Joe Crawford – His New York Mets Career 1997

Joe CrawfordAfter spending six seasons in the Mets minor league system, left-handed pitcher Joe Crawford finally made his Major League debut with the Mets on April 7, 1997.  He pitched the 15th inning and allowed the winning run in the Mets -3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  After one more relief appearance he was sent back to the minors.          

Crawford retuned in June and became a regular out of the bullpen, He earned his first career win against the Cincinnati Reds on July 18 when he pitched 4 1/3 innings of middle relief.  On August 21, he made his first career start against the Dodgers, he pitched 6 innings and allowed just 1 run to earn the victory. Overall for the season Crawford would appear in 19 games, 2 as a starter, posting a 4-3 record with a 3.30 ERA.

Following the season, the Mets released Crawford.

While with the Mets Crawford wore number 49.

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Todd Pratt – His New York Mets Career 1997-2001

TTodd Prattodd Pratt a backup catcher who had previously played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs was out of baseball for a year when the Mets signed him as a free agent on December 23, 1996. After hitting .301 with the Mets Triple A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, Todd Pratt made his Mets debut on July 4th, 1997 and supplied plenty of fireworks. In his first at bat in the majors in two years Pratt hit a two-run homer on his way to a 2 for 3 night with 3 RBIs in the Mets 6-2 victory over the Florida Marlins. He would continue his hot hitting over his first ten games batting .379 with 2 home runs and 8 RBIs. He would finish out the season hitting .283 with 2 homers and 19 RBIs.

Over the next four seasons as the Mets backup catcher Todd Pratt became a fan favorite due in large part to his timely hitting, strong defense and intensity and emotion. In his five seasons with the Mets Pratt hit .265 with 17 home runs and 87 RBIs in 276 games, with his best season coming in 2000 when he hit a career high 8 home runs.

But it was during the postseason where Pratt cemented his legacy in Met history. During game four of the 1999 National League Divisional Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pratt started in place of the injured Mike Piazza. With the game tied in the bottom of the 10th inning Todd Pratt hit a home run over the center field wall at Shea Stadium to give the Mets the victory and the series. It was just the fourth time in baseball history that a playoff series ended on a home run. With the win, the Mets advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1988.

In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves Pratt continued to make a name for himself in Mets postseason history. With the Mets trailing the series 3 games to 1 they pulled out all the stops in game 5 to save their season. In the longest game in postseason history the two teams battled for 15 innings in a steady rain. After the Braves took a one run lead in the top of the 15th the Mets rallied to load the bases in the bottom of the frame. Pratt stepped up to the plate and worked out a walk to force in the tying run. With the game now tied Robin Ventura stepped up to the plate and promptly hit a game winning grand slam or so he thought. Before Ventura could reach 2nd base Pratt stopped and lifted Ventura in the air preventing him from rounding the bases. Since the winning run had already scored it didn’t matter that Ventura didn’t and he was credited with a “Grand Slam Single.” Than in game six, another epic game in which the Mets battled back from a 6-run deficit, Todd Pratt drove in what appeared to be the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th inning, but unfortunately the Mets could not hold on to the lead and lost the game and the series in 11 innings.

With his numbers declining in 2001, he was hitting just .163, the Mets traded Todd Pratt to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 23rd in exchange for fellow catcher Gary Bennett.

While with the Mets Pratt wore number 43 in 1997 before switching to number 7 from 1998-2001.

Todd Pratt also played for the following teams:
Philadelphia Phillies – 1992-1994, 2001-2005
Chicago Cubs – 1995
Atlanta Braves – 2006

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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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Gary Thurman – His New York Mets Career 1997

Gary Thurman spent eight seasons as a backup outfielder/pinch hitter for the Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners before the Mets signed him as a free agent on December 20, 1995.  After spending the entire 1996 season with the Norfolk Tides, the Mets Triple A minor league affiliate, he finally made his Mets debut on May 5, 1997 against the Colorado a defensive replacement.  The next day he got his first hit as a Met when he pinch hit for pitcher Toby Borland and singled up to the middle.  It would be his only hit for the Mets. Gary Thurman would play in eleven games for the Mets, mainly as a defensive replacement, hitting just .167 before they released him on June 2nd.  After his release, he signed with the Montreal Expos where he spent the remainder of the season with their Triple A affiliate in Ottawa.  He would finish his career in the Anaheim Angels minor league system, retiring after the 1998 season.

While with the Mets Thurman wore number 10.

