Open Shots

By Dave Reardon

Friday, June 6, 1997

C’mon, Skip, bring on
Benny and the Mets

MR. Bobby Valentine
New York Mets
Flushing, NY 11368
(718) 507-METS
FAX: (718) 507-6395

Dear Mr. Valentine:

You might remember us from 1976, when you batted .304 for the Hawaii Islanders. Many of us here are Met fans, because Sid Fernandez, one of our local products, helped New York win the World Series in 1986.

The reason we're writing to you today is to congratulate you on the success you've had so far in posting a winning record this season when no one thought you could. Sure, it's still early. But if you don't lose another entire starting rotation to injury, who knows? The Mets could win a wild card playoff spot.

Sorry. We lied.

We really wrote to ask you a question.

Why is Benny Agbayani still at Norfolk?

You remember Benny, don't you? He's that player who you said you really liked when you managed him in the minors last year because of the way he spanks line drives all over the ballyard, the way you did when you were a player, before you got hurt.

Well, in case you need an update, Benny is still tearing up International League pitching. He's hitting .299 and waiting in his motel room each day for the call to Shea and the Show.

Now, we know you don't want to upset the chemistry of your winning lineup. But judging from the batting averages of some of your starting outfielders, it looks like you could use some help there.

OK, Bernard Gilkey hit a home run yesterday off Kevin Brown to help you beat the Marlins and put you in second place in the National League East. But Gilkey is still batting .207. And your center fielder, Carl Everett, is hitting only .205 and batting leadoff.

Can you really afford to carry this kind of lack of offensive production in two spots (that aren't catcher and shortstop), Mr. Valentine?

We think it's time for the Shea Stadium organ player to learn "Benny and the Jets," uh, Mets.

Give the kid a shot.

Actually, he's not really a kid anymore.

We remember Benny Agbayani as a multi-sport star at St. Louis School 10 years ago. So he's getting close to 30, that age when a lot of guys in the minors need to think about getting on with their lives.

Yes, of course we are being provincial, Mr. Valentine. But we have our reasons.

It's just that we've seen too many baseball players from Hawaii get really close to the majors and not make it.

Ever heard of Mario Monico? That guy could hit a ball bearing with a No. 2 pencil. He batted .300 at Triple-A in the Brewers' system a few years, but never got the call.

How about Garrett Nago? He was a catcher who was the last cut in spring training by the Expos one season because he was an outstanding handler of young pitchers, and they needed a guy like that in the minors. He never got close again.

Then there was Joey Vierra. He had a big league curveball and he was left-handed -- a perfect set-up reliever. Despite being a Triple-A all-star a couple times, Vierra never made it to the Reds or White Sox. The closest he got to the big time was sitting next to Michael Jordan on the Birmingham team bus.

So, Mr. Valentine, you can see why we're starting to get a little paranoid.

Call Benny today. You won't regret giving this guy his chance. He can help you, at least until Lance John son is ready to play every day again.

Please don't make us really write you letters (and call you, and FAX you).

The Baseball Fans of Hawaii

P.S. Mr. Valentine, can we have your e-mail address?

Dave Reardon is a magazine editor and freelance
writer who has covered Hawaii sports since 1977.
He can be reached via the Star-Bulletin or
by email at

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