<
>

Doug Sisk explains absence from '86 weekend

NEW YORK -- Nearly every living member of the 1986 New York Mets will be at Citi Field this weekend as the organization recognizes the 30th anniversary of its last championship.

One exception: Doug Sisk, who went 4-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 41 relief appearances that season.

Sisk insisted that a work conflict, not any estrangement from the Mets, is the primary reason for his absence. He currently lives in Tacoma, Washington, and sells fine wine.

The only other living players from the team not expected to attend are Roger McDowell and Kevin Elster. McDowell is the pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves. Elster has been dealing with an illness, a Mets official said.

Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter died in 2012 after a battle with brain cancer. He will be represented on the field during Saturday's pregame ceremony by his wife, Sandy, and son DJ.

Sisk said his company has regular Friday morning meetings in Seattle that his employer discourages him from missing.

He acknowledged having ill feelings in the past about the Mets for not getting him involved in scouting or something else baseball-related after his playing career. He added that he was unconcerned about what type of reception he might get from fans.

"Baseball was a long time ago," Sisk said. "There was a period of time where you ask to maybe get in the organization and do some things that hopefully get you back in baseball. They didn't do much for me. They've accommodated a lot of the players, which is great. They have Ron Darling there and everybody. I just kind of said, 'Hey, I'm not going to ask for favors. I'm just going to stay back, and if they have an opportunity to do some scouting with the Mets or get involved at some other level, it would be really good for me.' I know I wasn't the greatest player in the world. But there is a place for a person who was one of the best players and also one of the worst players. I would say I was a little irritated sometimes at the way things have gone. Other than that, the organization has changed a lot. It's not the same people. Back then it was more of a family type of thing. We had Frank Cashen and all of those people in the front office."

Sisk struggled at points during his Mets career. He had a 5.30 ERA while battling injury in 1985. He noted the staff tried to have him pitch on the road to protect him from the home crowd. He ultimately underwent surgery on his birthday that season -- Sept. 26 -- to clean out his elbow. He began '86 at Triple-A Tidewater.

"Our bodies aren't the same as they used to be," the 58-year-old Sisk said Friday morning with a laugh. "Somebody will say, 'Hey, I understand you used to play for the Mets.' I go, 'Yeah, I did.' I'm like, 'Is there a problem here? Is it the body?' We're a little bit older. And then next time you see them they say, 'Hey, I googled you. Jeez they hate you back in New York.' I go, 'Don't read that crap.'"

Sisk noted that he returned to Shea Stadium for a 20th anniversary celebration. He recalled sitting next to Cashen, the '86 general manager, and feeling really good about their conversation. Cashen, who passed away in 2014, told Sisk that his emergence in the bullpen allowed the Mets to trade Neil Allen along with Rick Ownbey to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983 for cornerstone piece Keith Hernandez.

"He said, 'You know, you were a bigger part of the '86 team than you'll ever, ever imagine,'" Sisk recalled, mimicking Cashen's voice. "... I said, 'Thank you, Frank.' And he said, 'No, thank you.' To get an opportunity to sit there and talk to him for a little bit, he was a very straight, very good man to me. I appreciated that trip."

Sisk expressed surprise at the number of '86 players returning this weekend. He figured it would focus on the high-profile players. He still attends signing events with his former teammates. He's also working on a documentary about military baseball.

"I went back for the last one they had and it was really outstanding," Sisk said about the 20th reunion. "It was kind of a tearjerker for a lot of the guys. They announced us. We walked down through the crowd and went out onto the field. It was really nice. But it's hard for me to get time off."

Sisk said the Mets will always have a special place in his heart.

"They've changed my life forever," he said. "There's not one day when somebody calls me and asks me something. And that's incredible if you think about it. I wish them all well and I hope to see them shortly."