Gary Thurman also played for the following teams:
Kansas City Royals – 1987-1992
Detroit Tigers – 1993
Seattle Mariners – 1995

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Toby Borland – His New York Mets Career 1997

Toby BorlandThe New York Mets acquired Toby Borland along with Ricardo Jordan from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Rico Brogna on November 27, 1996.  Borland had proved to be an effective middle reliever for the Phillies over the previous three seasons winning 10 games, including a 7-3 record in 1996.  The Mets were hoping he would fill the same role for them in 1997 but things did not work out for Borland in New York and he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Rick Trlicek on May 12,1997.

He made his Mets debut on Opening Day in 1997 and had a dreadful outing. He allowed 3 runs in just 1/3 of an inning.  He never fully recovered and had a difficult time finding the plate. In 13 games for the Mets he posted a 6.08 ERA and walked 14 batters in 13 1/3 innings.  His one shining moment with the Mets came on April 15th when he pitched four innings of relief to earn a save in the Mets 5-0 win over the Dodgers.

While with the Mets Borland wore number 43.

Toby Borland also played for the following teams:
Philadelphia Phillies – 1994-1996, 1998
Boston Red Sox – 1997
Anaheim Angels – 2001
Florida Marlins – 2002-2004

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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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Manny Alexander – His New York Mets Career 1997

Manny AlexanderThe New York Mets acquired Manny Alexander on March 22, 1997 from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Hector Ramirez. Alexander who was once considered the heir apparent to Cal Ripken Jr in Baltimore would play 54 games for the Mets in 1997 mainly as a utility infielder. Alexander made his Mets debut on April 2, 1997 against the San Diego Padres when he replaced 2nd baseman Carlos Baerga. In his first at bat as a Met he singled to centerfield.

Injuries hampered much of his time with the Mets and he hit just .248 with 2 home runs and 15 runs batted in before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs on August 8 along with Mark Clark and Lance Johnson in exchange for Turk Wendell, Brian McRae and Mel Rojas.

While with the Mets Alexander wore number 6.

Manny Alexander also played for the following teams:
Baltimore Orioles – 1992,1993,1995,1996
Chicago Cubs – 1997-1999
Boston Red Sox – 2000
Texas Rangers – 2004
San Diego Padres – 2005,2006

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Ricardo Jordan – His New York Mets Career 1997

Ricardo Jordan was acquired along with Toby Borland from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Rico Brogna prior to the 1997 season.  Jordan was slated to be a member of the Mets bullpen but unfortunately it didn’t work out as planned as Jordan struggled all season.  Jordan was the losing pitcher in two of his first three appearances during which he posted an ERA of 13.50.  He settled down somewhat after his rough start but was sent down to the minors at the beginning of May with his ERA at 4.32.  He returned to New York in June but once again struggled. He did manage to win a game on June 29th.  Following that game, he was once again sent down to the minors only to return in September when the rosters expanded but he continued to struggle and finished the season with a 1-2 record and 5.33 ERA in 27 innings.

Following the season Jordan signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds 

While with the Mets Jordan wore number 48.

Ricardo Jordan also played for the following teams:
Toronto Blue Jays – 1995
Philadelphia Phillies – 1996
Cincinnati Reds – 1998

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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Cory Lidle – His New York Mets Career 1997

cory lidleThe Mets acquired right-handed pitcher Cory Lidle from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Kelly Stinnett on January 17, 1996.  At the time of the trade Lidle had yet to appear in the majors having spent five seasons in the minors for both the Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers.  He would spend his first season in the Mets organization pitching for the Binghamton Mets, their double A affiliate, where he posted a 14-10 record.  He started the 1997 season with the Norfolk Tides before finally getting the call to the majors.

Lidle made his Major League debut for the Mets on May 8, 1997.  He pitched two innings of scoreless relief in the Mets 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros.  Three days later Lidle would earn his first victory against the St Louis Cardinals, he pitched a scoreless 8th inning striking out two. 

Lidle would finish out the season as one of the Mets most effective relievers.  He appeared in 54 games and posted a 7-2 record with 2 saves and 3.53 ERA.  Lidle did start two games for the Mets but did not have much success; he failed to get past the 4th inning in each start. 

Following the season the Mets lost Lidle when he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1998 expansion draft.  After leaving the Mets Lidle enjoyed an 8-year career before tragically dying in a plane crash in 2006.

While with the Mets Lidle wore number 11. 

Cory Lidle also played for the following teams:
Tampa Bay Devil Rays – 1999,2000
Oakland A’s – 2001,2002
Toronto Blue Jays – 2003
Philadelphia Phillies – 2004-2006
Cincinnati Reds – 2004
New York Yankees – 2006