After falling short of a postseason appearance in 1998, the New York Mets had an active offseason heading into 1999. They kicked off December with three big moves.
The 1999 New York Mets may have been even better than the 2000 team that went to the World Series. Unfortunately, they were unable to make it far enough in the postseason to make it an undeniable fact.
The 1998 Mets finished 88-74, two games out of the Wild Card spot. Hoping to reach the next level in 1999, they had an active offseason. On December 1, 1998, the organization made three major moves to make sure their roster would have a new look and a better shot at success.
It began with the Mets trading longtime catcher Todd Hundley to the Los Angeles Dodgers with Arnold Gooch. Hundley was just two years removed from setting the single-season home run record in Mets history. However, with the presence of future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, he was no longer needed.
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In return, New York received speedy outfielder Roger Cedeno and catcher Charles Johnson. The latter didn’t stay with the team for long. Hours later, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for closer Armando Benitez.
The day wasn’t over yet. Now with a leadoff hitter option and a closer in place, the orange and blue went into the free agent market and locked up a third baseman. They agreed to a deal with veteran third baseman Robin Ventura.
While the history books show Cedeno, Benitez, and Ventura all had their struggles in Flushing, the 1999 season was different. All three were fantastic in their first year with the Mets. Collectively, they helped the franchise turn a corner they couldn’t in the previous season.
As the starting right fielder for the 1999 team, Cedeno played in 155 games. He slashed .313/.396/.408 and stole 66 bases. Ventura added plenty of offense, too. He slashed .301/.378/.529 in his first year with New York while adding 32 home runs and 120 RBI.
In the bullpen, Benitez took over the primary closer’s role from John Franco. He managed to save 22 games while posting a 1.85 ERA. He rounded out an awesome bullpen that statistically outshined the starting staff.
Thanks to contributions from these three, the Mets finished 97-66. Unfortunately, this led to a one-game playoff with the Cincinnati Reds for the Wild Card spot. With Al Leiter on the mound against Reds’ starter Steve Parris, the Mets got off to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Leiter went the distance in a two-hit shutout.
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The 1999 season ended a few weeks later when the Atlanta Braves defeated them in the NLCS. However, one year of experience under their belt and a hunger to not repeat some recent history, they would go one step further the following season.