Met document, do a Find for the current Met whose first Met game — the chronology which determines the order of the list — was longest ago (Feliciano if he pitches, Glavine if he starts, Reyes on all other occasions), scroll down to the handful of applicable pre-2006 Mets who remain extant (Heilman, Wright, Beltran, Castro) and hit the early 2006 section to make the bulk of my marks (Lo Duca, Delgado, Franco, Wagner, Chavez) before scooting to the bottom to finish up (Alou through Gotay).
2007 is 26 games old and I’ve stayed faithful to the task. It’s easy enough when you have the boxscore as a cheat sheet. After doing it 26 times, you get to know the neighborhood. To get to Wright, for example, you have to stumble over Scott Erickson and Mike DeJean. After stepping around Vic Darensbourg and Victor Diaz, it’s just a hop, skip and a Mientkiewicz to Beltran. To reach Lo Duca and Delgado, you have to roll through the Hamulack Takatsu tunnel.
And on a day like today, you have to remember to slow down before exiting 2006, for if you disregard the Ledee and Tucker speed bumps you might miss Shawn Green and Oliver Perez. Missing them would be a serious mistake.
It’s odd seeing them lodged where they are on this list, late August arrivistes that they were. A scan of the Every Met roster indicates players who show up in late August don’t often show very much as Mets ever again. Mike Jacobs (08/21/2005), Brian Buchanan (08/26/2004), Jason Anderson (08/29/2003) and Raul Gonzalez (08/21/2002) are just a handful of fleeting dog days examples from this decade alone. It’s easy to have forgotten those gents just as it was easy to overlook Green (08/24/2006) and Perez (08/26/2006) when they first made the list. There was nothing either one of them were going to do in their initial Met weeks that was going to materially impact their first Met seasons. We had a substantial divisional lead that was not about to get blown.
Neither man was acquired to make a difference at that point anyway. Green was supposed to stabilize right field, freeing Endy Chavez to roam and Lastings Milledge to learn and, with October a foregone conclusion, Willie Randolph to relax. He had an experienced left-handed bat that could be plugged into the seven-spot. He had a glove that had played right for an entire career. Shawn was not exactly awful but obviously not brilliant during his brief 2006 stay, regular and postseason. He gave few much reason to look forward to his 2007.
Perez was clearly an afterthought for ’06. He wouldn’t have been in town except for Cecil F. Wiggins taking out Duaner Sanchez on I-95, the same cataclysmic event that shortly thereafter brought Green here, too. Ollie showed a few flashes of what made him desirable, yet ample evidence of what made him tradable. He probably would have lingered on the backburner of 2007 plans had not a little something called Game Seven come along and accelerated his importance to the big picture.
Now it is 2007 and it is impossible to imagine this Mets team being as successful as it has been without these Mets players. Though there will always be a tendency to withhold benefit of the doubt from both Shawn and Oliver, they are, along with Bazooka Joe Smith, the most delightful surprises of this young year.
Green probably won’t bat .356 like he has to date, but he seems a good bet to account for himself how ever long he continues as the Met rightfielder. The thinking (mine, everybody’s) was that his bloated salary and advanced age would loom as an unloadable obstacle for only so long before Omar would say “enough” and insert Lastings in his spot. Well, Lastings is unfortunately on the Triple-A DL but he could be as robust as Robespierre and he wouldn’t be playing ahead of Green. The guy gets hits every day and seems to be in the middle of at least one key rally per game. He intermittently displays an unfortunate habit of almost making great catches but he has not embarrassed himself or the greater cause in right. He’s been Olerud-stoic at the plate and altogether competent in the field.
You know who he is? He’s Ray Knight, 1986. Nobody wanted Ray Knight (first Met game: 08/29/1984) here after his dreadful ’85 and nobody wanted to take the veteran with fading portfolio off Frank Cashen’s hands the following spring. Ray Knight keyed the Mets’ big April in ’86 and the rest is World Series MVP history. Howard Johnson, like Milledge, Carlos Gomez and all comers in the present, would just have to wait.
Oliver Perez’s time is now. If he’s not quite at the Cy Maine level yet, he’s a veritable rock in this rotation. Ollie can’t go three-and-one on a batter without making us shudder, but he no longer melts down on the mound. Even today, when he didn’t get out of the sixth, tell me it was his fault. It wasn’t. David Wright snares a line drive right at him and Ollie leaves having thrown a gem. Even with The David’s miscue, Perez’s line of 10 Ks, 3 BBs, 3 H and 1 ER in 5-2/3, all in support of a much-needed team W, sparkles pretty ostentatiously. Plus he’s a genuine athlete. I know pitchers are supposed to be taped up in bubble wrap, take three strikes and sit down, but Ollie can swing and he can connect and he can run. He contributes to his team every time jumps over the white chalk. He’s fun to watch. With the exception of that one horrifying frame against the Phillies, he’s been a total joy to behold.
In August 2006, Shawn Green and Oliver Perez didn’t matter much. In May 2007, they are front and center for a (pending tonight) first-place club. Nine months can make for quite a gestation period.