Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Q & A Highlights With Sandy Alderson & Pals

On Wednesday night, the Studious Metsimus staff was invited to attend a special Q & A session for Mets season ticket holders at Citi Field.  Master of ceremonies Kevin Burkhardt was there, as well as general manager Sandy Alderson and his merry men (from left to right - John Ricco, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi).

For 45 minutes, the front office foursome fielded questions from the audience, which included yours truly, Studious Metsimus roving reporter/culinary expert Joey Beartran, and my Gal For All Seasons (The Coop).

Kevin Burkhardt began the session by introducing the four members of the Mets' front office, then gave the floor to Sandy Alderson.  Alderson opened the evening's events with a thoughtful and well-rehearsed monologue, which included this zinger after he started to discuss the state of the bullpen as it currently stands:

"I'm not sure how we can end up with a not-improved bullpen."

Alderson and his Super Best Friends tackled a rapid barrage of questions from concerned season ticket holders.  From questions about the outfield to how long it was taking for the team to improve to a shocker about whose idea it was not to spend exorbitant amounts of money during the off-season, the members of the front office did not shy away from any of the fans' questions.

When asked about the reason why it's taking so long for the team to be competitive, Alderson said that he doesn't want to buy, buy, buy just to satisfy the short-term needs of the team.  He summarized by saying:

"We don't want to be there one year and gone the next."

A concerned fan asked Alderson why the team is still unwilling to spend money, to which the general manager gave an unexpected answer:

"The reason we haven't spent the money is not because of Fred Wilpon or Saul Katz.  It's because of me."

Of course, one of the hot topics of the evening was the status of the Mets' outfield.  In responding to one fan's question on the outfield, Alderson said the team created a list of all available outfielders that they would consider.  Entering this week, only two outfielders remained on that list.  One was Michael Bourn, who Alderson admitted would not become a Met if the team was forced to give up its 11th pick in next year's amateur draft.  The other was just signed by the Yankees.  Who was that coveted outfielder?  Sandy, take it away!

"Juan Rivera"

Yup, you heard him right.  Apparently, Juan Rivera was on the shrinking list of outfielders the Mets were considering.  That's the same Juan Rivera who hasn't had a productive season since 2009.  Kinda sounds like Jason Bay.

It wasn't just a Sandy Party at the Q & A session.  His three assistants/associates/yes men also got a chance to field questions.  They were asked which players they were excited to see in spring training that might be flying under the radar.  Their responses?

J.P. Ricciardi

"Jack Leathersich.  He reminds me of Josh Edgin ... he struck out well over a batter per inning last year at two minor league levels."

Paul DePodesta

"Rafael Montero.  He can throw 92 or 93 [miles per hour], but if there's a guy on second base and two outs, he can throw 95.  Also, 70% of his pitches went for strikes.  The major league average is in the low 60s."

John Ricco

"Collin Cowgill.  T.C. [Terry Collins] will like him.  He can play all three outfield positions.  Zzzzzzzzz."

I don't know what to think of Ricciardi's assessment of Leathersich.  He says Leathersich reminds him of a pitcher who had a 4.56 ERA with the Mets in 2012 and allowed a homer every five innings he pitched.  I'd like someone a little better than that in my bullpen, please.

DePodesta painted an impressive picture of Montero.  It's too bad he's due to begin the season at AA-Binghamton.  He might not make an impact at the major league level until 2014. 

As for Ricco's "review" of Cowgill ... uh ...he didn't exactly say much or give us anything to get excited about.  Then again, he looked a little like the fifth Beatle when he was up on stage, perhaps wondering what his former crony, Omar Minaya, was up to.  Then he fell asleep.

Finally, my Gal For All Seasons got to ask her question.  She asked Alderson what the status of Dillon Gee was, especially considering that he was shut down early in 2012 and that very little news of his recovery effort has been documented in the media.  Alderson made her and the audience smile when he said:

 "We're very confident that he's going to be ready to go, that he'll be on the staff on Opening Day."

Sandy Alderson, John Ricco, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi were forthright in their responses to some difficult questions by the fans.  They did not hide from any of the questions and seemed to create a positive buzz for the team when the night was over.

After the session was over, the foursome posed for pictures and had one-on-one conversations with various members of the audience (myself included).  Alderson admitted to me that he does read Mets blogs, but usually sticks to ones that are well-researched (ahem).  He was not a fan of Mets blogs written by people who speak negatively of the team and its operations without backing up their claims.

