Alvaro Espinoza – His New York Mets Career 1996

Alvaro EspinozaThe Mets acquired utility infielder Alvaro Espinoza from the Cleveland Indians along with Carlos Baerga in exchange for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino on July 29, 1996.  He made his Met debut the next day in the first game of a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates as a late inning defensive replacement. In the second game, he pinch hit for Rey Ordonez in the top of the 9th and singled home the tying run.  The Mets would win the game in 12 innings. He hit his first home run as a Met on August 5th against the Cubs and would go on to hit safely in 21 of 27 games for the month for a .289 average, Espinoza would go on to appear in 48 games for the season playing mostly 3rd base.  He hit .306 with 4 home runs and 16 RBIs. 

Espinoza reported to Spring Training in 1997 but was released just before the season.

While with the Mets Espinoza wore number 12.

Alvaro Espinoza also played for the following teams:
Minnesota Twins – 1984-1986
New York Yankees – 1988-1991
Cleveland Indians – 1993-1996
Seattle Mariners – 1997

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Bernard Gilkey – His New York Mets 1996-1998

Bernard GilkeyThe Mets acquired outfielder Bernard Gilkey from the St Louis Cardinals prior to the 1996 season.  In his Met debut on Opening Day he went 2 for 4 with a home run and 2 RBIs.  It was a sign of things to come as Gilkey went on to enjoy the best season of his career.  He hit .317 with 30 home runs and 117 RBIs.  His 117 RBIs tied Howard Johnson’s single season record for most in a season.  He also hit two home runs in a game three times and set the Mets single season record with 44 doubles. 

Big things were expected of Gilkey in 1997 but he was not able to duplicate his 1996 success.  He did hit 18 home runs with 78 RBIs but only managed to hit .249.  His struggles continued in 1998.  He was hitting just .227 with 4 home runs and 28 RBIs when the Mets traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 31 along with Nelson Figueroa in exchange for Jorge Fabregas and Willie Blair.

In three seasons with the Mets Gilkey hit .273 with 52 home runs and 223 RBIs.

While with the Mets Gilkey wore number 23.

Bernard Gilkey also played for the following teams:
St. Louis Cardinals – 1990-1995
Arizona Diamondbacks – 1998-2000
Boston Red Sox – 2000
Atlanta Braves – 2001

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Rob MacDonald – His New York Mets Career 1996

Rob MacDonaldThe Mets signed free agent pitcher Rob MacDonald prior to the 1996 season.  The left-hander pitched 1/3 inning in his Mets debut on April 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out the only batter he faced. as the Mets lost 5-3.  MacDonald would go on to appear in 20 games for the Mets, all out of the bullpen, before being shipped down to the minors in June.  At the time of his demotion his record was 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA.  MacDonald finished out the season pitching for the Norfolk Tides before being released in October.

While with the Mets MacDonald wore number 49.

Rob MacDonald also played for the following teams:
Toronto Blue Jays – 1990-1992
Detroit Tigers – 1993
New York Yankees – 1995

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Mike Fyhrie – His New York Mets Career 1996

After toiling in the Kansas City Royals minor league system for five years the Mets acquired right-handed pitcher Mike Fyhrie in 1996.  After spending the 1996 season with the Norfolk Tides, the Mets Triple A affiliate, where he posted a 15-6 record with a 3.04 ERA as a starter Mike Fyhrie was promoted to the big club as a September call up.  He made his Major League debut on September 14th pitching two innings of relief against the Atlanta Braves allowing two hits and one run.  He wouldn’t pitch again until September 29th, the last game of the season, against the Phillies.  He suffered the loss pitching just 1/3 of an inning while allowing two hits and three runs. In his two appearances with the Mets he posted a 0-1 record with 15.43 ERA in just 2 1/3 innings.

Following the season the Mets sold his contract to the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League.  After pitching one year in Japan he returned to the Mets as a free agent and spent a disappointing 1998 season with the Norfolk Tides posting a 3 and 7 record with 6.64 ERA.  The Mets chose not to retain him following the season and he signed with the Anaheim Angels. 

While with the Mets Fyhrie wore number 40.

