Saturday, September 30, 2006

Are We Trying?

From the Timoniel Perez files comes this:

The post it heard 'round Washington.

Those who read this story of the Mets latest attempt to put Lastings Milledge's attitude on the path of the straight and narrow will certainly harken back to the days of Timo Perez, who was so hated by his teammates they let Rockies pitchers throw at his head twice (and Jay Payton once) after Perez "showboated" on a home run (which was more of a "thank goodness we finally have a chance to break this 200 game losing streak" kind of celebration.

But you'll also think back a little further to one Gregg Jefferies. If you think Lastings got hype...well you don't know hype unless you've been through the Gregg Jefferies Experience. Jefferies was a phenom of unmatched proportions when he came up through the Mets system in the mid-80's. His father (whom I suspect help create the stereotype of the "little league father") was more Jefferies' coach than father...putting him through all sorts of drills which included 1,000 swings a day from each side of the plate in a swimming pool (at least it wasn't a shallow gene pool). His rise through the minors were so documented, that when he finally came up in the last part of 1987, all Gregg Jefferies baseball cards had skyrocketed in value. New York may be a designated "baseball town" nowadays, but you couldn't combine the hype that surrounded David Wright, Jose Reyes, Mike Pelfrey with Milledge's hype, and come up with the promise that surrounded Gregg Jefferies.

And when Jefferies tore up the league in September of '88 and basically took over Howard Johnson's job in the playoffs? Jefferies was a baseball messiah! In fact, he was so much the baseball lord that the Mets were ready to trade Howard Johnson to Seattle for Mark Langston (instead, Langston was wheeled to Montreal for Randy Johnson later in the '89 season, satisfying Seattle's need for a Johnson). But instead, Jefferies went to second base to spell the end of Wally Backman's time as a Met.

Whatever ill feelings about the popular Backman being pushed out the door combined with the fact that Jefferies couldn't catch the ball (I guess you really can't do defensive drills in a swimming pool), and Jefferies ultra-competitive, ultra-sensitive attitude created problems in the room. It led to, among other things, a note scrawled next to Jefferies name on the lineup card which read "Are We Trying"?

The Mets' commitment to Jefferies worked kind of like the butterfly effect on the franchise. Mets management was so much in Gregg's corner that anybody in the clubhouse who was against him was gone. The man who allegedly scribbled the query next to his name was traded for John Franco. Another man who would later get into a large brawl with Jefferies during a Phillies/Mets game at Shea was traded for Juan Samuel. Was that a coincidence? Maybe, but remember that you're talking to the conspiracy theorist here. What wasn't a coincidence was that one of those trades set the franchise back valuable years. And putting the needs of one over the needs of many, as the Mets did with Jefferies, set the franchise back even further.

What we know now about Mets management tells us that they will not make that same mistake with least we hope so. Certainly, they have documented history to learn from.


Mike said...

Gotta love the timing of this shit. Jeez.

I don't care who's at fault -- 'Stings, the other guys, Willie, whoever. I just want them to knock it of til the offseason.

Unser said...

Great little history of the Gregg Jefferies saga. I remember everybody on the team hated Gregg. Gary Cohen mentioned him the other night in the booth and Keith let out a sarcastic laugh. Great hitter thought - had some nice years with the Phils and Cards. Didn't he lead the league in batting ave. one year?

jabair said...

there goes his trade value

adoniram said...

Yeah... too bad we didn't trade him in a three way deal for Oswalt and Zito straight up back when Billy Beane was begging Omar to have Lastings.

That Omar, just wouldn't pull the trigger.

Anonymous said...

Milledge is gone...

Milledge, Heilman, and Bell for Vernon Wells...then sign Zito?

- or -

Milledge, Heilman, and Bell for Dontrelle...then sign Soriano?

Carlos Gomez will be better than Milledge!

If you watch the '88 clincher on Mets Classics, you'll see just how far ahead of Milledge Jefferies was when Jefferies first came up.

Adoniram said...

I'm quite sure that we would do Milledge, Heilman, and Bell for Dontrelle. The Marlins would have to be morons though.

Vernon Wells is not as far-fetched but I'd still be surprised if the Jays would do that.

Milledge's maximum upside is just about where Wells is now (who already has two gold gloves and some other accolades) and Wells isn't that much older.

You'd need more than Heilman and Bell to balance that discrepency.

Wouldn't it be great to have Well's right handed bat hitting sixth though?

Shari said...

Hi Mestradamus- As you already know from my site, I don't see the same value in this guy as I did in Reyes, Wright and even Alfonso back in 1995-you mean to say this kind of stuff never happened to these guys when they came up? I think Milledge's nonsense outweighs his talent as far as I can tell. He is more trouble than he's worth-great analogy with Jeffries.

Metstradamus said...

Hi Shari! Sorry for the late response. You're right. None of this followed the other players you mentioned coming up from the minors. I really wanted so much to believe that the trouble that followed Milledge around was a media creation. And I think that's true in part.

But you don't mouth off to veterans. Not in any clubhouse...least of all a winning clubhouse with many influential veterans. It should be common sense.

It doesn't bode well for Lastings that there are outfielders in the system that many deem better than 'Stings (Gomez, Martinez) so he better get his act together. I don't mind swagger, but he's gotta use some common sense.

CSM Stud said...

My first year of College (1987)at the College of San Mateo; I met & dated this gorgeous girl. She had a big time boyfriend known in the area----Greg Jeffries. We dated on the sly. I called her very late one night, for a booty call. Greggy answered; thus she lost out on the life lottery prize of a baseball players wife $$$.

She was absolutely beautiful!
Not my fault Greggy was as bad in bed, as he was on the baseball diamond!!!

Mister Wonderful ; )