The Mets All-Time “2 Guys” Team: Our Fireman

Mike:

Now that we have added Jerry Koosman, it seems clear to me that we won’t need a seven-man pen for our team. With Jerry, one guy almost seems like too much. But we have had many notable relievers over the years, so let’s pick a guy anyway, Jimmy. Pignatano needs someone to talk to.

Jimmy:

Sure, there’s a lot of great candidates. I’m not worried about bullpen coach, Joe Pignatano. He can talk to his tomato plants. By the way, as I mentioned before, I have a brief Joe Pignatano story if you’d like to hear it.

Bullpen Garden

Mike:

No problem, Jimmy, I’ll make a note of that, but not today. We need to stay focused here.

A lot of relief pitchers tend to be eccentric. We have had our share of those types, for sure. Closing things out for both the miracle Mets of 1969, and his own named “You Gotta Believe” 1973 NL Champions, we had the “Screwball” himself, Tug McGraw. Tug had plenty of idiosyncracies, the glove flapping his thigh being the trademark one. Turk Wendell chewed licorice gum, brushed his teeth between innings and leaped over the foul lines. Among other things. Roger McDowell gave hotfoots and was the team prankster until called into games. All of these guys could really pitch too, and always showed real grit and fire. But the first thing that comes to my mind with these guys is still the weirdness factor, not the toughness factor.

Randy Myers had a full-time tough guy act, including a “Soldier of Fortune” fetish. Well, that is not going to work for me, real tough guys do not need guns. So I can’t consider Myers a true candidate. And Armando Benetiz would stomp and stare on the mound, and then crumble. Talk about no way!

Personally, Jimmy, I keep coming back to the same guy, New York’s own John Franco.

Jimmy:

Oh, man, Mike. You’re killing me here. Change-ups off the plate and a big mouth. I know that Ron Darling once said that he’d never want to fight “that little fuck.” If there’s an argument for John Franco, you are going to have to be the one to make it, partner. I want to come back to Turk. First, just look at this 1999 Fleer Tradition baseball card of the guy:

Yes, you're correct, that's a combination BEAR CLAW and ANTLER-TIP Necklace, thank you very much!

Yes, you’re correct, that’s a combination BEAR CLAW and ANTLER-TIP Necklace, thank you very much!

He didn’t buy that at the mall, you know. He killed that bear with his bare hands. Then Turk pulled out the teeth with a pair of pliers he kept in his back pocket. (Yes, I’m making that up.) Do you remember how Turk used to slam down the rosin bag before facing his first batter? Very scary! Was that toughness? I don’t know. But it was fun. After closing out the inning, Turk would SKIP across the baseline on his way to the dugout.

It takes a tough man to skip on the baseball diamond.

And, yeah, his breath always smelled minty fresh.

turk

But here’s a name that might surprise you, Mike.

How about Josh Edgin? State wrestling champion, won 45 matches, 43 by pins. Drafted in the 30th Round. Said Terry Collins, “He’s a tough kid. He’s not afraid. I wouldn’t charge the mound.”

Mike:

The guy who we used at closer once? I remember that game, and the homer he coughed up to Ryan Howard. Zero for one in closing situations is a light resume. No thank you. If we do this again in ten years, we can evaluate Josh.

Mets - John FrancoI’m not moving off of Franco. You mention the change-ups away. Exactly. But right after a fastball inside. Franco NEVER had the big stuff. Unlike most closers he couldn’t just blow anyone away. But he ends up with 426 career saves, 276 of them as a Met. If he wasn’t doing it with toughness, with grit, was it magic? I don’t think so, I think it was fearlessness and attitude. With intelligence thrown in as well.

Because he nibbled, because he had to nibble, he made Mets fans nervous. It would be a mistake to project that on Franco. He never seemed concerned to me. For all the tightrope situations he created, John did not hold that closer role for the Mets all those years because he was lucky. He was good. Good and tough.

Jimmy:

I guess this isn’t a good time to bring up Billy Wagner. Oh well, you get your wish. It’s John Franco. However, I just have to say, I don’t recall him ever throwing a rosin bag in anger. Just sayin’.

Oh, look. Here comes John now . . . on his scooter!

It takes a particular brand of tough guy to ride a scooter around Greenwich Village.

 

 

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5 comments

  1. DD says:

    Ooh, bad choice. It’s gotta be Turk.

    A couple of memories: one is an afternoon game versus Colorado. The Mets are winning a blowout (damn, come to think of it, I believe I was there with youse two). Turk comes into the game to pitch a couple of innings, a slop assignment in a game already in the Win column.

    Turk gets a rare At Bat, actually gets a hit, his first one in over a season — and gets thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. I think he just wanted to run the bases.

    Later, with a man on second, the batter squibs a ball down the third base line. Turk dives after the ball, rolling into foul territory, trying to make the play at third. Turk should have been wearing football padding that day, but that’s the way he approached life.

    Then I remember listening to one of the radio talk shows the day before a playoff game in 2000; maybe it was during the Series. Wendell calls in, from a deer blind! He and Rick White are up a tree somewhere in the Pennsylvania woods, apparently oblivious to the pressures of postseason baseball. I remember him saying to White, “who’s got it better than us?”

    I loved that guy.

    • Great memories, Dan. Turk played with joy. A happy nut. I searched him on Youtube, and he did a series of ridiculous, goofy, 30-second commercials for Honey Bear. He obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously.

      My daughter is a pretty good basketball player, but that’s the thing she’s missing. She plays with such intensity and determination and skill, but I keep wanting to see more lightness in her game, more smiles. I see the same thing in the baseball teams I coach, these grim-faced 13-year-olds. I keep saying, “Lighten up, fellas, this is the fun part.”

      Oh well. I guess every team should have a Turk or two on the roster.

      I don’t know how I got on that, exactly.

      Glad to see you stopping by, Dan. The game you describe sounds familiar, but I couldn’t say with any certainty that I was there. But at least now I FEEL like I was there, and that might be just as good.

  2. Michael Geus says:

    I remember us going that day DD, but not the play. But I’m sure with a blowout I was too busy yapping at the time to notice.

    My loss.

  3. DD says:

    Well I looked it up, and my memory was both good and faulty.

    August 17, 2000, the Mets defeated the Rockies 13-2 in an afternoon tilt. It wasn’t a mop-up assignment; Wendell went four innings, coming in in the 4th when Mike Hampton had to exit for some reason, the pussy. Turk pitched well (4 innings, 1 hit, 1 BB, 6 K’s, 1 earned run), and got the win. He was charged with an error on that third base play, which I did in fact remember.

    Know what else I forgot, but remember now that I just read it? Losing pitcher for the Rockies was none other than YOSHI!

  4. Tom M says:

    Have to agree with DD. Turk hands down He is the guy you want to hang and have a beer with. Franco is the little douche you fight when your having that beer.

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