Mike Fyhrie also played for the following teams:
Anaheim Angels – 1999,2000
Oakland A’s = 2001,2002
Chicago Cubs – 2001

Lance Johnson – His New York Mets Career 1996-1997

Lance JohnsonThe Mets signed Lance Johnson to be their leadoff hitter and centerfielder prior to the 1996 season.  In his first season in New York, he far exceeded everyone’s expectations as he had perhaps the greatest offensive season in franchise history.  Johnson a career .285 hitter went on to rewrite part of the Met record book in 1996.  He led the Mets with a .333 average, which was also 4th best in the league and at the time the second highest in franchise history, Cleon Jones hit .340 in 1969.  He became the first player in Met history to record over 200 hits.  His 227 hits not only led the National League it also obliterated the franchise record of 191 by Felix Millian in 1975.  He also set the franchise records for triples (21), runs scored (117) and total bases (327).  He also stole 50 bases, which was just eight shy of Mookie Wilson’s club record 58.  He also drove in 69 runs, an impressive number coming from a leadoff hitter.    For his efforts, he was named to the National League All – Star team where he could easily have been the game’s MVP – he went 3 for 4 with a double and stolen base.

Needless to say, expectations were high for Johnson entering the 1997 season.  He did put up some decent numbers in 1997 but injuries, mainly shin splints, hampered him for much of the season.  He was hitting .306 when the Met brass sensing that his 1996 season was more an aberration than the norm decided to include him in a six-player trade with the Cubs in August.  The Mets acquired pitchers Turk Wendell, Mel Rojas and outfielder Brian McRae for Johnson, Manny Alexander and Mark Clark.  It turned out the Mets knew what they were doing when they traded Johnson, as he never again approached the numbers he put up in 1996.  He retired following the 2000 season.

In 1 ½ seasons with the Mets Lance Johnson appeared in 232 games and hit .326 with 10 home runs and 93 RBIs.

While with the Mets Johnson wore number 1.

Lance Johnson also played for the following teams:
St. Louis Cardinals – 1987
Chicago White Sox – 1988-1995
Chicago Cubs – 1997-1999
New York Yankees – 2000

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Bobby Jones – His New York Mets Career – 1993-2000

Bobby J JonesThe New York Mets drafted right handed pitcher Bobby Jones in the first round of the 1991 amateur draft with a compensation pick they received when Darryl Strawberry signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent. After spending three seasons in the minors where he won 25 games, Bobby Jones made his Met debut on August 14, 1993 against the Philadelphia Phillies.  He pitched 6 innings allowing just one earned run for his first major league win.  He would finish out the season 2 – 4 with a 3.65 ERA.  In his last start of the season Jones pitched 10 innings of shutout ball and struck out 9 batters against the St, Louis Cardinals, a game the Mets would win 1-0 in 17 innings.

Bobby Jones made the Mets starting rotation out of Spring Training in 1994 as their number 3 starter.  He would go on to have a solid season for the Mets winning 12 games, 2nd to Bret Saberhagen’s team best 14, in the strike shortened season.  Now firmly entrenched in the Mets starting rotation Jones was named the opening day starter in 1995, he would go on to lead the team with 10 wins, unfortunately he also led the team with 10 losses.  He followed that up with a 12 and 8 season in 1996.   

1997 would be Bobby Jones’ best season in the majors. After starting the season 3 and 2 he reeled off 8 straight victories and was named the National League Pitcher of the Month for May.  During the month, Jones won all 5 of his starts while posting a 1.15 ERA.  He would finish the season with a career best 15 wins.  Along the way, he made his first and only All-Star game appearance where he pitched one inning and retired the side in order striking out 2 including future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.  

