I’m trying to obtain a baseball card signed by each player who has appeared in at least one game for the New York Mets. Each week, I try to spotlight one of the autographs in my collection.
Junior Noboa spent parts of eight seasons in the major leagues between 1984 and 1994, serving as a utility infielder for the Montreal Expos, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, California Angels, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates. He retired with a lifetime .239 average, one home run and 33 RBI in 317 games.
Noboa is now a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office, serving as special assistant to the GM/director, Latin American Ops.
The Mets claimed Noboa off waivers from the Montreal Expos after the 1991 season, and he made the 1992 Opening Day roster. His Mets debut came as a defensive replacement in the first game of the season – Noboa finished the game at shortstop after Mackey Sasser pinch hit for Kevin Elster in the ninth inning.
Noboa did not enjoy much success with the Mets. In 52 plate appearances over 46 games, he batted .149 (7-for-47) with three RBI. On July 26th, Noboa was assigned to Triple-A Tidewater to clear a roster spot so Vince Coleman could be activated from the disabled list.
Noboa was not promoted when the rosters expanded in September, and he was granted free agency at the end of the season.
Junior Noboa appears on five baseball cards in a New York Mets uniform: 1992 Leaf #403 (and its “black gold” parallel version), 1992 Topps Stadium Club #709, 1992 Fleer Ultra #533 and 1992 Kahn’s Mets #3. I’d like to get one of these cards signed for my Mets autograph collection, but for now he’s represented by a 1991 Topps card that shows him signing autographs as a member of the Montreal Expos.
December 10th is the anniversary of two New York Mets trades involving future Hall of Famers.
Forty years ago today, the Mets sent a 24-year-old pitcher named Nolan Ryanand three other prospects to the California Angels for a past-his-prime All-Star shortstop named Jim Fregosi.
At the time, the deal made a certain amount of sense. The Mets had a perennial problem at third base and hoped that Fregosi could provide the answer. He had been an All-Star as recently as 1970, and Baseball Reference calculates that he was worth 44.1 wins above replacement during his 11 seasons with the Angels.
Meanwhile, Ryan was coming off a 10-14 season with a 3.97 ERA for a team that had an incredibly strong pitching rotation. During five years with the Mets, in which he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, Baseball Reference calculates that Ryan was worth 3.7 wins above replacement.
With the benefit of hindsight, we know the Mets should not have made this trade. Fregosi was a bust in New York, hitting .233 with five home runs and 43 RBI in 146 games before moving on to Texas and Pittsburgh to finish out his career as a bench player.
Ryan went to his first All-Star Game in 1972, finishing the year with a 19-16 record for a 75-80 fifth place Angels team. He led the American League with nine shutouts and 329 strikeouts, and had a sparkling 2.28 ERA. That year alone, Ryan was worth 6.3 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.
We all know where Ryan’s career went from there. What we don’t know is what might have happened if he stayed with the Mets… would Ryan have put up the same numbers and helped the Mets win a few more World Series trophies? Would he have pitched his record six no-hitters in the orange and blue? Or would he have continued to bounce between the rotation and the bullpen… or maybe worse – would he have been another part of the 1977 midnight massacre trades?
Twenty-seven years ago today, the Mets made a better deal. They acquired All-Star catcher Gary Carter from the Montreal Expos for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans.
My prize – a Cliff Floyd bobblehead given away at a Harrisburg Senators game this season – arrived on Saturday. As far as bobbleheads go, it’s a very good likeness.
Floyd, who patrolled left field for the New York Mets from 2003-2006, began his career in the Montreal Expos’ organization as a first baseman. A 1995 collision with Mets catcher Todd Hundley at first base resulted in a broken wrist that nearly ended Floyd’s career; when he returned, he moved to the outfield.
In 1993, Floyd hit .329 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI for the Harrisburg Senators at the age of 20. The next year, he was the regular first baseman on a Montreal Expos team that appeared playoff-bound when the MLB Players Association went out on strike.
Floyd would go on to win a World Series ring in 1997 with the Florida Marlins. They recognized him with a bobblehead giveaway in 2001. I’m not aware of any other teams that have done so.
Thanks for the new addition to my small (and largely accidental) bobblehead collection, Ryan.
Lea pitched a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants in 1981, becoming the first French-born person to accomplish the feat in major league history. He was a National League All-Star in 1984, and retired from baseball with a lifetime 62-48 record and a 3.54 ERA.
Against the New York Mets, Lea had an 8-6 record with a 3.16 ERA in 18 appearances (17 starts). Danny Heep was a nightmare for Lea, hitting 3 home runs in 9 at-bats as a Met. Alex Trevino (4-for-5) and Doug Flynn (4-for-4) also had good fortune against the Expos’ right-hander during their Mets careers.
Lea had been working as a radio broadcaster for the Memphis Redbirds, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, since 2002.
According to records at SportsCollectors.Net, Lea was very accommodating to fans who wrote to him requesting autographs after his playing career ended. Beckett Media’s online baseball card database lists 74 cards featuring Lea; his rookie cards were included in the 1981 Topps and Fleer sets, but he had no certified autograph baseball cards.