- Faith and Fear in Flushing - https://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Long Ago Tomorrow

With so many roster transactions involving current Mets — including three more planned tonight [1] to facilitate the deinjuring of a trio of heretofore injured Mets — we can be forgiven for not having taken note of every up and down involving former Mets. Yet we can’t let this AL Central subtraction from April 28 get caught in the breeze and blow away without noting its significance.

Cleveland Indians designated LHP Oliver Perez for assignment.

When next Ollie was heard from, on May 12, it was to say “hola” from Los Toros de Tijuana, where the old bull had signed to be a new Bull slightly south of where the Mets will be swinging through on their present road trip. Oliver Perez, 39 and no longer positioned to benefit from being an ageless lefty in these Three-Batter Rule times, is pitching in the Mexican League [2]. Assuming he doesn’t return north of the border in a professional capacity (and perhaps assume nothing, given the recent renaissance of Wilfredo Tovar), that means we have a new LAMSA in the land.

LAMSA, of course, refers to Longest Ago Met Still Active, specifically in MLB terms. Ollie held the LAMSA title since the beginning of the 2019 season. With David Wright and Jose Reyes effectively retiring in tandem at the end of 2019, only Ollie remained active from the 2006 National League Eastern Division champion New York Mets. Only Ollie could sit in a major league clubhouse and regale youngsters with tales of Game Seven; of Endy with The Strength To Be There; of Edmonds scurrying back from when he came (first base); of a breathtaking twin-killing that Gary Cohen called “the play maybe of the franchise history”; of Ollie’s bacon being saved once the gopher ball he gave up to Scott Rolen was kept in captivity.

Actually, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright could actively regale with that tale as well, but when Ollie told the story, no doubt it had a happier ending.

That’s all over now. There are no more 2006 Mets in the majors. And combined with Daniel Murphy’s previously announced retirement [3], we are down to only one Shea Stadium Met still active in either the AL or NL, thereby making him both the new LAMSA and truly the last of his kind.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Joe Smith.

The Mets gave us Joe Smith beginning on April 1, 2007, a sidewinder who made the Opening Night roster out of Spring Training at the tender age of 23 (seemed younger) and pitched beyond his years as a Met for the next two seasons, or until Shea closed in 2008. Soon after, Omar Minaya packaged the 17th Met named Joe [4] to Seattle as part of a master plan to secure the services of J.J. Putz. Also included in that complex deal — the Mariners threw in Putz’s bone spur — was Chavez. As long as they were tearing down Shea, Omar figured why not tear out our heart?

Putz, to put it mildly, was a disappointment. Smith, to put it even more mildly, has shown staying power. He recently passed the 800-appearance mark and has tied some guy named Walter Johnson for 49th all-time in games pitched (and is five behind a fellow named Nolan Ryan). The Mets couldn’t have known Smith would have quite the lengthy career ahead of him. They probably should have known about Putz’s bone spur, but that’s another story.

With Ollie having moved on and Joe still doing what’s he’s been doing for more than fourteen years, let us update the chronological LAMSA list.

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; 4/19/2013
Bruce Chen, 8/1/2001; 5/15/2015
Jose Reyes, 6/10/2003; 9/30/2018
Oliver Perez, 8/26/2006; 4/22/2021
Joe Smith, 04/01/2007; 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.

Let us also bring up to date the Last Met Standing story, a slightly different cataloguing from the one directly above. Last Met Standing refers to the last Met who is still lacing up his spikes and crossing the foul line in the majors after having done exactly that for a particular Met team. The last 1962 Met, you oughta know and probably do [5], was Ed Kranepool, a major leaguer until 1979. Eddie was also the last 1963 Met and 1964 Met…but not the last 1965 Met, as you’ll divine below.