He then posed for one photo with a certain member of the Studious Metsimus staff.  Upon taking the photo, he gulped and said "I'm sure this is going to go viral."

The Studious Metsimus staff would like to thank Sandy Alderson and his Super Best Friends for sharing part of their evening with the fans.  Now it's up to them to put together a team we can all be thankful for.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Should The Mets Do With Jordany Valdespin?

Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

In 2012, Jordany Valdespin put his name in the Mets record book with one swing of the bat, crushing a three-run homer off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon on May 7 for his first major league hit.  The homer propelled the Mets to a 5-2 victory over their division rival in Philadelphia.

Valdespin had a knack for providing big blasts off the bench in 2012, as his five pinch-hit homers broke the Mets franchise record set by Danny Heep in 1983 and tied by Mark Carreon in 1989.  Overall, Valdespin hit eight home runs for the Mets last year.  But his ability to hit the ball out of the park wasn't his only talent.

The 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic produced a total of 18 extra-base hits, scored 28 runs, collected 26 RBIs and stole 10 bases for the Mets in 2012, all without reaching 200 official at-bats.  Do you know how many Mets in team history have produced 18+ XBH, 28+ runs scored, 26+ RBIs and 10+ SB in the same season, regardless of the number of times they came up to the plate?  The answer is quite a handful, with the majority of the players doing it in full seasons of 500 or more at-bats.  But how many of them did it in as few a number of at-bats as Valdespin collected?  The answer is zero.

Let's just consider those players who, in 300 at-bats or fewer, matched or surpassed the number of extra-base hits, runs scored, RBIs and stolen bases that Valdespin achieved for the Mets in 2012.

Joe Christopher
Claudell Washington
Daryl Boston
Jose Reyes
Jordany Valdespin

Only four players in Mets history have been able to produce a season in which they matched or surpassed Jordany Valdespin's 2012 totals in extra-base hits, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases, while collecting fewer than 300 official at-bats.  But all of them needed at least 80 more at-bats to achieve the numbers posted by Valdespin in only 191 at-bats.

Valdespin's production in 2012 was not a fluke.  In 2011, his last full season in the minors, Valdespin collected 52 extra-base hits, scored 69 runs, drove in 60 and stole 37 bases in 511 at-bats between AA-Binghamton and AAA-Buffalo.

Although Valdespin hit .241 for the Mets in 2012 (he hit .294 in the minors in 2011), his ability to drive the ball, find his way around the bases, and swipe a bag or ten are invaluable to a team needing whatever offensive spark it can get.  In addition, Valdespin proved to be versatile on the field, playing all three outfield positions and the two middle infield spots.

His attitude and behavior aren't always exemplary, and sometimes his defense leaves a little to be desired, but there's no question that Valdespin can be dangerous at the plate and on the basepaths.  Like your favorite adult beverage, Valdespin might be harmful in large doses, but when he's used in reasonable amounts, he can create quite a buzz at Citi Field.  And if the Mets want to do what's best for the team, they'll use Valdespin in moderation in 2013.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Mets That Got Away: Amos Otis

Many players in major league history are so attached to one team that people have trouble thinking of them in another uniform.  For example, when someone mentions Babe Ruth, no one thinks of him as a Boston Brave.  Similarly, no one thinks of Reggie Jackson as a Baltimore Oriole.  But Ruth finished his storied 22-year career playing on Boston's National League team in 1935, while Jackson spent one season in the prime of his career playing for Charm City's best in 1976.

This doesn't just apply to Hall of Famers and it doesn't only apply to former Yankees.  There have been a number of players who suited up for the Mets whose names were so attached to other teams that people always say, "wait, those players played for the Mets?"

As ESPN loved to remind us, Frank Tanana "threw 90 in the 70s and 70 in the 90s", referring to his pitch velocity at various stages in his career.  Of course, he was throwing 90+ MPH while blowing away hitters as Nolan Ryan's teammate on the California Angels from 1973 to 1979.  Then he was soft-tossing 70 MPH pitches as a member of the New York Mets in 1993, going 7-15 for the 103-loss Metropolitans before being traded to the Yankees for Kenny Greer, a player who is mostly only known for being mentioned in the afterword of Greg Prince's "Faith and Fear in Flushing" book.  Similarly, Jeff Conine, otherwise known as Mr. Marlin for his contributions to each of Florida's two World Series championship teams, played the last 21 games of his career as a member of the New York Mets in 2007. 

