After winning the 1997 World Series the Florida Marlins conducted a fire sale and traded off all their high-priced stars. One of the beneficiaries of sale was the New York Mets who acquired left-handed pitcher Al Leiter. For the next seven seasons Al Leiter was a workhorse who served as the ace of the Mets pitching staff.
In his first season with the Mets in 1998 Leiter posted a 17-6 record with a 2.47 ERA, the third best in the National League. He also led the Mets with 174 strikeouts.
During the 1999 season he won just 13 games but won the most important game of the season. In a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds to determine the National League Wild Card Leiter pitched a complete game two hit shutout to send the Mets to the postseason for the first time since 1988.
In 2000 Leiter started the season 10-1 and was named to the National League All-Star team. Along the way he was also named the National League pitcher of the month for June. He finished the season with a 16-8 record and once again led the team with 200 strikeouts as the Mets returned to the postseason. The Mets made it all the way to the World Series where they faced the New York Yankees. Leiter started games 1 and 5 and pitched effectively but the Mets lost both games and the series. In 15 2/3 innings he struck out 16 and posted a 2.87 ERA. In game five, with the Mets one loss away from losing the series, Leiter gave it everything he had and left it all on the field. He pitched into the 9th inning yielding just two runs, but finally ran out of gas and lost the game.
After back to back .500 seasons Leiter posted a 15-9 record in 2003 and then won another 10 games in 2004.
2004 would be his last season with the Mets. The Mets sensing that he was nearing the end of line allowed him to leave as a free agent. The Mets were proven right as Leiter struggled in 2005 pitching for the Florida Marlins and New York Yankees.
In his seven seasons with the Mets Leiter posted a 95-67 record with a 3.42 ERA and 1,106 strikeouts. He currently ranks 6th in franchise history with his 95 victories.
While with the Mets Leiter wore number 22.
Al Leiter also played for the following team:
New York Yankees – 1987-1989, 2005
Toronto Blue Jays – 1989-1995
Florida Marlins – 1996,1997,2005
Looking to make a playoff push in 1998 the Mets acquired veteran Tony Phillips from the Toronto Blue Jays at the trading deadline on July 31. He made his Met debut the next day as their leadoff hitter and leftfielder against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went 0 for 4 with a walk as the Mets won 2-1. Phillips served as he Mets leadoff hitter for the remainder of the season and appeared in 52 games. He batted .233 with 3 home runs and 14 RBIs.
On August 6 he went 4 for 5 with a home run and an RBI in the Mets 9-8 over the San Francisco Giants. On September 5 his 2-run home run in the 8th inning proved to be the game winner in the Mets 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. He also homered 2 days later in the Mets 8-7 win over the same Braves.
Following the season Phillips left as a free agent and signed with the Oakland A’s
While with the Mets Phillips wore number 6.
Tony Philips also played for the following teams:
Oakland A’s – 1982-1989,1999
Detroit Tigers – 1990-1994
California Angels – 1995
Chicago White Sox – 1996,1997
Anaheim Angels – 1997
Toronto Blue Jays – 1998
The Mets signed veteran catcher Tim Spehr to replace injured catcher Todd Hundley as a free agent on January 8, 1998. He made his Met debut as their Opening Day catcher in 1998 and singled in his first two at-bats as the Mets won 1-0 over the Philadelphia Phillies in 14 innings. He went onto play in 21 games for the Mets before a fractured wrist placed him on the disabled list. At the time he was hitting just .137 with 3 RBIs. When he was healthy enough to play there was no longer a place for him on the roster as the Mets had traded for All-star and Future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza to play catcher. The Mets sold Spehr to the Kansas City Royals on August 31, 1998.
His most productive game as a Met occurred on April 19 when he drove in 2 runs in the Mets 14-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
While with the Mets Spehr wore number 33.
Tim Spahr also played for the following teams:
Kansas City Royals – 1991,1997-1999
Montreal Expos = 1993
Atlanta Braves – 1997
The Mets acquired right-handed pitcher Armando Reynoso from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Jerry Dipoto on November 27, 1996. He made his Met debut on April 15, 1997 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. As the starting pitcher, he threw 5 scoreless innings and allowed 6 hits to earn the victory. He started out the season 5-0 and would go on to start 16 games for the Mets before injuries shut down his season in the middle of July. At the time, he was 6-3 with a 4.53. His best outing came on June 5 against the Florida Marlins when he pitched a complete game shutout.
