In my opinion , you would have to be just a little bit insane to be a effective relief pitcher. Face it for the most part you are sitting around the bullpen waiting to see action. Sometimes your name is called and you snap into action , getting yourself prepared to get into the game. But for the most part you are tending to the tomato garden that a former pitching coach planted many seasons ago, or you order pizza, or you think of new and exciting ways to screw with your fellow players. Face it the relief pitcher – especially the middle reliever is the most likely to be the comic relief of the team. Look at the antics of Tug McGraw, Jeff Innis, Turk Wendell , or even the San Francisco Giants closer, Brian Wilson. Each man either brings or had brought their own skewed sense of humor to their club. Sometimes they lightened tense atmospheres, sometimes they caused conflicts. Or sometimes they were good for administering the occasional hotfoot. Well today we salute the ” King of the Hotfoot” Roger McDowell.
Roger was born in Cincinnati Ohio onDecember 21, 1960. After Roger had graduated high school, he went on to college and was selected by the Mets in the third round of the 1982 Major League Baseball Draft.
Roger was immediately assigned to the Mets A-level minor league team. In 1983 he was promoted to the Mets double A affiliate , the Jackson Mets. He was used as a starting pitcher in his first two years in the minors. This would all change in 1984, after Roger would injure his elbow. He would pitch in only three games before that injury. Roger did not require surgery on his elbow , instead he opted to rest it. He was converted into a relief pitcher and developed his out pitch - a sinker ball that could buckle the knees of the some tof the best hitters in the game.
In 1985, Roger made his Major League debut. He was used mainly as the Mets eighth inning man, but he would often platoon the closers role with the Mets main reliever, lefty, Jesse Orosco.. Roger would finish the ’85 season with a record of 6-5 , a ERA of2.83and 17 saves.
During his tenure with the Mets, Roger was the teams court jester in residence. He was known to administer the hotfoot to his unsuspecting coaches and teammates. He would light firecrackers in the dugouts. In the book ” The Bad Guys Won” it was revealed that after the altercation at Cooter’s Bar in ’86, Roger was able to fabricate prison bars out of strips of bandages and placed them over the lockers of Bobby Ojeda, Tim Teufel , Ron Darling and Rick Aguilera. And one of his funniest moments was he cameo as the ” second spitter “on a episode of Seinfeld which featured Keith Hernandez prominantly in the story line.
In 1986, Roger would help propel the Mets into their first post season in thirteen years. He would go 14-9 with 22 saves and a ERA of 3.02 in 75 games that season. Roger was lights out during the ’86 NLCS , limiting the Astros to one hit in seven innings. Roger pitched five innings in game six. That was the 16 inning marathon of a game . That was the game that saw the Mets clinch the National League berth in the World Series.
Roger was ineffective on the whole during the ’86 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. He would see action in in five of the seven games. It is largely forgotten that Roger was credited with the win in game seven of the ’86 World Series. He pitched a scoreless seventh inning when the game was still tied. The Mets scored in the bottom of the seventh, making Roger the pitcher of record.
1987 was a off season for Roger. Yes he did save 25 games for the Mets that season but his record was 7-5 with a ERA of 4.16. He will always be remembered for killing the Mets chances of going back to the post season when on September 11 he served up that game tying two run shot in the 9th inning to the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, Terry Pendleton. The Cardinals won the game in the tenth, and the Mets wouldn’t be able to recover.
In 1988, rookie reliever, Randy Myers would take the place of the recently traded Jesse Orosco. Just like with Jesse, Roger would share the closers role with Randy. Roger would rebound that season. He had a record of 5-5, a ERAof 2.63 with 16 saves.
The Mets won 100 games that season and they made their second post season in three years. They would face the Los Angeles Dodgers (a team that they dominated that regular season) in the 1988 NLCS that season. Roger would appear in relief of Dwight Gooden in Game 4. With the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the twelfth, Roger gave up the game winning home run to Dodgers outfielder, Kirk Gibson . The Mets ended losing to the Dodgers in seven games.
1989 would be Rogers last season with the Mets.He was traded in mid June with fellow beloved Met, Lenny Dykstra to the Philadelphia Phillies for second baseman, Juan Samuel. Mets fans everywhere were devastated. Samuel was a complete bust with the Mets. He was not a outfielder, and he didn’t hit a lick for the Mets. Lenny and Roger thrived during their tenure with the Phillies.
In 1991 Roger would be traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. He would stay with the Dodgers until the end of the ’94 season. He signed with the Texas Rangers in ’95. He would then sign with the Orioles in ’96 and the White Sox in ’97 but he never did regain his old form. In 1998, Roger was given a a invitation to attend spring training with the Chicago Cubs but he would retire after he didn’t make the team.
Roger is currently the pitching coach for our division rival Atlants Braves. Unfortunately he was not able to attend the “Shea Goodbye” ceremonies in ’08.
In five season with the Mets , Roger had a record of 33-29with 84 saves and ERA of 3.13.
Roger will always fondly be remembered in the hearts and memories of those of us Mets fans that saw him during those pivotal years. As much as I want to boo him whenever he comes to town with the Braves – I just can’t – he was and will always be a Met to me.
Tomorrow we will find out who is number 23 on the list of the top 50 Mets of all time.
And with that said… HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets alumni celebrating birthdays today include :
Middle reliever from the ’01 team, Brian Rose is 35 (1976). Rose would appear in three games in the month of April for the Mets. he went 0-1 with a ERA of 4.15 before he was put on waivers that April 20th.
Current third string catcher for the Mets, Mike Nickeas is 28 (1983) .
The New York Mets signed free agent pitcher,David Cone on February 13, 2003. This was a comeback attempt for David Cone. He was able to make the Mets starting rotation out of spring training, but he would retire after five gameshe went 1-3 with a ERA of 6.50. He would retire after the first month of that season.
And while you spend your day pining for spring training games to start, just remember that there are just 47 Jesse Orosco days until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami and only 54 days until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn once was on the receiving end of a hot foot . He was overheard asking who was cooking B.B.Q !!!