But there is another famous player who is so associated with the team for which he played the majority of his career, that hardly anyone remembers that he got his first taste of the big leagues in a Mets uniform.  When this player ended his major league career after the 1984 season, he was the Kansas City Royals' all-time leader in numerous offensive categories and to this day, remains in their top five in virtually every cumulative offensive statistic.  Yet somehow, the Mets traded him away because they needed help with their offense and decided he was expendable.  Shows how much they knew about the potential of Amos Otis.

Amos Otis as a Met, before he became an All-Star with the Royals.

Amos Joseph Otis was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fifth round of the 1965 amateur draft.  After playing in the Red Sox minor league system for two seasons, Otis was selected by the Mets in the December 1966 minor league draft and sent to AAA-Jacksonville to start the 1967 season.  Otis played well in Jacksonville, batting .268 with 21 extra-base hits in 126 games.  But the best part of his game was his speed, as Otis swiped 29 bases in 34 attempts for the Suns.  His successful season in the minors earned Otis his first call-up to the big leagues in September.  But in 19 games with the Mets, his minor league success failed to translate at the big league level, as Otis hit .220 with two doubles and one RBI.  He also was thrown out in all four of his stolen base attempts.

Otis spent the entire 1968 season at AAA-Jacksonville, where he had a tremendous season.  Otis batted .286 and led the team in doubles (29), RBIs (70), runs scored (76) and stolen bases (21).  He also showed more power at the plate, belting 15 homers for the Suns.  In two seasons with the organization, Otis had become "the best piece of property we've got", according to farm director Whitey Herzog.  The Mets' belief in Otis was so high that they refused to send him to the Braves when Atlanta was trying to unload Joe Torre after the 1968 season.  Atlanta eventually dealt Torre to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1969 season, where he became a batting champion and National League MVP.  Otis remained in New York, but didn't stay for long.

After a successful 1968 season at the Triple-A level, Otis forced himself onto the Mets' 1969 Opening Day roster.  But manager Gil Hodges had a plethora of talent in the outfield, with four players (Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, Art Shamsky) all competing for playing time.  As a result, Hodges decided to play Otis at third base, a position that had seen nearly four dozen players participate in a game of musical chairs with each of them losing their hold on the hot corner when the music stopped.  Otis was not pleased with Hodges' decision and struggled at the plate, batting .136 (9-for-66) with no homers and no stolen bases in 36 games, despite starting only three games at third base.

On June 15, the Mets acquired Donn Clendenon from the Montreal Expos to give the team an offensive boost, sending the unhappy Otis back to the minor leagues.  While Clendenon was turning into the offensive spark the Mets were counting on Otis to be, Otis sparkled once again at the Triple-A level, batting .327 with ten homers, 43 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in only 71 games at Tidewater.  With the Mets closing in on their first division title, Otis was recalled by the team on September 13 and played in 12 of the Mets' final 18 games.  But once again, Otis failed to make an impression, batting .185 (5-for-27) with no homers and two RBIs, although he finally did steal his first base on September 17.  The Mets went on to win the World Series in 1969, but Otis did not participate in the postseason.

Amos Otis, who had been deemed untouchable at the beginning of the year, was now becoming very touchable entering the 1969-1970 off-season.

Less than two weeks after third baseman Ed Charles danced joyously on the mound following the Mets' World Series victory, he was released by general manager Johnny Murphy.  With Amos Otis clearly not turning into the third baseman of the future, the Mets decided to part ways with him as well.  After parts of two seasons in New York, where he batted .178 with no homers and five RBIs in 152 at-bats, Otis was dealt to Kansas City (along with pitcher Bob Johnson) for third baseman Joe Foy.  Foy enjoyed some success for the Royals in their inaugural season, batting .262 with 11 home runs, 37 stolen bases and a team-leading 71 RBIs and 72 runs scored.  In other words, he had produced the numbers the Mets were expecting out of Otis.

