Saturday, September 28, 2002

Al Leiter by Steve Reynolds

As a Mets fan, I’ve thought long and hard about who to pick as my most entertaining player. When our esteemed editor suggested this topic, I first figured it would take me five minutes. Then I realized, “Crap, the Mets haven’t been entertaining since the 2000 NLCS!” The 2001 season was disappointing, but 2002 has been even worse. I had my hopes built up for a playoff team with the addition of Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedeno and Roberto Alomar. I was totally fooled in early May when the team went on an offensive tear. I foolishly believed that these 25 guys that could score a lot of runs and give up only a couple each game. Heck, I even predicted in these pages the Mets would win the World Series. Ha! World Series my ass.

Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, let’s turn to the matter at hand—who is the most entertaining player on my Mets? First one that comes to mind is Joe McEwing. He can play every position and is always hustling. But it’s hard to hustle when you go 33 at bats in a row without a hit. That’s not entertainment—it’s torture. So I’ll choose the Met most likely to go into broadcasting after he retires—Al Leiter. Picking a pitcher as the M-E-P probably goes against the grain since Leiter isn’t out there everyday. But the New Jersey native that dreamed of playing for the Mets is always fun to watch on the mound. He lets it all hang out. More than any pitcher I’ve ever seen, he uses body language to will balls to go foul . When he gets frustrated with himself, he has no qualms about yelling at himself on the mound. He’s never one to shy away from answering tough (or stupid) questions for the throngs of the New York media. Even when he’s just in the dugout as a spectator, the camera will catch glimpse of him talking to other pitcher or rallying the troops to score a run or two, especially since that’s all the Mets can usually provide.

Finally, I’ve seen Al Leiter rocking out at a Bruce Springsteen show, which automatically ups his entertainment value. I look forward to the days when Al is on Baseball Tonight, as he shows Howard Reynolds (no relation) and Dave Campbell why they suck. Perhaps he’ll keeping saying gems like this—here’s our man Al on the fan voting for the 30th man at the All-Star Game: “The 30th Man should be a non-superstar name who deserves it because of the year he is having as a role player—in other words, a bench player or a setup reliever. Will baseball finally have two spots of the best utility player and best setup guy? 30th Man, schman. Give these two valuable positions their long-overdue credit. Give them a spot!”

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