Reynoso started the 1998 season the disabled list and did not make his season debut until July 24 against the Chicago Cubs. He pitched 8 shutout innings to earn the win. He won his first 5 decisions and would go on to post a 7-3 record with a 3.82 ERA.
Following the season Reynoso was granted free agency and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In his 2 seasons with the Mets he compiled a 13-6 record with a 4.23 ERA.
While with the Mets Reynoso wore number 40.
Armando Reynoso also played for the following teams:
Atlanta Braves – 1991,1992
Colorado Rockies – 1993-1996
Arizona Diamondbacks – 1999-2002
Ralph Milliard, a utility infielder from Curacao, briefly played with the Florida Marlins in 1996 and 1997, before being traded to the Mets on February 6, 1998 along with Al Leiter in exchange for A. J. Burnett, Jesus Sanchez and Robert Stratton. Milliard spent the 1998 season with the Norfolk Tides, the Mets Triple A affiliate, where he hit .259 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs before making his Mets debut on September 5th as a pinch runner. He would go on to play in ten games for the Mets the rest of the season, mainly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. In his only plate appearance with the Mets he struck out as a pinch hitter for pitcher Jeff Tam on September 8th against the Philadelphia Phillies, a game the Mets lost 16-4.
Following the season, the Mets traded Milliard to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitcher Mark Corey. He spent the next three seasons playing in the minors for the Reds, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians before retiring following the 2001 season.
While with the Mets Milliard wore number 26.
Ralph Milliard also played for the Florida Marlins in 1996 and 1997.
The Mets acquired utilityman Mike Kinkade from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31, 1998 in exchange for pitcher Bill Pulsipher.He initially reported to the minors before getting called up to Mets as a September callup.He made his Major League debut on September 8th as a late inning replacement in the Mets 16-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.He went 0 for 2 at the plate.He made two more appearances both as a pinch runner.
Kinkade made the Mets Opening Day Roster in 1999.He served primarily as a pinch hitter and fourth outfielder.He recorded his first Major League hit on April 12th, a pinch-hit double that drove in two runs in the Mets 8-1 win over the Florida Marlins.He hit his first career home run on April 29th against the San Diego Padres, a solo shot in the Mets 8-5 win.However, with his average at just .196 Kinkade was demoted to the minors in May. He spent the remainder of the season with the Triple A Norfolk Tides where he hit .308.He did appear in one game for the Mets in September.
In 2000 Kinkade appeared in two games for the Mets in July, he went 0 for 2. On July 28th, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles along with Melvin Mora in exchange for Mike Bordick.
Over three seasons with the Mets Kinkade appeared in 33 games and hit .180 with 2 home runs with 6 RBIs.
While with the Mets Kinkade wore number 33.
Mike Kinkade also played for the following teams:
Baltimore Orioles – 2000,2001
Los Angeles Dodgers – 2002,2003
Todd 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
The 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
The Mets signed utility player Craig Paquette as a free agent on December 23, 1997.He would start the 1998 season in the minors before making his Met debut on April 28, 1998 as their starting leftfielder.He doubled in his first at-bat as the Mets defeated the Houston Astros 4-3.Paquette played another six games before being sidelined with a sprained ankle, an injury that would end his season.At the time of his injury he was hitting .263.
Paquette spent the 1999 season with the Norfolk Tides, the Mets AAA affiliate, before being traded to the St Louis Cardinals on July 31 for Shawon Dunston.At the time of the trade he was hitting .272 with the Tides.
While with the Mets Paquette wore number 18.
Craig Paquette also played for the following teams:
Oakland A’s – 1993-1995
Kansas City Royals – 1996,1997
St, Louis Cardinals – 1999-2001
Detroit Tigers – 2002,2003
Acquired from the Minnesota Twins for fellow outfielder Alex Ochoa prior to the 1998 season, Rich Becker was slated to be a fourth outfielder for the 98 squad. He was considered a solid defensive outfielder with a decent bat; he was a .267 career hitter at the time of the trade. Becker got off to a fast start with the Mets driving in six runs in his first four games. But from that point his bat was basically nonexistent, plus he had a penchant for striking out. In 100 at bats for the Mets he struck out 42 times. The Mets had finally scene enough and with his average at .190 they placed him on waivers in the middle of June. He finished out the season with the Baltimore Orioles.
In 49 games for the Mets Becker batted .190 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs.
While with the Mets Becker wore number 6.
Rich Becker also played for the following teams:
Minnesota Twins – 1993-1997
Baltimore Orioles – 1998
Oakland A’s – 1999,2000
Milwaukee Brewers – 1999
Detroit Tigers – 2000