Although Foy did produce a career-high .373 on-base percentage for the Mets in 1970, his other numbers were far short of what the Mets expected from him.  Foy batted .236 with six homers, 37 RBIs and 22 stolen bases.  He also crossed the plate a mere 39 times in 99 games.  In addition, Foy was a horrible defensive third baseman, committing 18 errors at the hot corner despite starting only 94 games there.  Needless to say, Foy's 1970 campaign was his only one butchering balls at third base for the Mets, as Foy was taken by the Washington Senators in the 1970 Rule 5 draft.  Amos Otis, on the other hand, finally displayed the talent the Mets expected to see when they wouldn't trade him for Joe Torre.

Upon acquiring Amos Otis from the Mets, Kansas City wasted no time in naming him the team's starting centerfielder.  Batting primarily out of the three-spot in the lineup, Otis rewarded his new team immediately, batting .284 with 11 homers, 58 RBIs, 91 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 1970.  Otis also finished tied for the American League lead with his 36 doubles and was named to his first All-Star team.

Otis continued to grow as a five-tool player in 1971, batting .301 with 15 HR, 79 RBIs, 80 runs scored and a league-leading 52 stolen bases.  In just their third year of existence, Otis became the first Royal to surpass 50 steals in a season.  By comparison, no Met stole 50 or more bases in a season until the team was in its third decade.  (Mookie Wilson became the first man to accomplish this feat when he stole 58 bases for the Mets in 1982.)  For his efforts, Otis was named to the American League All-Star team for the second straight year, won his first Gold Glove Award and placed eighth in the AL MVP vote.

All-Star nods, Gold Glove Awards and Most Valuable Player consideration became a common theme for Otis during his tenure in Kansas City.  From 1970 to 1978, Otis made the All-Star team five times, won three Gold Gloves and finished in the top ten in the MVP vote four times, including a third-place finish in 1973 when he blasted a career-high 26 homers and led Kansas City to a then-franchise best 88-74 record.

As consistent as Amos Otis was, his team was not.  In Otis' first six seasons in Kansas City, the team alternated winning and losing seasons.  In each odd-numbered year (1971, 1973, 1975), the Royals averaged 88 wins and finished in second place in the American League West.  But in even-numbered years (1970, 1972, 1974), Kansas City had two fourth-place finishes and a fifth-place finish and averaged 73 wins.

But all that changed in 1976 when the Royals, under the leadership of new manager Whitey Herzog, earned their first crown as AL West champions, ending the Oakland Athletics' five-year reign atop the division.  Less than a decade after declaring Otis as the best piece of property on the Mets, Herzog was now managing the star player to his first - and the team's first - postseason appearance.  However, Otis barely played in the ALCS against the Yankees, injuring his ankle while running to first base on a groundout in the first inning of Game 1.  His loss would go on to hurt the Royals, as they would go on to lose the best-of-five series on a walk-off homer by Chris Chambliss in Game 5.

Kansas City would repeat as division champions in 1977 and 1978, only to lose to the Yankees in the ALCS both times.  Otis did everything he could to help his team in the 1978 ALCS, batting .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles and four stolen bases in the series, but once again was forced to watch the Yankees celebrate winning a pennant at his team's expense.  The Royals were becoming to the Yankees what the Brooklyn Dodgers were in the 1940s and 1950s, a team that was a consistent winner but could never get over the hump.  After many failed attempts, the Dodgers finally defeated the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.  A quarter of a century later, the Royals followed in their footsteps, with Amos Otis leading the way.

In what was a relatively easy three-game sweep of the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS, Otis collected hits in every game, batting .333 with two runs scored and two stolen bases.  With the Royals down by two runs in Game 1, Otis started a rally by singling off Yankees starter Ron Guidry.  He later came around to score on Frank White's game-tying two-run double.  One inning later, Otis hit a ground-rule double and later scored on Willie Aikens' go-ahead two-run single.  The Royals only trailed for one half inning for the rest of the series.

The Royals would go on to play the Phillies in the 1980 World Series, a series won by Philadelphia in six games.  Mike Schmidt won the World Series MVP Award, an honor that surely would have gone to Amos Otis had the Royals emerged victorious.  Otis batted .478 (11-for-23) in the six-game series, batting .550 over the first five games before going 0-for-3 in Game 6.  After not hitting a home run in his first 13 career postseason games, Otis slammed three homers in the World Series.  He also drove in seven runs in the series, including at least one RBI in each of the first five games.  But the veteran Phillies were too much for the youth-infused Royals, who would have to wait another five years before finally winning their first World Series title.

