The New Met Math: Addition By Subtraction

The 2001 Winter Meetings were well underway when Steve Phillips, doing what many thought was impossible, plucked a future Hall of Famer from Cleveland. Rookie GM Mark Shapiro apparently made the worst Indian deal since the Lenapes sold Manhattan Island to the Dutch for 24 bucks worth of trinkets, giving up a sure-fire, first-ballot, Gold Glove second baseman for some over-hyped Met prospects and castoffs. Phillips cleaned Shapiro's clock. Or so it seemed at the time.

Now, a crushingly disappointing season and a half later, this transaction has established itself as one of the most appalling that the New York Met organization has ever signed off on. On Tuesday afternoon, the Mets ended their relationship with Roberto Alomar and shipped him (along with a check for $3.9 million - to pay the rest of his salary) to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for three minor league prospects. Were the Mets forced to pay it all?

"No, all the teams that we were speaking with going down the stretch would not take any salary back in return," Mets interim general manager Jim Duquette said on WFAN Tuesday. "Part of it is the market right now. If you go back to a week ago with the Rangers and Juan Gonzalez. They kind of set the tone. They were willing to pay all of his salary for prospects back."

December 11, 2001 appeared to be one of those historic days that the Met organization would look back upon with beaming smiles for years to come. Roberto Alomar wasn't just a good baseball player, he was a great baseball player. This was like stealing candy from a baby.

He was, hands down, the game's premier second basemen. His shelves groaned under the weight of his baseball bling-bling; he owned an ALCS MVP Award, ten Gold Gloves, an All-Star Game MVP, and four Silver Sluggers. He was a star that was ready to outshine even the Big Apple's bright lights.

But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, and when you look at Robbie Alomar, there goes your proof. He's leaving not with a bang, but with a whimper - sort of like the way he played here.

R. Alomar
I'M OUT OF HERE! It was obvious in Roberto Alomar's early Met days that he didn't enjoy the New York spotlight. Now, he gets to return to the American League and play with his older brother, Sandy Alomar Jr. in Chicago for a contender.
During the 2001 season, his last as an Indian, he posted All-Star caliber numbers. He hit a blistering, though now unfathomable, .336 with 20 homers, 34 doubles, and 100 RBIs as Cleveland won the A.L. Central. One season later? An anemic .266 average with 11 homers and 24 doubles while driving in 53. His on-base percentage, which was always guaranteed to be over .400, fell to .331; the worst it had been since his rookie season in 1988 with the San Diego Padres.

And though his mouth said "no", his body language said "go". The more he insisted that he loved New York, the more obvious it became that he couldn't wait to get the hell out of town

Nothing has changed in 2003. If you asked ten guys to pick one player that they thought was going to rebound from the Mets offensive disaster last year, nine of ‘em would say Alomar. He had too much talent to hit in the .260's. Well, to date Robbie is hitting a measly .262 with 2 homers and 22 RBIs.

It became pretty obvious that he was losing confidence in himself at the plate. Officials inside the Mets organization had become tired of waiting for hits while runners were in scoring position. He became a switch hitter who can't hit lefties; from the right side this season he is hitting just .171 (14-for-82) and last year he was at a .204 clip (33-for-162). Why did he struggled so terribly?

"Well, for whatever reason it's hard to put your finger on it," Mets manager Art Howe said to Ed Coleman on WFAN before Tuesday night's game. "Left-handed he did fine. He hit over .300 for us from the left side. For some reason, right handed he struggled. He hit the ball well at times, but it seemed to be at people."

In his time here, he was a questionable influence in the clubhouse, though no specifics have come out, and he was involved in a very public dugout dust-up with Roger Cedeno last season. Alomar's motivation has been most remarkable by it's absence.

R. Alomar
SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR: Roberto Alomar gets thrown into a pennant race with the White Sox and jumps back into the league where he made his mark. Add the fact that he will play with his brother, Sandy Jr. (left), and Robbie could return to dominance.
Now he returns to the American League to play alongside his brother, Sandy Alomar Jr. Add in the fact that the White Sox are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and are just 3.5 games back in a weak division, and suddenly you have a very happy Roberto Alomar, not the morose slacker we've gotten so used to seeing here in New York. At least somebody's happy today.

It's been no secret that this was an inevitable move by the Mets. With the team sinking further and further below the .500 mark, Jim Duquette's main task has been obvious all along: clear the decks by trying to trade underachieving veterans for cheaper, younger players that will help the team in the future. Today's deal was a big first step, and Duquette will continue to try to deal other marketable players, such as Armando Benitez, David Weathers, Steve Trachsel, and a revitalized Jeromy Burnitz.

It is entirely possible that Roberto Alomar may return to the AL and regain his status as an elite player, but his horrendous stint here has tarred him with the mark of those players who just can't handle New York. The Hall of Fame may still be glimmering on his horizon, but the best thing he did for Flushing Meadows was leave it.

More related stories by Christopher Guy:
Feb. 7, 2003 - Alomar Looks To Recover Superior Status

Writer Christopher Guy covers the Mets on a daily basis for NYMFansOnly.com and can be e-mailed at CGGuy86@Yahoo.com. Thanks to Frank Santarpia for editing.


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