Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
When news broke this week that Jose Reyes is being sued for child support for a baby he had with his former girlfriend, it called to mind some of the many scandals that followed the Mets over the years. In fact, the more I thought about it, I began to realize there was a veritable All Star team that could be made from the players whose off-the-field behavior probably hastened an end to their Mets career or tarnished the memory of their years in uniform. Let’s have a look at my nominees for the All Scandal Team:
While current broadcaster Keith Hernandez had his cocaine troubles make him available when the Mets were looking to upgrade their team, my pick goes to long time first baseman, The Hammer, John Milner. He was one of the stars of the famous Pittsburgh drug investigation and his testimony revealed that not only did he do cocaine for six years, but he had also received a liquid form of amphetamine from none other than Willie Mays when both played for the Mets.
Arguably the most hated Met this side of Gregg Jeffries, pariah utility man Jordany Valdespin served multiple minor league suspensions for his behavior as well as a mysterious incident that Mack alludes to occasionally but is sworn to keep secret. Then he came up to the club and his showboating in particular during a game against the Pirates involved him admiring his home run a bit too long when losing 7-1 at the time. It led to his teammates refusing to back him up when the Bucs pitchers went headhunting. Then there was the infamous pitch he received to the family jewels and it was revealed he chose to take the field without his cup. Oh, and just for good measure, he also got a 50 game PED suspension, too.
First came the domestic violence suspension as a result of choking his wife in a Hawaii hotel. Charges were dropped but he has the dubious honor of being the first ever player to be suspended under the league’s new anti-domestic violence policy. Then this week the story broke about Jose Reyes not supporting a child he had out of wedlock with his former girlfriend 7 years ago.
Now there is a strong case to be made for the many peccadilloes of one Kevin Mitchell, though the man denies much of it and claims the many stories that surfaced about him were embellished. However, he didn’t play enough games at 3B as a Met to warrant consideration. No, the nod goes to Howard Johnson of corked bat fame. We all remember that he was accused many times (particularly by Whitey Herzog and the Cardinals) though he was never proven guilty. However, none other than Keith Hernandez spilled the beans recently as he said he got it directly from HoJo that he indeed corked his bats.
This incident occurred long after his tenure as a player ended, but Jerry Grote was picked up on charges of modern day version cattlerustling. It seems he signed an agreement to take possession of some cattle but the ownership would remain with the seller until the debt was paid. Grote then sold said cattle he didn’t own and was indicted for doing so after his meat market business went bankrupt.
Anyone who’s been a Mets fan for many years is well acquainted with the incident in which Cleon Jones was found naked in a station wagon alongside his 21 year old naked female companion in St. Petersburg, Florida where he was rehabbing from a knee injury. Jones was charged with indecent exposure and his companion was charged with the same, as well as possession of both a joint and drug paraphernalia. The Mets understandably cut ties with him and effectively ended his baseball career.
A key part of the 1986 World Series Champion Mets team, Lenny Dykstra was a hard-nosed ballplayer whose life has gone off in some interesting directions since his playing days ended. He was an investment advisor, a car wash entrepreneur, a self-proclaimed gigolo and convicted felon on charges of grand theft auto and filing false financial records. There were a myriad of scandals involving him looting Wayne Gretzky’s former house to sell of things like countertops and fixtures. What else? Let’s see…drunk driving arrest, sexual harassment of a 17 year old employee, indecent exposure, and a whole gamut of shady financial dealings (not to mention drug sales). He’s become the poster child for scandal.
When the tall, speedy Darryl Strawberry made it to the majors and flashed that tape measure power, fans thought they would finally have the offensive equivalent of the Tom Seaver Hall of Fame homegrown player. His career went off the tracks relatively early due to cocaine abuse, then later incidents which involved threatening his wife at gunpoint, failing to pay child support, soliciting an undercover policewoman for sex, leaving the scene of an accident and filing a false police report. Dishonorable mentions go to Carl Everett and the pee-brained platoon partners Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia.
One of the all-time great NY Post headlines read, “Weird Sex Acts in Bullpen” in reference to pitcher David Cone having convinced three women to join him in the bullpen where he proceeded to masturbate in front ofthem. Cone then went to their hotel room uninvited and jumped into bed with them. Oh, and for good measure, he was informed by Frank Cashen that another woman came forward with rape allegations.
