Dec 23, 2015

1999 N.L. Wild Card Champion Mets Left Fielder: Rickey Henderson (The Mets Years 1999-2000)

Rickey Henderson signed with Mets in December 1998 just one week before his 40th his birthday on Christmas Day. The controversy started right away when he was issued uniform #24. Although it was never officially retired, it was last used by the legendary Willie Mays during the 1973 Mets NL Pennant season.

There was one exception with the number 24, when it was accidentally given to Kelvin Torve in 1990. But after public outrage it was quickly taken away & Torve was reissued a new number. Many long time fans did not think Henderson, although a future Hall of Famer himself, was worthy of wearing the great Mays' number.


Henderson was never a great fit with the Mets but he did have a real good year in 1999. He took over the lead off spoton Opening Day &  played left field. That day he got a hit & had another with two RBIs the nest day in Florida.

In the third game of the season he hit two HRs and had four hits in the 6-0 Mets win over the Marlins. He missed three weeks of action in May, then had a hot streak on a mid June road trip going 12 for 27. He had a four hit game on June 19th & had three multi RBI games in the last two weeks of the month.

He rolled right through the summer months, finishing up August batting .338. On August 22nd, he tied up a game against the Cardinals with a bottom of the 9th inning double scoring Rey Ordonez. He then scored on an Edgardo Alfonzo walk off base hit.

In September he cooled off but hit an important two run HR at Coors Field on September 13th, helping New York in a 6-5 win to stay in the wild card hunt. He also had two other multi RBI games that month.

In the final game of the season, in a tie breaker for the wild card title at Cincinnati against the Reds, Henderson led off the game with a base hit. He scored on Edgardo Alfonzo's base hit. Later in the 5th inning he led off the inning with a solo HR of his own off Denny Neagle. The Mets won it 5-0 behind Al Leiter & advanced to the post season.

Henderson played in 121 games batting .315 with 82 walks and a .423 on base percentage (7th in the league). He hit 30 doubles with 12 HRs 42 RBIs 82 Runs scored & stole 37 bases (7th in the league). Quite a year for a 40 year old player.


Post Season: In Game #1 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamond backs he went hitless but walked twice & scored both times. In Game #3 he went 3-5 with an RBI single off Darren Holmes in the 6th inning. He then scored another run on John Olerud's base hit in the 9-2 Met win.

In the final Game #4 he led off the 6th inning with a base hit off Brain Anderson, then scored the go ahead run on Benny Agbayani's double. Arizona would tie it, but the Mets clinched the series on Todd Pratt's walk off HR.

Overall Henderson hit .400 (6-15) with three walks & five runs scored in the NLDS. In the NLCS vs. Atlanta he only hit .174 going 4-23 with no walks an just one RBI. The RBI came in the 7th inning of Game #6, as the first of four Mets runs tying up the game.

In that Game #6 at Atlanta, he was replaced in the 8th inning as Bobby Valentine shuffled his line up when John Franco was brought in to pitch the do or die game. Henderson abandoned his team, pouted & left the dug out. It was reported he &another long time troubled soul; Bobby Bonilla were playing cards in the locker room as the Mets lost the Series to the Braves on the field.

The player & fans were outraged, as the media played it up. He & Bonilla had certainly worn out their welcome in New York.

Henderson made it to start the 2000 season, but was released after  31 games & batting just .219. The Mets went to the World Series without him.


Retirement: He resurfaced in the Mets organization in 2006 as a special base running instructor at Spring Training. He helped Jose Reyes work on his base stealing skills. In July 2007 he became the Mets first base coach but wasn't asked to return in 2008.

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