If you recall, last April I had the opportunity to take the field with a member of the Mets before the first Saturday night game of the season. I was hoping to meet either Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran since I was named after both of them. But then I saw the starting lineup and feared I'd get Chin-lung Hu.
I didn't get to take the field with my namesakes or the man named after two body parts and a question. Instead I got to meet the starting leftfielder for the night. I wanted it to be Jason Bay so we could discuss the finer things in life, like Canadian bacon, poutine and Tim Horton's.
Unfortunately, Bay was on the disabled list to start the season so I got his replacement du jour. That's right, my friends. I got to meet Scott Hairston.
Scott Hairston was in awe that the world's preeminent bear blogger was taking the field with him. Either that or he was checking out my colleague's wife. (Photo by Sharon Chapman)
Hairston was very polite and seemed happy to see us keeping his position warm for him. He even gave me a high five before we ran off the field to head for our seats. Although he didn't do very well in the game (0-for-3, 2 Ks, HBP, one run scored), I still enjoyed my first meeting with him and rooted openly for him during the season.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I was overjoyed when word came out that the Mets had re-signed Hairston for the 2012 season. At first, I was a little skeptical about the news. After all, the Mets aren't signing anyone these days. They're leaving that for the other teams in the NL East.
But then I checked Twitter and scanned through Jon Heyman's tweets and found confirmation of the news (because everything Heyman tweets is true, right?):
scott hairston will get $1.1M from mets in '12, give or take a few pennies
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 5, 2012
So one of the Mets' key bench players will be returning to Citi Field in 2012 at a bargain basement price of $1.1 million (or less than 10% of what they paid Oliver Perez not to pitch for the Mets in 2011).
Although Hairston only hit .235 last year, he excelled at producing extra-base hits. Of his 31 hits, 16 went for extra bases (eight doubles, one triple, seven home runs), giving him a .470 slugging percentage. In addition, Hairston picked up 24 RBI in 149 plate appearances. His rate of one RBI every 6.2 plate appearances was better than Carlos Beltran (6.3 PA/RBI), David Wright (7.3 PA/RBI) and Lucas Duda (6.9 PA/RBI). Jason Bay? He drove in a run every 8.9 plate appearances in 2011 and will be paid approximately 15 times the amount Hairston will be earning in 2012.
Scott Hairston hit three of his seven home runs as a pinch-hitter in 2011, leading all Mets in that department, despite the fact that he didn't play after August 23 because of injury. No other Met hit more than one pinch-hit homer in 2011.
The Mets didn't hit for much power in 2011. For the second time in the three-year history of Citi Field, no Met hit more than 15 HR. The team's leading home run hitter (Carlos Beltran) played the final two months of the season as a member of the San Francisco Giants. Scott Hairston was one of the few players on the team who could actually hit the ball out of the ballpark with some regularity. Therefore, I believe it's a good thing that he's returning to Citi Field in 2012, especially with the walls being lowered and moved in.
A healthy Scott Hairston will provide the Mets with a legitimate home run threat on the bench, as well as a utility player who can play in the infield and outfield when needed. The Mets might not be big spenders this offseason, but at least they're keeping their inexpensive talent.
Jose Reyes is gone. So is Carlos Beltran. Maybe I should change my name from Joey Beartran to Scotty Bearston. At least that way I know I'll have my namesake around in 2012.