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Cheaper by the dozen Former Cyclones haven’t found way to Mets

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Where have you gone, Scott Kazmir? A Cyclone Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Drafted in the first round in 2002, the feisty left-hander made his professional debut with Brooklyn that year. But all Mets fans know what happened next: In the middle of the 2004 season, Kazmir traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for right-hander Victor Zambrano and lefty Bartolome Fortunato.

Reaction to the trade can’t be printed in the King’s English, so as they say in the Vatican, res ipsa loquitor (the thing speaks for itself): Zambrano’s efforts (10-14 lifetime as a Met) have been disastrous, while Kazmir is now one of the best young lefties in baseball, sporting a 7-4 record, with a 3.38 ERA for the Devil Rays.

Mets fans are equally as enraged by what happened to Mike Jacobs, who was a Brooklyn hero from his very first game in the Cyclones’ inaugural season (he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly).

Jacobs had made a record-setting debut late in the in 2005 season for the Mets, becoming the first major league player to homer in each of his first four games. He spent most of September hitting homers for the Amazin’s.

That’s probably why he’s now wearing a Florida Marlins uniform. The kid was too good for his own good, and was included in the deal that brought Carlos Delgado to New York.

This season, Jacobs is hitting .259 with nine dingers.

Losing Jacobs and Kazmir still sticks in the craw like a piece of a ballpark frank before a good flossing. And this doesn’t help either: The New York Yankees, who have a reputation for giving away homegrown talent on the cheap in favor of the likes of Ken Phelps, now have four former Staten Island Yankees — Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Phillips and Melky Cabrera — toiling in pinstrips in the Bronx.

With Brooklyn’s June 20 season opener at home against those Yankees looming, it’s a good time to look at the other 10 talented former Cyclones who made it to the Big Leagues. Only one, Brian Bannister, is a Met — but he’s on the injured reserve list.

• Danny Garcia, a member of Brooklyn’s inaugural squad, was the first Cyclone to make the majors. The infielder made his Mets debut on September 2, 2003. Garcia’s number 6 is displayed at Keyspan Park as a tribute to him — but now he toils for the Columbus Clippers, a Yankees farm team, where he’s batting .220.

• Matt Watson did a brief rehab stint with the Cyclones in 2003. He made the major leagues with the Mets nine days after Garcia, and has remained a big-leaguer, albeit in Japan. Watson now plays for Chiba Lotte in the far far far Eastern league.

• Lenny DiNardo, a popular left-hander on the inaugural Cyclones, made the majors in 2004 — but with the Boston Red Sox. The Mets left him unprotected in the 2003 Rule V draft.

Small satisfaction here: DiNardo was part of the Red Sox 2004 World Championship season. He’s still on the Bosox, where he’s 1-2 with a 7.11 ERA.

• Righty Franklin Nunez pitched for Brooklyn in 2003, but later signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay in 2004, making his big league debut with the Devil Rays that August. He’s now piching for the Triple A Richmond Braves, where he has a 1-3 record.

• Joe Hietpas could turn out to be a modern Moonlight Graham, the famed New York Giants outfielder who played half an inning, yet never got an at-bat. As a result, he has no stats, making him a ghost (whose story was a key plot point in Field Of Dreams).

Hietpas, who caught for the Cyclones in 2002, has bounced around the Mets farm system ever since, but he did catch an inning with the major league Mets on the last day of the 2004 season. Like Graham, he did not get a chance to bat. Hietpas is currently batting .143 — yet remains in the Met system at Triple A Norfolk.

• Justin Huber, a 2001 Cyclone catcher, made his major league debut with Kansas City in 2005, and the Australian was 2 for 10 for Kansas City earlier this season before being sent to the minors this month.

• Another inaugural Cyclone, Angel Pagan, broke into the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs this season. The outfielder was hitting .263 in 19 at-bats and is now on the 15-day disabled list.

• Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, a member of the 2003 Cyclones, is a teammate of Jacobs the Marlins. Petit is pitching in relief and has a 0-1 record with a 7.36 ERA.

• Brian Bannister, a 2003 Cyclone, broke into the majors this season with the Mets, and was 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA when he injured his right hamstring. The righty is currently on the disabled list.

• Just as this issue went to press, Bobby Keppel, a righty pitcher who hurled in Brooklyn in 2003, became the 12th former ’Clone to reach the show. He’s already pitched a half-dozen innings in relief for the Kansas City Royals, and is now 0-2 with a 3.04 ERA.

There is still hope, however, for more Cyclones to join the Mets before they get tossed aside or traded away. Lefty Evan MacLane, a Cyclone in 2003 and 2004, is in Triple A Norfolk, where he is 6-0 with a 2.11 ERA.

Regardless of whether MacLane — or any of the 2006 Cyclones — stay in the Mets organization, history shows that when you go to a Cyclones game, you are seeing the future of baseball.

“You never know who will make the majors. I’ve seen third-string minor-league catchers eventually make the big leagues,” said Cyclones’ radio announcer Warner Fusselle.

You never know, but it’s fun to guess. See you at the ballpark.

June 17, 2006 issue  

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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