Saturday, October 13, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 2003

Part 42 of our 50-year Rookie Hazing...
What is it: 2003 Topps #372, Cliff Floyd

What makes it interesting: Another multi-colored mishmash, the 2003s are basically the bad, new-era replicant of the 1983s. The '83s looked good in that cheesy '80s way. The '03s are a little too busy for my tastes.

Cliff Floyd is one of those players who was always injured and that probably kept him from an excellent career. Nonetheless, he did manage to play it out for 17 seasons, four of them with the Mets, where he proved to be both a valued teammate and a fan favorite. Floyd arrived on the Mets as a Free Agent in 2003 after many years with the Expos and Marlins. Prior to that, Floyd was mostly known as the guy who suffered a gruesome wrist injury in a collision with Todd Hundley at Shea Stadium early in the '95 season, while with the Expos.

The arrival of Floyd unfortunately coincided with the middle of a number of down seasons for the Mets. After the offseason spending spree prior to 2002 yielded disastrous results, the Mets brought in Floyd and Tom Glavine to try to right the ship. This didn't work, though not because of Floyd. Playing on an injured Achilles, Floyd still managed to hit .290 with 18 HR and 68 RBI in 108 games. With the season a lost cause, and the Mets having turn over the roster to younger, inexperienced players, Floyd opted to end his season in August for Achilles surgery. Nonetheless, in his final few games, Floyd went 11 for 15 with 6 RBI and departed to a standing ovation. The fans knew. Cliff's Met tenure would be marked with similar injury problems, but he often played through them and put up solid numbers as long as he was able.

2004 saw more injury woes for Floyd. In only 113 games, Floyd hit .260 with 18 Home Runs and 63 RBI. Floyd also became a bit more outspoken about the team's struggles. Floyd generally wasn't a complainer, but he was always honest. And he was right, the Mets, at that point, were terrible, and as he put it, there wasn't much "light at the end of the tunnel."

The Mets turned things over once again prior to 2005. Gone were much of the Steve Phillips-era signings, and prospects that weren't really prospects. In came Omar Minaya, Willie Randolph and a lot of new blood, including a young 3rd Baseman named David Wright. Yes, Wright debuted in 2004, but his first full season was in 2005. Floyd seemed to take the young 3rd Baseman under his wing, serving as a mentor of sorts, while at the same time providing him with the gentle hazing task of having Wright carry his luggage all season. Healthy for the first time in several seasons, and also with more lineup protection, Floyd responded with a career year of sorts, hitting .273 with a career high 34 HRs and 98 RBI. He also stole 12 bases and scored 85 runs. Floyd's performance helped to carry the Mets back to respectability, as the finished over .500 for the first time in his time here.

The Mets got even better in 2006, but Floyd was once again plagued by injuries. He got off to a slow start and was constantly in and out of the lineup, playing in only 97 games, and hitting .244 with 11 HR and 44 RBI. Floyd's legs were basically shot by this point  and even when in the lineup, Floyd was often replaced for defense late in games by Endy Chavez. But the team around him picked up his slack and ultimately would run away with the NL East. The night the Mets won the division, on September 18th, it was Floyd who would catch the last out of the game, off the bat of Josh Willingham. Floyd was solid in the NLDS vs. Los Angeles, belting a long Home Run off Derek Lowe to give the Mets the lead in Game 1. Floyd would go on to hit in all 3 Division Series games, and .444 overall, before the Achilles that just wouldn't let him go tightened up on him in Game 3, forcing him from the game and putting his status for the NLCS in doubt. Floyd gave it his best and started Game 1 of the Championship Series vs. St. Louis, but running out a foul ball in the 2nd inning, Floyd's achilles tightened up again. Floyd would ultimately be relegated to the bench for the remainder of the series, leaving the Mets shorthanded. A pinch-hitting appearance under questionable circumstances in Game 7 yielded a strikeout against a wicked Adam Wainwright curveball. And that was it for Cliff Floyd with the Mets.

Floyd would eventually go on to sign with the Chicago Cubs following the '06 season. Though his replacement, Moises Alou, had a better year than Floyd in '07, he was also oft-injured. He also lacked Floyd's presence in the clubhouse, which may have been a detriment to the team chemistry. Floyd returned to Shea Stadium with the Cubs in May of '07. His old teammate, Paul LoDuca, greeted him by tackling him in the Outfield prior to the game. Fans greeted him with a standing ovation. Floyd may have not had the most outstanding career with the Mets, but he always gave his all, often injured, often in hopeless situations. Fans remember these things.

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