By David Russell
The Brooklyn Cyclones are playing their 15th season in Coney Island, and that got us thinking: Who were the greatest players to ever grace a Cyclones uniform, and then make it to the majors? So we put our heads together and came up with a list of 14 of the finest examples of Cyclones tradition who we had the pleasure of covering before watching them go on to bigger and better things. They grow up so quick…
There is no doubt that this humble Goliath, who led the Cyclones to the finals in 2007, is the greatest first baseman the Brooks have ever produced. Duda hit 30 homers last year for the Mets after winning the job from fellow Cyclone alum Ike Davis. We expect great things from Duda in the future.
Honorable mentions: Mike Jacobs: Jacobs had the walk-off sac fly in the first-ever Cyclones game (after striking out in his first four at-bats), and he hit 100 career home runs in a seven-year major-league career.
The Mets lone All-Star in 2014, Murphy is currently in his seventh season with the Mets. One of the only current Mets who played at Shea Stadium, he has also played left field, first base, and third base since arriving to the Mets in 2008. Murphy led the team in homers — with 12 — in 2009. He was a career .326 hitter in two stints with the Clones. Honorable mention 2B: Danny Garcia, the first Cyclone to make it to the show, played briefly for the woeful 2003 and 2004 Mets before inexplicably disappearing.
The current Met is tied for second among shortstops in home runs this season with 10. He had a cup of coffee with the Cyclones in 2008 at the tender age of 17, earning him a spot on the roster.
The Mets had never produced an All-Star third baseman until David Wright, and neither have the Cyclones. That’s why the Captain — who took batting practice twice with the 2009 Cyclones — earns bragging rights at the hot corner, beating out current backup Danny Muno, who batted .355 as Clones shortstop in 2011, and Eric Campbell, who had nine doubles for the Clones during the 2008 campaign.
Of the few Cyclones catchers to make it to the majors, Flores probably had the best career. He hit a homer in his Cyclones debut, but injuries limited his time in Washington — where he ended up thanks to a front-office flub, as the Mets failed to protect him in the 2006 Rule-5 Draft (but that’s too much inside baseball stuff). A National for five seasons, he played only 26 games in 2009 and missed all of 2010 with a shoulder injury. Honorable Mention: Kevin Plawecki: This 2012 Cyclone is the Mets everyday catcher right now — until unCyclone Travis d’Arnaud returns from the disabled list.
Pagan’s walk-off homer against the Cardinals in 2011 has been a staple on Mets Classics, but it’s his season for the 2012 World Series champion Giants that stands out as his finest work. Pagan, who was on base when Jacobs had his walk-off sac fly in the first Cyclones game, led the National League in triples and set the Giants record with a 28-game home hitting streak. Pagan is also the first player in history to hit his first two home runs on his birthday, a feat he accomplished as a Cub in 2006.
Although he’s only in his third season in the majors, Lagares’ glove is enough to earn a spot on this roster. Lagares won his first Gold Glove last season, finishing second among outfielders with 28 Defensive Runs Saved. Even more amazing is that the Mets signed him as a shortstop in 2006. Lagares played in Brooklyn in 2008, when he hit a pedestrian .250 in 19 games.
Beltran had a forgettable cameo as a 2009 Cyclone, going 3-for-18 with five strikeouts. Still, he’s the only player to hit 300 home runs, steal 300 bases and wear a Cyclones uniform.
The one that got away. Kazmir pitched 18 innings for the 2002 Cyclones, striking out 34, while giving up one run. Two years later, in a highly criticized move, the Mets traded Kazmir to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano, who would go 10–14 for the Mets with a 4.42 earned-run average. Meanwhile, Kazmir was twice an All-Star in Tampa Bay, including 2008 when he won 12 games and led the Rays to a the World Series — as the pitching-starved Mets missed the playoffs by one game. As a member of the Oakland A’s, Kazmir made his third All-Star team in 2014, a season in which he won a career-high 15 games.
A member of the 2007 Cyclones, Gee went 13–6 for the 2011 Mets. He has been inconsistent since then, going 25–29 during the last three-plus seasons. Right now, he is back in the minors. But hey, at least he gets to hang out with the Cyclones’ most colorful manager of all time, Wally Backman.
The only Cyclone who was a member of the 2006 Eastern Division champion Mets. Later that year, Bannister was traded to the Royals, where he came in third in American League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2007. In return, the Mets got career-criminal Ambiorix Burgos. Bannister went 4–1 with a 2.15 earned-run average as a Clone.
A 2003 Cyclone who had two excellent starts, Petit was sent to Florida along with Mike Jacobs in the Carlos Delgado deal. He was the unsung hero of the 2014 Giants World Series title. Petit pitched six shutout innings in relief in an 18-inning NLDS victory over Washington. He also won Game 4 of the Championship Series and Game 4 of the World Series out of the bullpen.
This submariner proved you don’t have to be a lefty to be a specialist when he zoomed from the Cyclones to the Mets in just one season. Smith impressed as the Clones’ closer in 2006, and by 2007 was in the show, used mostly to get out tough right-handed hitters. Sent to Cleveland as part of the disastrous, 12-player J.J. Putz deal, he played five seasons for the Indians before moving to California, where he saved 15 games last year. His career earned-run average is 2.81.
It looked like the Mets found their closer when Parnell saved 22 games in 2013, but an injury limited his 2014 season to one inning, and he has since lost his job to Jeurys Familia. Parnell went 2–3 as a starter with the offensively inept 2005 Clones, but posted an impressive 1.73 earned-run average in 73 innings.