“When Black Friday comes/
I’ll collect everything I’m owed/
And before my friends find out/
I’ll be on the road” – Steely Dan, “Black Friday”
Traditionally, the Mets have always overvalued their own prospects, to the extent that they’d cling to those that had value until they no longer had any. Or had a higher trade value as a younger prospect, then rush them so that they couldn’t develop properly. Yeah, that seemed to be the Mets’ MO until recently.
What happens when you don’t value your prospects?
You get Black Friday 2004.
In an odd circle of events, it was the events of Black Friday 2004 that set me into the path of blogging. When I heard about Scott Kazmir being traded, and fan favorite Ty Wigginton being turned around for Kris Benson (which I wasn’t too bent about at the time), I needed an outlet. It was frustrating being a Mets fan at that time. They were boring and terrible to watch, behind their boring and terrible manager Grandpa Art, and a team that couldn’t get its act together. Remember when Jose Reyes was always hurt and David Wright was a baby? This was then. There was stuff to look forward to, but the team itself then was blah.
Black Friday, in and of itself, was a special Mets event. We still talk about it and cringe. But it’s more than just how it set the Mets back (and it did, which I will explain, even though within two years they made the postseason and were oh-so-close in 2007 and 2008). It’s how they destroyed the career of Kazmir before it event started.
The shorthand of it was because of the backlash of Black Friday — how John Franco and Al Leiter were in the ear of Jeff Wilpon, who had more of a hands-on approach to day-to-day operations with the team, and claimed that Kazmir’s music tastes weren’t appropriate and he was out of line (by changing the channel in the weight room) — this led to the rehiring of Omar Minaya, who then in turn cut ties with Franco and Leiter (the right move at the time). Then he signed Pedro Martinez (and FUCK Pedro Martinez), and signed Carlos Beltran to a long-term deal which was riddled with injuries and blocked the development and career of Lastings Milledge. Then there was the line about fixing a pitcher in ten minutes, uttered by pitching coach extraordinaire Rick Peterson.
Yes, Scott Kazmir and his trade for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato was the snowball effect of all post-traumatic Mets disorder for this fan.
I remember one fan blogger (no longer in existence or just hard to find) said that Black Friday was this generation’s Midnight Massacre. Now, I’m not going so far as to say the trade of a highly rated pitching prospect for crap is like trading away the Franchise Tom Seaver. But the betrayal behind, and though process, were indeed the same. Save David Wright, we haven’t had that type of move with a “Franchise Player” unless you count Jose Reyes, which was purely business.
But it’s more than just the betrayal of the fan base. It was the betrayal of Scott Kazmir himself. Trading him to the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) was probably the worst thing for his career and in effect, it’s ruined him.
One of the grumblings behind the trade was that Kazmir was an injury risk. And looking at how he’s performed since the trade would lead us to believe it would have been more of the same had he stayed with the Mets. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, and there’s more than meets the eye with this one.
Kazmir was only 19 years old and had only been in the minors for barely two years at that point. One of my biggest gripes with the Mets historically is how they’ll rush prospects in the name of appeasing the fans. The Rays had orchestrated a heist of the top pitching prospect for two pieces of donkey dung. They were also on the cusp of changing their culture, one that had been a losing one up to just about a few years ago. They needed to have something there to show their 15 fans they were serious about the future. They did that by having Kazmir pitch for the rest of the 2004 season.
He probably pitched over his head, and then hurt himself. He has not pitched since 2011. And even then he only pitched 1 2/3 innings with the Angels of Anaheim, Planet Earth.
If the Mets rushed him, he’d have had the same thing that happened to him with Tampa and with the Angels. Yet, if he hadn’t been traded, who knows, he may have had time to mature and been the highly touted pitcher he was supposed to be.
Perhaps there wouldn’t have been a need to sign Pedro for four years. Kazmir would have been that pitcher. With Kazmir, there wouldn’t have been a need for Duaner Sanchez and then for Oliver Perez. Perhaps there wouldn’t have been a need to lean on El Duque in 2006. Kazmir could have gotten those important starts down the stretch in 2007 as he honed his craft. There wouldn’t have been a mad scramble to replace Pedro Martinez or anyone else who got hurt in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Inadvertently, the trade of Scott Kazmir led to a downward spiral that the Mets still haven’t quite gotten out of. Even with prospects like Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler in the Mets system and the excitement around them, we always wonder when the shoe is going to drop…whether they will step on the sensitive toes of a veteran, whether they will thrive in New York, whether they will be rushed or injury prone or whatever.
It’s taken nearly 10 friggin years to get out of that. All because of Black Friday. If I knew Black Friday were coming back then, I would have asked for it not to fall on me either.
But it did. Yet for the first time in a long time, things are looking up for the Mets. However, if Scott Kazmir had been given a chance to grow and thrive with the Mets, maybe the faux dynasty of David Wright and Jose Reyes would have been solidified with Kazmir heading up the rotation. Of course we’ll never know. But that won’t stop me from having post-traumatic Mets disorder associated with Black Friday for years to come.