Monday, December 22, 2008

And the Answer is...

Greetings, Mets fans, from raw, windy and cold San Diego. That's correct: The last two words in the last sentence you read were "San Diego." Anyway, I owe you an answer to yesterday's quiz question:

Who was the last Mets player to don uniform No. 57 before Johan Santana last season?

The correct answer is c) Eric Valent.

Eric was in the 2005 Shea Stadium Opening Day starting lineup after excelling in a fourth outfielder role in 2004, when he hit .267 with 13 homers and 34 RBI. He even became one of only a handful of Mets to hit for the cycle with a career day in Montreal against the Expos. In 2005, though, he would only see action in 28 games and hit just .186 in 43 at-bats. The Mets acquired him from the Cincinnati Reds in the 2003 Minor League Draft. The Mets released Valent after the 2005 season. The San Diego Padres signed him as a free agent, but released him in 2006 without ever playing him in a game.

As for the others...

a) Jason Roach
Roach actually wore No. 57 in the 2003 season and had a very short-lived Major League career in the Art Howe era. Roach started two games and lost them both. In just 9 innings, opposing hitters busted out a can of Raid on him, spraying him for 12 earned runs and 14 hits. One of the biggest blows came off the bat of Angels' outfielder Garret Anderson in Roach's June 14 Major League debut in Anaheim. Then-Mets' pitching coach, Vern Ruhle came out to counsel Roach, who had just loaded the bases. Anderson then drove Roach's very next pitch over the center-field fence for a grand slam. (Trust me folks, I know, because I was at that game.) The Mets lost would lose, 13-3.

b) Julio Machado aka "Iguana Man"
The hard-throwing Venzuelan-born righty reliever earned a place in Mets lore when he joined the team in 1989 (when he adopted No. 31), because he told teammates one of his favorite foods was iguana. The story made its way to the press and broadcast media and it became an instant conversation piece. In 1990, when Machado wore No. 48, he went 4-1 with a 3.15 ERA in 27 relief appearances. But it wasn't good enough for Mets brass, who sent him to Milwaukee as a player-to-be-named-later in a trade for catcher Charlie O'Brien. He may have bailed the Mets out of plenty of jams, but in 1991, he found one at home he couldn't get out of: a murder rap. According to mulitple news sources, he was charged with fatally shooting a young woman after an auto accident. Machado's lawyers kept a legal fight going, but he was finally convicted and locked up from 1996 to 2000. He found no Major League takers after his release.

d) Bill Pulsipher
This tall, lean lefty starter who wore No. 21 as a Met was one of the three members of "Generation K," the infamous tag the Mets slapped on Pulsipher and two other highly touted young starters Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson in the mid-1990s. But of the trio, only Isringhausen -- whose career was resurrected as a closer after the Mets traded him to the Oakland Athletics -- achieved success. Pulsipher showed promise in 1995, going 5-7 in 17 starts and tossing 126.2 innings. But it was the most action in one season he would ever see. He came down with a sore elbow in '95 and the next season, in Spring Training, the damage revealed that he would need Tommy John surgery. Pulsipher wouldn't return to the majors until 1998. After an unsuccessful stint, the Mets banished him to Milwaukee. New York would reacquire Pulsipher in 2000 (when he switched to No. 25) then deal him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pinch-hitting specialist Lenny Harris, who was the emotional leader of that team (he's now the current Washington Nationals batting coach). Pulsipher had a life-threatening scare after taking the supplement ephedra and later returned to professional baseball in 2004, pitching for the independent Long Island Ducks.

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