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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Newest Met (And a Trio of Ghosts)

Sometime in the not-so-distant future Jeff Conine will become the 819th Met, welcomed by me with great enthusiasm. My natural sympathies lie with youth and potential over age and a diminishing track record (Milledge over Green, Gotay over Castillo), but they're put aside when it comes to constructing a bench. There, you want evidence of a good eye, the ability to deliver results in part-time play, a proven track record, and intangibles. Conine, all 41 years of him, would seem to have all of those things, and be an excellent replacement for the felled, mourned Damion Easley as the right-handed bat off the bench.

Comments on the then-rumored trade over at MetsBlog got me curious: Just how many ex-Marlins do we currently employ, anyway?

(Warning: Jace Math ahead. Adjust your expectations accordingly.)

Taking our likely roster should we play ball in October — which I figure will be Pedro, Glavine, El Duque, Maine, Perez, Sosa, Heilman, Schoeneweis, Mota, Feliciano, Smith, Wagner, Lo Duca, Delgado, Castillo, Reyes, Wright, Alou, Beltran, Milledge, Castro, Conine, Anderson, Chavez, Green — here's a look at what teams have served as homes for that collection of Mets:

FLA — 7 (Mota, Lo Duca, Delgado, Castillo, Alou, Conine, Castro)

HOMEGROWN — 6 (Heilman, Feliciano, Smith, Reyes, Wright, Milledge. Hush up about Feliciano's stopoff in Japan.)

LAD — 5 (Pedro, Mota, Lo Duca, Anderson, Green)

WSH/MON — 5 (Pedro, Mota, Alou, Anderson, Endy)

PHI — 4 (Wagner, Conine, Anderson, Endy)

HOU — 3 (Wagner, Alou, Beltran)

TOR — 3 (Schoeneweis, Delgado, Green)

KC — 3 (Beltran, Conine, Endy)

ATL — 2 (Glavine, Sosa)

STL — 2 (Sosa, Anderson)

PIT — 2 (Perez, Alou)

CIN — 2 (Schoeneweis, Conine)

ARZ — 2 (Duque, Green)

BAL — 2 (Maine, Conine)

TB — 2 (Sosa, Anderson)

CHW — 2 (Duque, Schoeneweis)

CHC — 1 (Alou)

SD — 1 (Perez)

SF — 1 (Alou)

BOS — 1 (Pedro)

NYY — 1 (Duque)

CLE — 1 (Mota)

MIN — 1 (Castillo)

ANA — 1 (Schoeneweis)


(If you want to consider other possibilities: Gotay was a Royal; Sele's suited up for Boston, Texas, Seattle, Anaheim and Los Angeles; Newhan's been a Padre, Phillie and Oriole; DiFelice's world tour has included stops in St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Kansas City, Detroit and Chicago (NL); Alomar's played for San Diego, Cleveland, Chicago (AL), Colorado, Texas and Los Angeles; Burgos was a Royal; Lawrence was a Padre; Vargas was a Marlin; and Pelfrey's homegrown. Oh, and Easley was an Angel, Tiger, Devil Ray, Marlin and Diamondback.)

Raiding the Marlins is nothing new for this team, and the Natspos factor undoubtedly reflects Omar's resume. The Dodger connection surprised me a bit, but at least we're doing well on the Cub factor. And I trust we've forgiven El Duque his time in the service of the Vertical Swastika — refugees can't be choosers, right?

Sticking with roster minutiae on a rainy off-night, I've always been borderline obsessed with roster oddities, whether it's the Lost Mets who never got baseball cards, Mets whose cups of coffee came in the midst of lengthy stints in the minors, or guys who earned their orange and blue in life if not on the diamond. Then there are the Almost Mets, the guys who suited up but never got into a Met game, a short list whose dean is Terrell Hansen. Hansen was brought up in '92, assigned No. 21, waited around for a couple of days, got sent back down, played for another decade or so — and never made the Show. There are more-compelling reasons to hate Jeff Torborg, but make room for that one — as I once wrote, Terrell Hansen would give his eyeteeth to be Moonlight Graham.