Although Otis had a tremendous postseason for the Royals in 1980, he failed to play in 130 regular season games for the first time since coming to Kansas City.  In fact, from 1980 to 1983, Otis never reached the 130-game plateau, as nagging injuries whittled away at his playing time.  In that four-year span, Otis averaged 107 games per season and only produced one year that could be considered a typical Amos Otis-type campaign (1982, when he batted .286 with 11 HR and 88 RBIs in 125 games).  The 36-year-old Otis played his final season with the Royals in 1983 before finishing out his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1984, playing in only 40 games with the Bucs before he was released in August.

Amos Otis doesn't have to look far to find his place among the greats in Royals history.

Two years after Otis played his final game in the big leagues, the Kansas City Royals established a Hall of Fame honoring their best players.  The original class of 1986 featured two players.  One was Steve Busby, a two-time All-Star who pitched for the Royals from 1972 to 1980 and became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in each of his first two big league seasons.  The other was Amos Otis.

On the official website devoted to the Royals Hall of Fame, there is a page devoted to 1986 inductee Amos Otis.  The slideshow devoted to the star centerfielder probably states it best when it discusses the trade between the Mets and Royals that brought Otis to Kansas City prior to the 1970 campaign, saying:

"Originally drafted by the Red Sox, Otis made his major league debut with the Mets.  New York would eventually trade him to the Royals for highly regarded prospect Joe Foy in a deal that would come to be thought as one of the worst in Mets history.  Their misfortune would prove to be Kansas City's gain."

Otis played 14 of his 17 big league seasons in Kansas City, helping the Royals to four full-season division titles (1976, 1977, 1978, 1980) and one split-season division crown (1981).  When he played his final game as a Royal in 1983, Otis was the team's all-time leader in a multitude of offensive categories, most of which were surpassed by Hall of Famer George Brett, who remained in Kansas City until his retirement in 1993.  But still, to this day, Otis' name can be found all over the Royals' all-time leaderboard.

Amos Otis is in the Royals' top five in games played (1,891; 3rd all-time), at-bats (7,050; 3rd), hits (1,977; 3rd), doubles (365; 4th), triples (65; 3rd), home runs (193; 3rd), total bases (3,051; 2nd), runs scored (1,074; 2nd), RBIs (992; 3rd), walks (739; 2nd) and stolen bases (340; 2nd).  Had he produced those numbers for the Mets, he'd be the team's all-time leader in games played, at-bats, hits, doubles, total bases, runs scored, RBIs and walks.  He would also be second in triples, fourth in home runs and second in stolen bases.  But alas, none of this was allowed to happen because the Mets desperately needed Joe Foy.  Long-time Mets fans are still saying "Foy Vey!" over the deal.

Otis' career is not one that can be defined by one great season.  Whereas some players attain personal bests in various offensive categories in the same year, Otis spread out his best years throughout his entire career.  In 1970, he posted a career-best 176 hits.  He followed that up in 1971 by setting career highs with a .301 batting average and 52 steals.   In 1973, he achieved his personal best by hitting 26 homers.  In 1976, his 40 doubles set a new personal benchmark.  The 1978 season saw him reach his high in RBIs with 96.  And in 1979, he scored a career-best 100 runs.  He also finished in the top ten in the AL MVP vote at age 24 and repeated the feat at age 32.  That's one decade of greatness for one great former Met.

(Amos Otis video shared on YouTube by Kerry Kellermeyer)

If Nolan Ryan is the best Mets pitcher to get away, then Amos Otis is arguably the best Mets hitter that got away.  But that's not the only distinction shared by the two former Mets.  Both players were sent packing before they got a chance to blossom in New York for the same reason - because the Mets needed an offensive-minded third baseman.

In 1969, Amos Otis was part of a package sent to Kansas City for Joe Foy, who was supposed to be a marked improvement at the plate over the recently-released poet laureate, Ed Charles.  But when Foy produced Glider-like numbers for the Mets in 1970, he was taken off the team and was scooped up in the Rule 5 draft by the Washington Senators.  Following the 1971 season, the Mets once again coveted a good-hitting third baseman and traded Nolan Ryan for shortstop - not third baseman - Jim Fregosi.  Needless to say, Fregosi failed at the hot corner for the Mets and Ryan became a Hall of Famer.  Otis didn't quite make it to the Hall of Fame, but he did become a legend in Kansas City.

