With all due disrespect to Captain Johnny B. Badd, Country Time and Braden Looper, Amazin’ Avenue’s Matthew Callan says of Armando Benitez, “no Mets closer is more reviled.”If he was a film,” muses Callan, “his Rotten Tomatoes rating would be somewhere between ‘Jack and Jill’ and ‘The Room'”. I don’t know who should be more offended here, the makers of “Chairman Of The Board”, or Mel Rojas!
If you read accounts from back in 1999, even as he is mowing down National League hitters left and right, his teammates and manager seem to go out of their way to praise Benitez for his maturity and calmness, to a degree that is borderline condescending. With his history to that point, it almost seems as if they’re afraid of upsetting him and triggering a blow up.
The most obvious evidence of his immaturity, however, was the fact that despite possessing a good splitter, he continued to believe he could get over by trying to throw every single pitch through a barn door. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not, and it seemed to work least when he needed it most.
By sheer coincidence, I am sure, Benitez’s fall from grace roughly coincided with revelations about his clubhouse behavior, which could be described on childish or diva-ish depending on your mood. We found out that his ego needed almost constant smoothing, that he would often sulk at the hint of any slight, that on the day of the Todd Pratt game, he told Bobby Valentine he couldn’t pitch because he’d had a fight with his girlfriend (!).
From there forward, Benitez was a full fledged pariah, his ignominious exit from Queens a mere matter of time (though it took a lot longer than anyone involved would have liked). Fans washed their hands from him, and so did the team itself; while Franco has been officially rehabilitated, you won’t find any such move for Benitez. Nowadays, the only Mets Classic involving Benitez in any way is the game from 2007 where Jose Reyes causes him to balk twice.
Indeed, Benitez’ spot in Mets lore is so nebulous at best, totally negative at worst, that his last semi-lengthy appearance in this space came when setting a Pacific Coast League record.