NY Mets: Three most disappointing sluggers in team history

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20: Fernando Martinez #26 of the New York Mets in action against the New York Yankees on May 20, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Yankees 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20: Fernando Martinez #26 of the New York Mets in action against the New York Yankees on May 20, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Yankees 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The New York Mets have always been known to have some pretty good arms come up through their farm system. And when it comes to those arms, they more often than not, seem to draft pretty well. Over the years the Mets have been blessed with a wealth of pitching, but when it comes to the offensive side of the game, the well has not been as plentiful.

It’s a wonder how teams can have such packed lineups that they can be tagged with nicknames like “The Big Red Machine” in Cincinnati or “The Pittsburgh Lumber Company” when it came to the Pirates in the 1970’s. The Mets have very rarely, if ever, had a lineup that could be considered a “Murderer’s Row” like the New York Yankees of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Perhaps it might be fun, or painful, or just plain cathartic, to take a look at the three biggest disappointments when it comes to “sluggers” to don a Mets uniform. But first before pointing out the negative, how about acknowledging the top three boppers who have not disappointed Mets fans.

The New York Mets have had three home-grown studs – Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, and Michael Conforto.

Strawberry had that sweet swing and could really put on a show. He performed well in his years with the orange and blue. The disappointment in him was his inability to stay clear of substance abuse and a desire to go home to Los Angeles. He undermined his own fabulous career. Wright, well, he earned the moniker Captain America for a reason. He was everything you could hope for in a player, in a teammate, and in a person. If not for his back issues, he surely would have been an even bigger slugger than he was during his Mets career. As for Conforto, he has been showing how nice his swing is and has provided some nice pop as he continues to emerge as a lefthanded power bat in the middle of the Mets lineup.

The New York Mets have signed some sluggers as free agents that weren’t worth the money.

When considering the three biggest disappointments, a lot ran through my head because there have been some pretty big names in there. Think about these three free agent disasters: George Foster, Bobby Bonilla, and Jason Bay.

Foster came to the Mets after having a few years of unbelievable success as part of that Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, hitting 52 home runs in 1977. He was a shell of himself for the few years he spent in a Mets uniform, and got himself dismissed from the team smack in the middle of the 1986 World Championship Season. Bonilla, plucked as a free agent from the Pirates in 1991, was the local product who made a name for himself in Pittsburgh alongside Barry Bonds. Bonilla, like Foster before him, was nothing more than a headache in his time…two times…with the Mets. And they are STILL paying him. Bay, signed prior to the 2011 season, at least, was likeable. He tried. Boy, did he try. But he just flopped.

The New York Mets acquired some would-be sluggers via trade.

Then there are those came via trade, hailed as saviors with thump in their bats. Well, perhaps not saviors…but each were hailed as five-tool players who could dominate in a lineup – Steve Henderson, Ryan Thompson, and Alex Ochoa.

Henderson, unfortunately, has the distinction of being the main player in the deal that lives in infamy in Mets history, the one that sent Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977. Whether he couldn’t live up to the hype, or the immense pressure heaped upon him because of the Seaver stigma, he just wasn’t very good. Thompson was supposed to be the prize in the package that sent David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992. He proved otherwise. Instead, the slugger was the other guy in the deal, Jeff Kent, who the Mets didn’t think enough of to keep around. Ochoa arrived after the first time the Mets had enough of the Bonilla headache in 1995. His five tools were probably left in a shed back home because he displayed no tools.

The New York Mets three biggest power disappointments were actually home-grown.

To really appreciate the lack of sluggers to achieve success for the Amazins, I felt it important to take a look at three players who were actually drafted or originally signed by the Mets, and anointed by management as the “real deal,” perhaps creating an illusion, or even delusion, that there should be great anticipation regarding their ascension to the Big Leagues.

Roy Staiger was hailed as the answer to the New York Mets never-ending quest for a power-hitting third baseman.

Roy Staiger was the 24th selection of the first round of the secondary phase of the 1970 draft out of Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Although Staiger struggled mightily going up through the minors for the Mets, Tidewater Tides manager Joe Frazier took a liking to him. Frazier insisted that he was the power bat the Mets had been searching for to play third base. And when he was promoted to Mets manager, he insisted on installing Staiger at third base in 1975. But Staiger failed miserably – whalloping a paltry four home runs in 446 at bats in a Mets uniform over the course of a season and a half – and was quickly replaced at third base after Frazier was fired.

Jay Payton was going to be the five-tool, power-hitting outfielder the New York Mets had been waiting for.

Jay Payton was the Mets first round draft pick in 1994 out of Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, Georgia. Payton was said to have all the tools, the combination of speed and power that they Mets were craving for the outfield. He was up for a cup of coffee in 1998 and 1999 for a total of 32 plate appearances. But he finally made it for his first full season at age 27 in 2000, playing on the team that took on the Yankees in the Subway Series. Payton hit .291 with 17 home runs and 62 runs batted in playing centerfield. But he regressed in 2001 and then the Mets, for some reason, gave up on him in the middle of the 2002 season, sending him to the Colorado Rockies for two players who are not worth mentioning. Payton smacked a total of 33 home runs in over 1,200 plate appearances during his stay with the Mets.

Fernando Martinez was supposed to be the next power-hitting superstar for the New York Mets.

Fernando Martinez is the prime example of overvalue or overhype that the Mets have loved to throw in front of the fans. Martinez was going to be the next Darryl Strawberry. The savior. The closest he got to being the next Darryl Strawberry was that he hit from the left side of the plate. Well, he tried to hit. Martinez was signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent in 2005. He made his debut with the big club in 2009 at the age of 20, making 100 plate appearances. Clearly overmatched, he hit .176 with one home run. The next season he played in a mere seven games, getting three hits in 18 at bats. In 2011, he had 22 at bats, hit .227 with one home run and struck out seven times. Martinez slugged a total of two home runs while in a Mets uniform. He was unceremoniously waived prior to the 2012 season and was picked up by the Houston Astros. He didn’t fare any better and after two brutal seasons with the Astros, he was released, picked up by the Yankees, but never played again.

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