Bad Free Agent Signings: Rickey Henderson

Mets Coach Bobby Valentine, left, and General Manager Steve Philips, right, introduce "stolen base king" Rickey Henderson, at a news conference given by the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York, Monday, Dec. 21, 1998. The Mets signed Henderson for $2.3 million for one year with an option for a second. (AP Photo/Ed Bailey)

In December 1998, Rickey Henderson joined his sixth club, the New York Mets, as a free agent. The following year was filled with ups and downs for the future Hall of Famer.

He exceeded all expectations — batting .315, getting on base at a .423 clip, and stealing 37 bases — but his personality rubbed many in the Mets organization the wrong way.

One of the most glaring incidents took place during the emotional sixth game of the NLCS, which New York ultimately lost to the Braves.

As the Mets struggled, it was rumored that Henderson wiled away the last innings in the locker room, playing cards with Bobby Bonilla.

New York released him the following May. The Seattle Mariners quickly became the seventh team to pick up the stolen base king, and Henderson once again went to the postseason.

In what has become a telling sign of Henderson’s career, the wiry leadoff man remained in great physical shape, drawing walks, stealing bases, and scoring runs.

However, his reputation for “dogging it” on the base paths and in the outfield led yet another team — Seattle — to pass on re-signing Henderson, and he entered the 2001 season without a contract.

Henderson played his last major-league game September 19, 2003, with the Dodgers.

He was hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance and came around to score his 2,295th run.

The Mets hired Henderson as a special instructor in 2006, primarily to work with hitters and to teach base stealing.

Henderson’s impact was noticeable on leadoff hitter José Reyes.

On July 13, 2007, the Mets promoted Henderson from special instructor to first base coach, replacing Howard Johnson, who became the hitting coach.

Henderson was not retained as a coach for 2008. The Mets didn’t learn the first time.

Henderson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 as a member of the Oakland A’s.

Rickey Henderson’s career numbers >>

About the Author

Lifetime Met fan who hates his parents for making him become a Mets fan as a child. No amount of therapy has helped and cannot switch teams now. Quitting smoking was easier. What a joke this organization really is, how much pain and suffering it has brought us through the years. Bad enough to be in Big Apple with Yankees fans.

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