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New York Mets 50th Anniversary: Top 5 Turkeys in Mets History

November 22nd, 2012 at 10:44 AM
By Mike Phillips

Now that Thanksgiving has arrived, many people are taking a moment to give thanks for all the good things in their lives. The New York Mets have certainly had a lot to be thankful for over the years, like a couple of World Championships and arguably the best right handed pitcher of the modern era in Tom Seaver. Turkey time also brings to mind, well, turkeys. The Mets have also had their fair share of turkeys, and some were such epic disasters that they bring shudders to people by their mere mention. As a special Thanksgiving treat, we give you our list of the top five turkeys in New York Mets history. 

5. Jason Bay

The recently departed Jason Bay cracks this list as arguably the worst free agent signing in franchise history. Bay arrived in New York after the 2010 season on a four year, 66 million dollar deal. Bay was supposed to bring some power to a lineup in desperate need of it. Needless to say, Bay's tenure in New York was an absolute disaster. Bay hit only 26 homers and drove in 124 RBI's over three seasons, nowhere near the production that the team had hoped for. Bay was also a walking injury machine, as he had parts of two seasons impacted by concussions as well as dealing with an oblique injury in 2011. The Mets and Bay agreed to part ways prior to 2013, agreeing on a buyout that would allow both sides to move on from this mess. 

'Jason Bay' photo (c) 2010, slgckgc - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

4. The Worst Team Money Could Buy

The Mets, unfortunately, do not have the greatest track record in free agency. Their brass has shaped some of the worst free agent rosters in major league history, but nothing could top the disastrous mix the team put together in the early 1990's. The Mets, trying to rebuild following the decline of the championship squads of the 1980's, splurged on a collection of high priced talent designed to win immediately. Bobby Bonilla (more on him later), Vince Coleman, Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Murray, and Frank Viola were among the names brought in to compliment Dwight Gooden and company as well as bring winning back to Flushing. The group's chemistry was an unmitigated disaster, as many of the players got into trouble on and off the field. Coleman in particular was a cancer in the clubhouse, and he was quickly discarded after a series of off the field incidents. The failure of the free agent acquisitions as well as a flameout of the team's farm system would leave the Mets irrelevant until the late 1990's. 

3. Steve Phillips

Steve Phillips was arguably the worst General Manager in the history of the New York Mets, at least in the eyes of fans. While several other GM's (we're looking at you Al Harazin and Joe McIlvaine) were complete trainwrecks, no one is as polarizing a figure for the Mets like Phillips. Phillips started off his tenure well, acquiring Mike Piazza and building the team into a World Series group. After that high, Phillips proceeded to wreck the foundation he built in a two year span. One of his most controversial moments came when he refused to negotiate with Scott Boras for free agent star Alex Rodriguez, who reportedly wanted to be a Met. Phillips also let ace Mike Hampton walk and overpaid Kevin Appier to replace him. After a competitive 2001 season fell just short, Phillips radically retooled the roster with expensive older stars in an attempt to contend immediately. His acquisitions of Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno all flamed out as Phillips assembled "The Worst Team That Money Could Buy, Version 2.0". Phillips also fired popular manager Bobby Valentine after winning a power struggle with ownership, only to lose his own job a year later. Phillips' awful decisions after the year 2000 have him high up on the list of turkeys in Mets history.

2. Bobby Bonilla

No one was a bigger turkey for the Mets than Bobby Bonilla. Bonilla came up as the second banana to Barry Bonds in Pittsburgh, and was signed by the Mets in 1992 to a lucrative (at the time) five year, 29 million dollar deal. Bonilla was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Mets lineup, but he floundered without the support of Bonds in the lineup. Bonilla's struggles and surly demeanor in the clubhouse made him very unpopular with the fans and media, and Bonilla reportedly called the press box once during a game to dispute an error he was charged. Bonilla was traded to the Orioles in 1995, and after bouncing around to Florida (where he would be a key player on the 1997 championship squad) and Los Angeles Steve Phillips decided to acquire Bonilla again. The Mets sent Mel Rojas to the Dodgers for Bonilla in 1999, and (shockingly) Bonilla underachieved again. Bonilla was not given a long leash this time around as Bobby Valentine sat him down in favor of trade acquisition Darryl Hamilton and youngsters Melvin Mora and Benny Agbayani. This decision led to clashes between the disgruntled slugger and skipper, culminating when Bonilla and Rickey Henderson played cards in the clubhouse during the team's Game 6 NLCS loss instead of being in the dugout with their teammates. That move was the last straw for the Mets, who placed Bonilla on unconditional release waivers in 2000. The reason Bonilla is the highest player on this list is due to the circumstances surrounding his release. In order to release him, Bonilla agreed to defer the remainder of his 5.9 million dollar salary for 2 years, compounded at eight percent interest. Starting in 2011, the Mets have been paying Bobby Bonilla 1.193 million dollars every year on July 1 until 2035. That amount will turn into 29 million dollars total just to get rid of him a year early, making Bonilla the single biggest underachiever in franchise history. 

1. September Collapses

The only thing worse than Bobby Bonilla in Mets history has been the September collapses. This is not just in reference to 2007 and 2008, when the Mets blew big September leads to miss the playoffs by one game. Since the mid 1990's, the Mets have routinely found ways to start strong and fade down the stretch to end any playoff dreams. The Mets have become experts at the art of the second half collapse in recent years, although those are partially aided by a lack of overall talent on the team. A big element linking the September collapses over the last 20 years has been the presence of the Atlanta Braves and their Met killer, Chipper Jones. Jones and the Braves have made it routine to sink the Mets' hopes late in the year, and any Mets fan sees a late season series at Turner Field (the Mets' house of horrors) with dread. 2001 was a particularly painful September collapse, when a furious Mets charge at the division was denied by the Braves once again. With the retirement of Jones and a solid rebuilding plan well underway, Mets fans can only hope that the September collapses become a thing of the past. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tags: Baseball, Bobby Bonilla, Jason Bay, MLB, New York, New York Mets, Steve Phillips, Thanksgiving, The Worst Team Money Could Buy, turkeys

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