And then there was one. Or there appears to be.
With Jason Isringhausen’s reiteration of his intention to retire after putting in a yeoman year’s worth of work with the L.A. Angels — though he left the door open a crack in case “some GM is dumb enough to want to sign me” — it means the contingent of 1990s Mets still active has been reduced by 50 percent…from two to one.
We offer a tentative goodbye to Izzy (though we thought he was done after not pitching in the majors in the last half of 2009 and all of 2010) but keep saying hi, how ya doin’ to the World Series-bound Octavio Dotel. Detroit’s Dotel, now pitching for his 423rd team, give or take, made his Met debut on June 26, 1999, starting against and losing to the Atlanta Braves. Unlike every other Met from that decade, Octavio continues to play big league baseball. His enduring availability is a useful bit of information for Jim Leyland, who will need all the bullpen help he can get in the coming days, but it’s really big news for the tracking of two distinctions that go untracked everywhere but here.
We are penciling in Octavio Dotel as the Longest Ago Met Still Active (LAMSA) and declaring him Last Met Standing from 1999.
Both designations, periodically tended to by your friends at Faith and Fear in Flushing, are just what they sound like. LAMSA means no Met who came along before Dotel did — and there were 619 of them — is still playing at baseball’s highest level. Last Met Standing 1999 means nobody else from that sainted season is still on the MLB scene as a player. Izzy, who was traded by the Mets to the A’s that July, was Octavio’s last competition for this honor. We’re sure the Tiger reliever will be relieved to know he outlasted everybody from not only the Mets’ first playoff team in 11 years but everybody from an entire decade that sources report ended nearly 13 years ago, though I could swear it was only last week.
Here are the historical timelines that will sate your ever-growing curiosity on the subject:
LONGEST AGO MET STILL ACTIVE: Chronology
• Felix Mantilla, debuted as a Met, 4/11/1962; last game in the major leagues, 10/2/1966
• Al Jackson, 4/14/1962; 9/26/1969
• Chris Cannizzaro, 4/14/1962*; 9/28/1974
• Ed Kranepool, 9/22/1962; 9/30/1979
• Tug McGraw, 4/18/1965; 9/25/1984
• Nolan Ryan, 9/11/1966; 9/22/1993
• Jesse Orosco, 4/5/1979; 9/27/2003
• John Franco, 4/11/1990; 7/1/2005
• Jeff Kent, 8/28/1992; 9/27/2008
• Jason Isringhausen**, 7/17/1995; 9/19/2012
• Octavio Dotel, 6/26/1999; 10/18/2012 (still active)
* Cannizzaro was Jackson’s catcher on April 14, 1962, at the Polo Grounds, so for LAMSA purposes, he debuted as a Met after his pitcher.
**During Isringhausen’s extensive injury rehabilitation period, Paul Byrd (debuted as a Met on 7/28/1995); Jay Payton (9/1/1998); and Melvin Mora (5/30/1999) could each temporarily lay claim to LAMSA status, but Izzy ultimately outlasted them all.
LAST MET STANDING: 1962-2001
1962-1964: Ed Kranepool (final MLB game: 9/30/1979)
1965: Tug McGraw (9/25/1984)
1966: Nolan Ryan (9/22/1993)
1967: Tom Seaver (9/19/1986)
1968-1971: Nolan Ryan (9/22/1993)
1972-1975: Tom Seaver (9/19/1986)
1976-1977: Lee Mazzilli (10/7/1989)
1978: Alex Treviño (9/30/1990)
1979: Jesse Orosco (9/27/2003)
1980: Hubie Brooks (7/2/1994)
1981-1987: Jesse Orosco (9/27/2003)
1988-1989: David Cone (5/28/2003)
1990-1991: John Franco (7/1/2005)
1992-1994: Jeff Kent (9/27/2008)
1995-1997: Jason Isringhausen (9/19/2012)
1998: Jay Payton (10/3/2010)
1999: Octavio Dotel (10/18/2012; still active)
2000: Melvin Mora (6/29/2011)
2001: Bruce Chen (10/1/2012; still active)
Melvin Mora’s post-2000 longevity doesn’t seem surprising at all given how he blossomed in Baltimore and gave Colorado a late-career boost before finishing up in Arizona at age 39. But if anybody watching the Mets make their valiant charge through September 2001 looked at the roster and determined Bruce Chen — who started the hallowed First Game In New York City After September 11, was traded to Montreal early the next season and roved the big leagues in nearly as itinerant a fashion as Octavio Dotel before finding a home in Kansas City — would be the one to stick in the majors long after everybody else had gone home…well, I congratulate you on your prescience if you were that person.
Chen, who tied for the American League lead in games started in 2012, is signed through 2013 and would appear to have some enough mileage remaining in his 35-year-old left arm to assure he will be standing on a major league mound for a while to come. Then again, you never know who will come out of the woodwork to upset these kinds of apple carts. Chen’s 2001 teammates Timo Perez and Armando Benitez were each part of the Long Island Ducks squad that would eventually waddle its way to the 2012 Atlantic League championship…and before you quack that away as insignificant, so was Lew Ford, who you might have noticed played in the 2012 American League Division Series for the Baltimore Orioles. Hell, C.J. Nitkowski, who appeared in five games for the 2001 Mets and was last seen in the majors in 2005, pitched for Binghamton and Buffalo in 2012 and was reportedly considered for a September callup.
But if Nitkowski couldn’t get called up to the September 2012 Mets, his left arm may not entice another GM, “dumb,” brilliant or somewhere in between.
The longest-ago year from which more than a single Met remains active in the majors is 2002, so it’s not too soon to start contemplating Last Met Standing status from the final season of the Bobby Valentine regime. The prime candidates, based on 2012 activity, are Chen; increasingly vengeful Met tormentor Ty Wigginton; and current NLCS participant Marco Scutaro. They were the only 2002 Mets in the majors this past year, though we shouldn’t forget workhorse turned dark horse Pedro Feliciano, who has spent two years on the Yankee payroll getting his left arm back in shape following the rotator cuff surgery he required after pitching every day for three seasons and twice on Sundays from 2008 through 2010. Pedro crossed over to the dark side of town as a free agent but had the good grace to never actually enter a game for his new employer. Despite a couple of handfuls of rehab appearances in the minors, Pedro’s ledger remains pristine: 459 games as a major leaguer, every one of them as a Met, making him the Ed Kranepool of pitchers until further notice.
As for the years immediately beyond 2002, we’ll repeat our contention from when we last broached this subject, in 2010: “2003 brought Jose Reyes to the big leagues, while 2004 saw the debut of David Wright. If we’re groping around for the last 2003 and 2004 Mets any sooner than the end of this decade at the earliest, then there’s something very wrong with the world.”
We stand by that sentiment, no matter how different that statement looks two years later (and may it not look any more different over the next two years).