I had always fixed the roster of the Almost Mets at five: Jerry Moses ('75), Terrell Hansen ('92), Mac Suzuki ('99), Justin Speier ('01) and Anderson Garcia ('06), with only Hansen not finding his way into the Baseball Encyclopedia at some other time with some other team. So imagine my surprise when I was goofing around on the sublime Mets By the Numbers and discovered three other Almost Mets — and another Met tragedy.

According to MBTN, the first Almost Met was Jim Bibby, who was called up but not put to work in 1969 and again in 1971. Then came Randy Bobb, in 1970. (Bobb shares a '71 Mets Rookie Stars card with Tim Foli, which makes him part of another list, but lets try and keep our obsessions separate here.) And finally there was a name I'd never heard before — Billy Cotton, recipient of a DNP for 1972.

Bibby made his debut in '72 as a Cardinal, and went on to win 111 games in a perfectly serviceable 12-year career. Bobb's big-league career was over by the time he got to Shea, but had collected 10 at-bats (and one hit) in two short tours of duty with the Cubs. But Billy Cotton never played in the big leagues. In '73 he played for Tidewater, Toledo and Memphis, in '74 he collected five RBIs for Iowa, and that was the end of his professional career. Google him, and you'll be left with the merest scraps of info — he was a No. 1 pick, a Sun Devil, and wore 22 for the Mets in September 1972. And that's it — there's no record of what Yogi Berra didn't see in him, or why he didn't at least give him a moment, as Art Howe did to get Joe Hietpas into the book. Billy Cotton was Terrell Hansen before there was a Terrell Hansen.

For me, the discovery of another phantom Met doesn't make Hansen's story any less poignant. To the contrary — I knew Hansen because I saw him on TV and he got a baseball card. Cotton gave baseball at least a decade of his life, played it at a level 99.99% of human beings couldn't imagine, and yet his near-miss came as a complete surprise to one of the most-rabid fans of the baseball team that so briefly employed him.

If I ever get a time machine, I'll of course do some of the things I've always figured I'd do, like kill Hitler and gawk at dinosaurs and invest in Standard Oil and say certain things to certain girls and not say certain other things to certain other girls and give Jose Reyes's drive in the 9th inning of Game 7 a little boost beyond Jim Edmonds' reach. But if the machine's still working after that, I'm going to go visit Yogi and Torborg and see if things can't be put right.

12 comments to The Newest Met (And a Trio of Ghosts)

  • Anonymous

    Great math and all, but I'll be honest: once I saw a 25-man October roster I rushed through the rest (I'll re-read, I promise) and looked over that roster like it was posted by Omar and Willie.
    I can't see them taking 12 pitchers on the roster; I think tight now it's Mota, though hopefully Smith has a great September and takes his spot. The question is who would be the 12th hitter? I'm guessing Gotay (he still around?), for lack of anyone better (get well soon, Damion).
    It's frightening that we're only 5 weeks away from hopefully having these conversations for real. Sure playoff speculation is great every day, but actually discussing who's on and off the roster makes it sink in a bit more.

  • Anonymous

    Gotay over Mota would make me happy. Gota over Smith is more likely, I guess.
    I suppose Billy Cotton and Terrell Hansen have no chance of making the roster.

