NEW YORK (WFAN) - One of the most ridiculed and criticized — yet successful — closers in Mets history is making a comeback.
No, he didn’t sign with a Major League team, and no, he didn’t catch on with a Minor League affiliate.
Good ol’ Armando Benitez has resurfaced with none other than the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Benitez is yet another in a long list of once-successful big leaguers who have attempted to revitalize themselves in Central Islip — ex-Brave John Rocker, beloved Met Edgardo Alfonzo and Jose Offerman are just a few players who have taken their talents to Bethpage Ballpark over the past few years.
The closer first became a household name in New York in the late ’90s with the Baltimore Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, he surrendered the famed home run to Derek Jeter that was snagged in the right-field seats by 12-year-old North Jersey native Jeffrey Maier. Then, in 1998, the 39-year-old intentionally hit Yankees superstar Tino Martinez, igniting a firestorm of controversy.
From 1999-2003 he was the Mets’ closer before being traded across town to the Yankees to set up for Mariano Rivera midway through ’03. His tenure in the Bronx didn’t last long, as general manager Brian Cashman shipped the fireballer to the Mariners after just nine games with the Bombers.
In his time in Flushing, the Dominican Republic native amassed 160 saves and posted a 2.70 ERA. He was known for dominating lesser teams in the regular season and struggling mightily down the stretch and in the postseason, most notably during the 2000 Subway Series against the Yankees.
Despite New Yorkers’ mixed feelings about the reliever, Ducks President Michael Pfaff is thrilled to have him join the team.
“Armando Benitez is a well-known name to the baseball fans of the Tri-State area,” Pfaff said in a statement. “He has had success in this league and at the big league level previously, and we’re confident he will contribute positively to our club’s championship mission.”
Benitez last pitched professionally for the Newark Bears — another Atlantic League team — in 2010 before being signed by the Marlins to a Minor League deal.
Mets and Yankees fans, what do you think of when the ridiculous Armando Benitez comes to mind? Fond memories or negative ones? Offer your thoughts and comments below…