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)
1972-1974: Tom Seaver (9/19/1986)
1975: Dave Kingman (10/5/1986)
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 (4/19/2013)
2000: Melvin Mora (6/29/2011)
2001-2002: Bruce Chen (5/15/2015)
2003-2005: Jose Reyes (9/30/2018)
2006: Oliver Perez (4/22/2021)
2007-2008: Joe Smith (still active)
2009: Darren O’Day (still active)
2010-2011: Justin Turner (still active)

WHOA! you oughta be saying after reading to the end of the Last Met Standing. Kranepool, McGraw, Ryan, Seaver and so on — it all passes the smell test (something Shea didn’t always, but we loved it anyway). Now and then over the years, we’ve paused from our day-to-day coverage to salute [6] the later Last Mets Standing once we noticed they were the only ones left upright from their respective classes. When various Mets from the 1990s and early 2000s endured to outlast their contemporaries well into the 2000s and 2010s, it was a sign they and we were getting old, but that’s baseball and life.

But Darren O’Day?
Darren O’Day is the Last Met Standing from 2009?

Seriously. Joe Smith, as mentioned, wasn’t a 2009 Met. Oliver Perez was, but stopped being a 2021 major leaguer as of his final Cleveland appearance on April 22. O’Day, if you didn’t notice, pitched as recently as April 29. He pitched for the Yankees, so you’re forgiven (and congratulated) for not noticing. Then he went on the IL, perhaps to show a tiny little piece of him is still a Met. He may not be active at this very moment, but he’s an active major leaguer in the broader sense, a dozen years since arriving on the Mets and departing from the Mets in pretty much one blink. Darren pitched in four games for the 2009 Mets, all in April. His last one came that April 16, his and my first official visit to Citi Field. I was more interested in the Kozy Shack pudding [7] than I was O’Day’s only home relief appearance as a Met. I don’t know if Citi Field still offers Kozy Shack. I know you can’t find Darren O’Day there.

Omar Minaya — you’ll remember him from such exchanges as Joe Smith and Endy Chavez for J.J. Putz and J.J. Putz’s bone spur — had a bit of a roster backup and decided the best option for unclogging it [8] was to ditch the guy who had a good twelve years ahead of him. Granted, Omar couldn’t have known how long O’Day would last or that he’d be pretty good throughout…but the general manager is supposed to show a little foresight to prevent fans like us from shaking our heads in hindsight [9].

But let’s not hit Omar over his head too hard with our collective elbow spur. Letting Darren O’Day go for nothing was nothing compared to letting Justin Turner go for nothing, and that was Sandy Alderson’s handiwork. Turner, you probably noticed if you read that last list, is the Last Met Standing from 2010 and 2011, which seems impossible because when did Turner get old enough to be the Last anything? (Other than the last Dodger to show common sense [10] last October.)

Turner was a 25-year-old callup in 2010, filling in for a few days when the Mets were — stop me if you’ve heard this before — a little shorthanded. There’d be ampler opportunity for his services in 2011 once Citi Field’s resident starting third baseman started having back problems. The heretofore indestructible David Wright went on what we used to call the DL and Turner commenced to adequately plug every hole the Mets had for three seasons. When 2013 was over, he was judged utterly disposable by Alderson. The Mets didn’t tender him a contract [11]. The Dodgers sure as shootin’ did.

Justin Turner has gone on to be one of the stars of the game since 2014, making his way to the postseason every season since. The Dodgers and he have been the perfect match. The Mets were left with shaving cream smeared all over their face.

The numbers add up, even though it seems too soon to slot Turner in as Last Met Standing for the first two seasons of his New York tenure given that Justin, whom we first knew at 25, couldn’t possibly be more than maybe 29 by now. But in actuality he is 36, or five years older than Ruben Tejada, who will always look 14. Tejada rates a sidebar shoutout here because the preternaturally youthful infielder was recently signed by the Phillies and assigned to their Lehigh farm club, giving him a theoretical shot at outlasting Turner. It will take Philadelphia getting particularly desperate to put Justin’s status in play. No offense to Ruben, but he’s played in all of 83 major league games since Chase Utley accosted him during the 2015 NLDS, none since his superbrief Recidivist Met stint of 2019. Tejada hasn’t recorded a hit in the majors since 2017, either.

Yet if he makes it back, we’ll take Turner off the Last Met Standing list and leave 2010 and 2011 blank in the interim. We don’t expect we’ll have to. Justin is still in a state resembling his prime and signed through 2022 for what Howie Rose would term a lot of glue, so he’ll probably outlast good ol’ Ruben. It’s just a matter of time.

It always is.