Thursday, June 2, 2011
#537) RICH BECKER
Rich Becker was traded from the Minnesota Twins to the New York Mets in exchange for Alex Ochoa on December 12, 1997. The left-handed hitter was brought in to serve as a reserve outfielder or possibly more. "I'm sure (Bobby Valentine) is going to play whoever's going to give him the best opportunity to win that day." Rich said during spring training. "If one of us is playing well, I'm sure he'll be in the lineup." Becker was a strong fielder and hoped to provide power from the bench. The only concern was his large number of strikeouts with the Twins. "Part of that is aggressiveness; if we get him to be a little more aggressive, and still take pitches, that number of strikeouts will come down." stated Mets' general manager Steve Phillips at the time of the trade.
Rich made his Mets debut on Opening Day, March 31, 1998. He entered the game at Shea Stadium and struck out as a pinch-hitter during a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. The next day he produced his first hit for New York. A three-run ninth-inning home run against those same Phillies. Becker's finest game came on April 4th facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rich treated the fans at Shea to the total extent of his talents. During a marathon extra-inning contest he began by throwing out a runner at the plate in the first inning. Then saved two more runs with a sprawling catch in left to end the second, and pulled the Mets to within 3-2 with a 414 foot, two-run blast over the centerfield fence in the fourth. Becker singled to keep a two-out rally going in the eighth, and finally singled again over a drawn-in infield to win the game 7-6 in the 13th inning. "I can't complain," Becker was quoted. "It's a great day. A little bit of everything." The newest Met was making a name for himself. "Never heard of him," relief pitcher, Turk Wendell said. "I was like, 'Rich Becker? Who's that?' But people know who he is now, and I'm glad that he's on my team."
Unfortunately Becker's success would fade as his strikeout totals grew. With his batting average dropped to .190, he left the Mets after being claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles on June 16, 1998. Rich finished his time in New York with 3 home runs, 10 RBIs and 42 strikeouts in 100 at-bats. "He's a good outfielder with a good arm and speed," said Orioles manager, Ray Miller. "And he's only 26. That's not a guy you give up on."
Rich Becker signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to his home on February 2, 2009.