Although there were certainly worse scandals and more heinous acts committed by other players, when the news broke that Cy Young Award winner Doc Gooden was going into a drug treatment program, it was as if the whole fragile hard partying nature of the 1986 championship team finally had come to a screeching halt. Remember, Gooden was immortalized in a giant mural as you came through the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City and had almost succeeded in supplanting Tom Seaver as the fans all-time favorite pitcher. The first warning sign came when he failed to show for the Mets ticker tape parade celebrating their come-from-behind World Series win. Then in December of that year he was arrested in Tampa when he got into a fight with police. In spring training of 1987 it was revealed publicly that he had a cocaine problem and would be entering a treatment program. In 1991 along with teammates Daryl Boston and Vince Coleman, Gooden was accused of rape. In 2002 he was arrested for drunk driving. In 2005 he punched his girlfriend and was arrested for battery. In 2005 another arrest for drunk driving took place. In 2006 he was on cocaine when meeting his probation officer and voluntarily accepted a prison sentence in the attempt to break his addictions. In 2010 he was arrested on DWI with a child in the car in New Jersey (including leaving the scene of an accident). In 2011 he went on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
By comparison, big Bartolo Colon is practically a choir boy. He was one of the earlier players suspended for performance enhancing drugs but the Mets looked past that (as they did others like Marlon Byrd) and signed him to a free agent contract. Later it was revealed that he too had fathered a child out of wedlock.
Brett Saberhagen foolishly decided it would be fun to fill a supersoaker with bleach and fire it at three beat reporters. Needless to say, he was raked over the coals for his stupidity and donated a week's pay -- $15,000 -- to an eye research foundation.
Longtime fan favorite Jerry Koosman was part of the 1969 Miracle Mets and won 19 games that year while providing the left handed complement to Tom Seaver’s right handed dominance. While famously having the dubious honor of being the only Mets pitcher to lose 20 games, Koosman was a quality arm who lived in Seaver’s shadow. Unfortunately long after his baseball career ended he was sent to prison for tax evasion for simply refusing to pay his taxes. He showed the IRS agents who came to investigate 3 binders of propaganda allegedly supporting his claim that the government did not have the right to tax him. Needless to say he lost that argument.
The honorary anger management icon Frankie Rodriguez famously punched out his girlfriend's father in the ballpark. This incident came on the heels of an altercation with coach Randy Nieman earlier in his Mets tenure. He was placed on the restricted list, then found to have injured his thumb during the assault on his girlfriend’s father necessitating season-ending surgery. He was placed on the disqualified list yet did return for the 2011 season as the Mets likely found no one willing to take on the PR nightmare. Eventually he was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers WITH CASH for the immortals Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario. Trouble didn’t end for him after his Mets days were over. He was arrested in 2012 for kicking and hitting the mother of his child.
In another dubious “first” Jenrry Mejia has the distinction of being the only player ever to receive a lifetime ban over the issue of PEDs. He is eligible to appeal and technically is still property of the Mets, but no one knows what his baseball future holds.
Jeurys Familia is currently awaiting judgment by MLB for the domestic violence incident involving his wife and an apparently drunken rampage that resulted in police being called to his New Jersey home.
Grant Roberts was a promising young pitcher working out of the bullpen for the NY Mets in 2002 as a rookie and at one point sported a 0.59 ERA through mid season. Unfortunately injuries crept up and he was forced to the shelf a few times, finishing the year appearing in 34 games with a sparkling 2.20 ERA. Unfortunately it was revealed that he and some bench players were smoking marijuana during the season, a charge he flatly denied until a photo surfaced of him using a bong.
Neil Allen was a popular player in the early 1980s but he also had a major drinking problem. When under the influence he gave some blistering interviews to the media which resulted in his ouster from the Mets in part of what became one of the best trades they ever made. Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey were sent to the Cardinals for their cocaine abusing problem child, Keith Hernandez. The rest, as they say, is history. Unfortunately Allen did not conquer his demons as he was arrested for drunk driving while serving as pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins last year.