After posting a 9 and 9 season in 1998, Jones suffered through an injury plagued 1999 appearing in only 12 games winning just 3.  The Mets advanced to the playoffs in 1999 but Jones was left off the postseason roster.  He returned in 2000 as the Mets number 5 starter.  Despite a 5.06 ERA he managed to win 11 games and helped the Mets reach the postseason for the second consecutive season 

In the National League Divisional Series against the San Francisco Giants, Jones was tabbed to pitch game 4 with the Mets leading the series 2 games to 1.  Bobby Jones would go on to pitch arguably the greatest game in Mets history, throwing a complete game one hit shutout. He retired the side in order in 8 of the 9 innings.  With the win the Mets clinched the series and advanced to the National League Championship Series.   Even though the Mets would eventually advance to the World Series it would be Bobby Jones’ last victory in a Met uniform.  Following the season Bobby Jones signed with the San Diego Padres as a free agent, where he pitched two more seasons before retiring.   

In 8 seasons with the Mets Bobby Jones pitched in 193 regular seasons games and posted a 74 and 56 record with a 4.13 ERA.

While with the Mets Jones wore number 28.

Bobby Jones also played for the San Diego Padres in 2001 and 2002.

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Rico Brogna – His New York Mets Career 1994-1996

Rico BrognaThe Mets acquired first baseman Rico Brogna from the Detroit Tigers on March 31, 1994 in exchange for Alan Zinter.  After starting the 1994 season in the minors Brogna made his Met debut on June 22 against the Atlanta Braves, he went 0-3 as the starting first baseman.  Brogna took over as the Mets everyday first baseman and became one of the team’s best hitters.  He was hitting .351 with 7 home runs and 20 RBIs when the 1994 season was shut down due to the player’s strike. 

Brogna returned in 1995, homering on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies, it was the first home run hit at Coors Field.  Brogna would become the Mets everyday first baseman and was the Mets most productive hitter leading the team in every major offensive category.  He finished the season with a .289 average and 22 home runs and 76 RBIs while also playing a gold glove caliber first base.

In 1996 Rico Brogna was hitting .255 with 7 home runs and 30 RBIs when his season was shut down in the middle of June with a labral tear in his right shoulder.  1996 would be Brogna’s last season with the Mets as he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on November 27, 1996 in exchange for pitchers Ricardo Jordan and Toby Borland. 

Overall Rico Brogna appeared in 228 games and hit .291 with 36 home runs and 126 RBIs. 

While with the Mets Brogna wore number 26.

Rico Brogna also played for the following teams:
Detroit Tigers – 1992
Philadelphia Phillies – 1997-2000
Boston Red Sox – 2000
Atlanta Braves – 2001

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Edgardo Alfonzo – His New York Mets Career 1995-2002

Edgardo AlfonzoEdgardo Alfonzo made his Major League debut with the Mets on April 26, 1995 and would go on to play eight seasons with the team becoming one of the most popular players in team history as evidenced by his being voted the greatest 2nd baseman in Mets history by the fans as part of their 40th Anniversary Celebration.

After two good yet unspectacular seasons in 1995 and 1996 Alfonzo broke out in 1997 hitting a team best .315.  But his best season with the Mets came in 1999 when he established himself as one of the top hitters in the game.  He hit 27 home runs and drove in 108 while helping the Mets reach the postseason for the first time since 1988.  He also set the Mets single season record for runs scored with 123.   On August 30th against the Houston Astros Alfonzo had a career day by becoming the first player and to date the only player in franchise history to go 6 for 6 in a game.  He hit three home runs and drove in five and became the first player since the legendary Ty Cobb to go 6 for 6 with three home runs in a game.

In 1999 Edgardo Alfonzo also established himself as one of the games best defensive players. After playing most of his career at 3rd base Alfonzo moved to 2nd base and committed just five errors for a .993 fielding percentage. Many believe he should have won the gold glove but he was beaten out by Pokey Reese of the Reds.

In order for the Mets to make the postseason in 1999 the Mets were forced to play a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds.  Alfonzo hit a two run home run in the first inning of the game which proved to be all the runs the Mets needed as they went on to win 5-0.

Alfonzo continued his hot hitting in his first postseason game against the Arizona Diamondback hitting two home runs including a grand slam while driving in five runs.  In all he hit three home runs and drove in six in helping the Mets defeat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.  He continued his great hitting in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves with another home run and five RBI’s but the Mets lost to the Braves in six games.

In 2000 he continued his stellar play and earned his first All-Star selection by hitting a career best .324 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI’s in helping the Mets reach the World Series for the first time since 1986.