In the late '60s and early '70s the Mets took a page out of Shakespeare's "Richard III", offering their kingdom for a third baseman.  But instead of getting durable horses to play third, they received broken down players who should been been put out to pasture long before the Mets acquired them.  Amos Otis was one such player who galloped away and became a star elsewhere, while the player he was traded for was anything but a stud.  Not even Shakespeare himself could have penned the tragedy that became the ill-advised Otis-for-Foy transaction.

Note:  The Mets That Got Away is a thirteen-part weekly series that spotlights those Mets players who established themselves as major leaguers in New York, only to become stars after leaving town.  For previous installments, please click on the players' names below:

January 7, 2013: Nolan Ryan
January 14, 2013: Melvin Mora  
January 21, 2013: Kevin Mitchell 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pros And Cons For Signing Michael Bourn

So far this off-season, three outfielders have said their final goodbyes to the Mets.  Jason Bay took his strikeouts and pop-ups to Seattle.  Andres Torres left in search of a ring in San Francisco.  And my wife's ass is now on new Cubs outfielder Scott Hairston's Wikipedia page.  It goes without saying that the Mets are in serious need of some outfield help.

With Justin Upton joining brother B.J. and second baseman Dan Uggla in Atlanta to form the Underachieving U's (quick, contact Ugueth Urbina's agent - Urbina's out of jail and needs a place to fail!), the Mets have now set their sights on former Braves outfielder Michael Bourn.  His acquisition would instantly give the Mets a proven major league outfielder.  It would also give the Mets a number of problems.

Here are three pros and three cons that have to be considered by Sandy Alderson in a potential signing of free agent outfielder Michael Bourn:

Goodbye Jason Bay, Andres Torres and Scott Hairston.  Hello, Michael Bourn?


1)  Michael Bourn would instantly give the Mets a legitimate stolen base threat.  In 2011, both Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan surpassed the 30-steal mark.  Last year, David Wright led the team with only 15 thefts.  As a team, the Mets' 79 stolen bases in 2012 marked the first time they failed to steal 100 bases since the Art Howe era.  In addition, no Met has stolen 40 bases in a season since Reyes swiped 56 bags in 2008, the same year Michael Bourn began his current streak of five straight 40+ steal seasons.

2)  The Mets have only had two outfielders win a Gold Glove Award.  Tommie Agee was the first in 1970 and Carlos Beltran won three consecutive Gold Gloves from 2006 to 2008.  Bourn has a Gold Glove pedigree, taking home the hardware in 2009 and 2010 as a member of the Houston Astros.  It should be noted that Houston's Minute Maid Park has one of the most spacious and trickiest center fields in baseball, with Tal's Hill, a flagpole and various outfield wall angles to contend with.

3)  Lucas Duda is pegged to be a corner outfielder.  That's bumbling, stumbling, "I can't move furniture without injuring myself" Lucas Duda.  How bad is Duda in the outfield?  Let's just say George "The Stork" Theodore shakes his head whenever he sees Duda chasing a fly ball.  In other words, the Mets desperately need an outfielder that can cover all the ground that Lucas Duda won't.  That's where Michael Bourn will help the team the most.

Citi Field might see lots of this if the pros outweigh the cons.


1)  For a leadoff hitter, Bourn doesn't have the most impressive on-base percentage.  He has compiled a .350 on-base percentage just once in six full seasons in the majors and has maintained a .339 career OBP.  He also averages nearly 2½ strikeouts for every walk he draws, a number that is far too high for a player who is expected to be a table setter at the top of the lineup.

2)  In 2011, Bourn batted .294 with 61 stolen bases and 140 strikeouts in 656 at-bats.  Last season, Bourn's average dropped to .274 and he only swiped 42 bases.  His strikeouts also increased to a career-high 155 while his at-bat total shrank to 624.  Although he stole 19 fewer bases in 2012, Bourn still led the majors by being caught stealing 13 times.

3)  Michael Bourn has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner because of his legs.  But all of his accolades and stolen base totals were achieved while Bourn was in his 20s.  Bourn is now running on 30-year-old legs.  As shown above, it has become easier to throw him out on the basepaths, and Bourn is also taking off fewer times after reaching base.  His natural decrease in speed will eventually affect him in center field as well, as fly balls he used to track down with ease can now potentially elude his glove.

