Wednesday, July 6, 2011
#528) LUIS LOPEZ
Luis Lopez came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the Houston Astros in exchange for Tim Bogar on March 31, 1997. The switch-hitter from Puerto Rico made his Mets' debut at Shea Stadium as a pinch-hitter on June 2nd. Luis filled in as the starting shortstop that month until Rey Ordoñez was able to resume the role. In all, the versatile infielder appeared in 78 games and hit for a .270 batting average. A good enough performance for the Mets to bring him back the next season.
"He plays well when he is rested, no doubt about that," said manager Bobby Valentine. "And Luis was very valuable last year." Lopez did not always agree that the Mets best way to use him was from the bench. "My approach right now is to come to the ball park and go about my work. If I'm playing, I go out and do my 100 percent," explained Luis. "If I'm not, I've got to be ready whenever they need me." He was indeed ready and entered the lineup as both a reserve and at times again as the replacement for Ordoñez when he was ailing. Lopez even added games in the outfield to his credits during a strong 1998 season.
"I take pride in my job," he said. "I go early to the ball park and take grounders at third, short and second and then go to the outfield and work out there too. My job is to be a defensive player." So when general manager Steve Phillips resigned Lopez for a two-year contract it was no surprise. "Luis is one of the most versatile players in the League," Phillips said. "The way Bobby Valentine uses his roster he is an extremely valuable commodity."
Unfortunately Lopez would struggle in 1999. His offense fell off considerably at the time a usually light-hitting Rey Ordoñez was enjoying an unexpected surge. The result was a large reduction in Luis' playing time. Frustration between he and Ordoñez came to it's peak on September 2nd. The Mets team was in transit from the Newark airport after having returned from a series in Houston. Between 4-5 a.m. a fight between the infielders broke out before reaching it's Shea Stadium destination. Lopez was uninjured, but his blow to Ordoñez required six stitches above the shortstop's eye. Although the cause of the altercation was never truly established it was rumored to be either Lopez's jealousy or Rey's opposition to Luis' hazing of Mets' rookie, Jorge Toca during the trip. "It's a clubhouse matter," said Adam Katz, the agent for both players. "It's been taken care of. It wasn't anything big. They're friends. I know for a fact. It's a nonissue."
Lopez ended the season with a .212 batting average in just 68 games. He was traded that winter to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Bill Pulsipher on January 21, 2000.
After retiring from playing in 2006, Luis began coaching in the minor-leagues. He joined the Boston Red Sox organization as the hitting coach for the Lowell Spinners in 2008, and moved to the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League in 2010.
Luis Lopez signed his card in the set for my friend Katie at the Greenville Drive and Lexington Legends game at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on June 25, 2011.