Alfonzo’s production started to suffer in 2001 and 2002, due in large part to back problems and the Mets let him walk as a free agent following the 2002 season much to the chagrin of many Mets fans including this one.  But it turned out to be the right move as his production continued to decline. 

Edgardo Alfonzo did try to make a comeback with the Mets in 2006 signing with their Triple A affiliate the Norfolk Tides but the bid fell short and Alfonzo never made it back to the big leagues. 

In his eight seasons with the Mets Alfonzo hit .292 with 120 home runs and 538 RBI’s in 1086 games.

In 24 postseason games Alfonzo hit .240 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI’s.

While with the Mets Edgardo Alfonzo wore number 13 in tribute to his fellow countryman Dave Concepcion from Valenzuela.

Edgardo Alfonzo also played for the following teams:
San Francisco Giants – 2003-2005
Los Angeles Angels – 2006
Toronto Blue Jays – 2006

 

Carlos Baerga – His New York Mets Career 1996-1998

Carlos BaergaOn July 29, 1996, the Mets acquired switch-hitting All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Jose Vizcaino and Jeff Kent, they also received Alvaro Espinoza in the trade. Though Baerga was having an off year he was still considered by many to be one of the top hitters in the game with a penchant for hitting frozen ropes, his career average before arriving in New York was .299.  It appeared that a change of scenery was just what he needed when he hit a pinch hit single to drive in the winning run in his first at bat in a Mets uniform. But following his successful start to his Mets career it was obvious that Baerga was not the same hitter, as he hit just .193 for the rest of the season, though injuries did play a part

Carlos Baerga was looking for a fresh start in 1997, hoping to return to his former All-Star self.  But he got off to a slow start, hitting just .188 after the first month of the season.  He began to find his stroke in the month of May, but he still was not the hitter he once was.  He finished the season with respectable .281 average but his power numbers were down as he hit only 9 home runs while driving in 52. Baerga produced more of the same in 1998 hitting .266 with just 7 home runs and 54 RBI’s.

Though his career numbers with the Mets were respectable, a .267 average with 18 home runs and 166 RBI’s in 306 games, they were not the numbers the Mets expected when they acquired him and with the emergence of Edgardo Alfonzo as a .300 hitter the organization decided not to resign Baerga following the 98 season. But to his credit Baerga always gave his all and always showed a great deal of enthusiasm when he played. He truly cared and it was never more evident than in his last game as a Met. With the Mets needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive they lost to the Atlanta Braves 7 -2. After the game Carlos Baerga could be seen in the dugout practically in tears as the Mets postseason hopes were dashed. 

While with the Mets Baerga wore number 6 in 1996 and number 8 from 1997-1998.

Carlos Baerga also played for the following teams:
Cleveland Indians – 1990-1996,1999
San Diego Padres – 1999
Boston Red Sox – 2002
Arizona Diamondbacks – 2003,2004
Washington Nationals – 2005

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Andy Tomberlin – His New York Mets Career 1996,1997

Andy TomberlinAfter starting the 1996 season in the minors, first baseman/outfielder Andy Tomberlin got the call to join the Mets in the middle of June.  He made his Met debut on June 17 and flew out to centerfield as a pinch hitter for pitcher Paul Byrd.  On June 20, as their starting right fielder Tomberlin recorded his first hit as a Mets as well as his first home run.  He finished out the season with the Mets serving primarily as a pinch hitter and hit .258 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs.

Tomberlin made the Met squad out of Spring Training in 1997 but appeared it just 6 games before being sidelined for the season with a herniated disk.  At the time, he was hitting .286 (2 for 7).  Following the season, he was granted free agency and signed with the Detroit Tigers.  He returned to the Mets in 1999 but spent the entire season in the minors and never made it back to New York.

Over two seasons Andy Tomberlin appeared in 69 games and batted .260 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs.

While with the Mets Tomberlin wore number 33.

Andy Tomberlin also played for the following teams:
Pittsburgh Pirates – 1993
Boston Red Sox – 1994
Oakland A’s – 1995
Detroit Tigers – 1998