No. 9 in your program, but...

Do you remember first seeing the kid? Remember the kid, just up from Tidewater (it was Tidewater back then), back in the days when people thought the Mets still could be something. The kid wearing number 49, with no offensive pedigree but a hell of a defensive one.

Hell, how many times did they call the kid "Randy"?

He didn't disappoint his dad's legacy. The kid could throw. The kid could handle a pitching staff. The kid was a hell of a catcher, all in all. A hell of a catcher on some truly awful teams.

He wasn't much of a hitter for average; never became one, really. But the power numbers just kept going up, and up, and up, and he became a dangerous hitter, and then all of a sudden the kid was chasing Roy Campanella's record for homers as a catcher. And passing it.

And the kid wasn't a kid anymore, but you thought of him as one, because he had such intensity. Not The Kid, like Gary Carter, but youthful, in a way. Because Todd Hundley was the Mets, when the Mets were a young and growing and trying-to-get-past-pathetic-squad.

And now, he's gone. It's in the name of progress, but he's gone. We won't even get into the moron he was traded for, but he's gone.

And Todd Hundley is probably going to be the greatest Met never to win a damned thing. When Todd Hundley was growing, the team around him was, as a couple of writers aptly put it, The Worst Team Money Could Buy. When Todd Hundley was good, the money wasn't being spent. And when, finally, FINALLY, the complement was there, Todd Hundley was on the shelf.

When the complement was there, Todd Hundley was desperately trying to get back. He rushed himself back into workouts, rushed into rehab, rushed his way back (I'll always remember sitting in the upper deck, rising with the rest of the assembled multitude at Shea, with a half a tear in my right eye because the kid had made it back). Played left field, for crying out loud, just to get himself back. He didn't hit. Of course he didn't. He never got his timing back, never got the hang of the position. Then they decided to shut the "experiment" down, just before September 1, and you felt like sobbing, for him and for yourself.

But then there were those couple of moments.

There was the catching start that Sunday, Sept. 13, in Montreal, when he blocked the plate, took Brian McRae's throw to get the runner at the plate, and preserved the 1-0 win. There was the 11th-inning pinch-hit homer to straightaway center in Houston that miraculously won the game 4-3 on Sept. 16, that saved what puny little hope was then left.

There were some strikeouts and some bad at bats down the stretch, but forget about those. Hold on to those two moments. One defensively, saving a run. And one clutch hitting, keeping the Bums alive. Because for more years than we care to count, Todd Hundley was the Mets. And for a couple of brief, shining moments, he was the Mets again. He was one of the few things, for a long time, worth watching on this team. We can understand why he's gone -- hell, Mike Piazza might be the best offensive catcher in the history of the world, and for the last couple of months of the 1998 season, hey, Mike Piazza was the Mets, the new-look Mets, the contending Mets, the Mets that might make the playoffs in 1999.

We understand, but those reasons don't help much right now. Because Todd Hundley's gone.

Todd Hundley is going to be the greatest Met that never won a damn thing. And that hurts most of all.

Although just getting Roger Cedeno and Armando Be-(participial expletive deleted)-nitez isn't much better, not to mention throwing in the Gooch.

Anchored the Boring Homepage, 12/1/98-1/11/99

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