  • Anonymous

    I like to use the term “NeverMets” for the Cotton/Hansen clan…Mets in name, but never in game. I've never heard of Cotton, but now I feel the need to launch an “investigation” of sorts (NY Times initial search yielded little)…I also like the guys who were, for lack of a better term “One-Minute Mets” …ie: Mike Glavine and his 1 MLB hit, which came with 2 outs in the 9th of the last game of the year. Hietpas and his 1 inning as a catcher, Joe Moock (Moock before Mookie) etc. Fun stuff…

  • Anonymous

    Postseason roster? What postseason roster? There's no postseason roster. But if there is, no way Gotay won't make it if he's still on board.
    I've been told by a reliable source that Jim Bibby was clearly evident in the postgame champagne celebration after the '69 division clincher. He was probably toasting the chance he'd get into a game at last. The trade that sent him away was one of the bigger ones in Mets history, in terms of numbers, that nobody talks about: eight men in all. Shamsky had been a Miracle Met while Parker and Beauchamp would play essential roles in '73, but Bibby had the most enduring success afterwards of everybody involved, including a 19-win season for the surprising Texas Rangers of '74 that made me gnash my teeth and wonder why he was ever traded in the first place.
    Bibby started 41 games and collected 38 decisions that year. Go find one of those lines today. Got to 18 wins on August 21, had 8 more starts but never reached 20. Who was managing Bibby to such extremes? The same guy who managed the 1980 A's staff into a complete game frenzy, Billy Martin.
    He'd later be a spot starter on the Pirates' last world championship club and win 19 games again. All told, he pitched until he was 39, long after Shamsky, Parker, Beauchamp or Rich “Throwing Up in the Bullpen” Folkers were active. Perhaps the 1971 trade that made him a Cardinal before he was a Ranger wasn't quite in the Otis-for-Foy realm but all things considered, it was unhelpful for the long term. A maturing Bibby would have been nice to have had around with Seaver, Matlack, Koosman and Swan in the mid- and late '70s. Didn't strike out nearly as many as you'd figure a big man like him would have, but I would have taken my chances with Jim Bibby on the Mets for real.
    Plus his brother helped the Knicks to their final championship probably ever.

  • Anonymous

    Jeff Conine, in the Daily News: “This is like the Marlins North. We had Lo Duca, Delgado, Moises, Mota, Castro, Castillo. I played with all those guys with the Marlins at some point. It's going to make me feel pretty comfortable pretty quickly, I think.”
    The man can hit, play first and the outfield, and count. What's not to like?

  • Anonymous

    Nothing, until I read the sage Marchman's take.

  • Anonymous

    I liked his other quote.
    “I'm proud to be a Met for however much time I am.”
    I was thinking about the Jim Bibby trade recently. Stoopit.

  • Anonymous

    I took great glee in the last sentence…

    Jeff Conine, acquired by the Mets yesterday in exchange for two minor leaguers with little chance of haunting Omar Minaya in future years, is a professional hitter, through and through. The only question is what, exactly, this means. I believe it means that he's well respected and not very good. He's capable of recognizing what he's supposed to do in all situations and only rarely capable of doing it. He will probably not harm the Mets; he will certainly not help them; if the team wins the World Series, Mets fans will, for years to come, look at pictures of the team triumphantly spilling out onto the field and ask, bewildered, if Jeff Conine was really on that team, and if so, why. After thinking it over, they will tell themselves that he was, after all, a thoroughly professional hitter. Somewhere, Conine will polish his third ring.

  • Anonymous

    And the old stats vs. intangibles battle is fought again.
    I love Marchman, but I'm on the side of the phrenologists on this one. Milledge over Green to start, no doubt. But when you're talking about the bat off the bench in October, I'll take Conine over Gotay.

  • Anonymous

    Sayeth my fortune cookie:
    Where old and young players' roles are concerned, it is a matter of the individual. Those who pigeonhole by age will inevitably have their certainty shattered.
    Lucky Numbers: 37 14 41 42

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg, What's the story on Rich “Throwing up in the bullpen” Folkers ? I remember him from the 70s , but don't know the background to that nickname………………..

  • Anonymous

    When he was with the Padres, the ex-Met became the centerpiece of one of the great Jerry Coleman play-by-play moments. With Folkers getting loose (a.k.a. warming up) for San Diego, Coleman announced, “Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen.”
    Also credited to Coleman, some variation of: “Winfield goes after the ball…he hits his head on the wall…it's rolling around out there…”