A quick strike by Sandy Alderson might lead to quick strikeouts by Michael Bourn.

Every player has pros and cons.  Michael Bourn is no exception.  But with the Mets trying to build a contending team without sacrificing their future, every pro and every con has to be considered before making any player decision, including whether or not Bourn is worth the potential loss of a first-round draft pick.

Michael Bourn is clearly an above-average centerfielder.  But is he an eight-figure a year player, especially now that he's on the wrong side of age 30?  Bourn also saw decreases in his stolen base total, as well as a lower batting average and higher strikeout rate.  Is his play in 2012 the sign of a decline or was it just a blip on an otherwise successful career chart?

Clearly, the Mets cannot go into the 2013 season with an outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter.  But is Michael Bourn worth the money he'll be seeking to play at Citi Field?  Is he the short-term answer that will lead to long-term success?  It's certainly going to be an interesting couple of weeks for Sandy Alderson as he weighs all the pros and cons of a potential Michael Bourn signing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

R.I.P. "My Wife's Ass Is On Scott Hairston's Wikipedia Page"

On April 9, 2011, my wife – a veritable Gal For All Seasons – was invited to take the field prior to the game against the Washington Nationals as part of the Mets’ season ticket holder appreciation program.  I was unable to attend the game because I was coughing up a lung, kidney, gall bladder, and I think a gerbil came up as well.  Therefore, my Studious Metsimus co-blogger, Joey Beartran, accompanied my wife on the field.

Each season ticket holder invited to partake in the pre-game festivities was assigned a position on the field where he or she would be met by the starting player at that particular position.  My wife was hoping not to get second base because Chin-lung Hu was starting there on that night (come to think of it, I think I might have coughed him up as well).  Fortunately, she did not get Hu on second.  Instead, she was sent out to left field, which would have led to a tête-à-tête with Jason Bay had he not been on the disabled list to start the season.  The player starting in left field that night was Scott Hairston.  And so began the “wife’s ass” craze.

I'd be smiling, too, if I went out to my position and found THAT waiting for me.
(Photo by Sharon Chapman)

According to my wife’s report, Hairston gave Joey a high-one (Joey doesn’t have fingers, hence the high-one instead of a high-five) and was quite engaging in the short amount of time they shared together in left field.  Friend of Studious Metsimus, Sharon Chapman, took the above photo of the meeting and submitted it to Wikipedia, where it has been ever since.  The rest, as they say, is history.

For the remainder of the 2011 season and the entire 2012 campaign, any time Hairston made a positive contribution to the team –and there were plenty – my wife would tweet about it and:

  • remind us all of the online reader-edited encyclopedia where her derriere could be found
  • occasionally add the hashtag, #MyAssIsOnScottHairstonsWikipediaPage

After two seasons in New York, including an unexpected 20-homer season in 2012, Scott Hairston is now a former Met, taking his powerful bat and Wikipedia references with him to the North Side of Chicago.  The Mets’ refusal to give Hairston more than a one-year deal led to his decision to abandon Citi Field for confines that are rumored to be friendlier.  The Mets, already lacking outfield depth due to the departures of Andres Torres to San Francisco and Jason Bay to Siberia (a.k.a. Seattle), now have to cope with the loss of their most consistent bat in the outfield, one that finished third on the team in home runs.  But that’s nothing compared to the loss my wife and her Twitter followers are experiencing.

For the time being, my wife’s ass is still on Scott Hairston’s Wikipedia page.  But now that Hairston’s ass will be bombing Wrigley Field (as in home run bombs, not what your 12-year-old mind is thinking), it’s only a matter of time before his photo is replaced by one of him in a Cubs uniform.  It’s now up to the Mets to find themselves an outfielder that will approach the numbers Hairston gave the team in 2012.  If they can’t replace his 20 homers in the outfield, it’ll be the front office that’ll look like a bunch of asses.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The More Teams Change, The More The Mets Stay The Same

I try to look at the MLB Trade Rumors site as often as I can to see what the Mets and their division rivals are up to.  More often than not, I find what their fellow NL East residents are doing long before I find any new information on the Mets.  Today was no exception.

Sandy Alderson has wanted to add a new arm in the bullpen (since most of the new arms he added last off-season pitched so miserably), a new starting pitcher to replace the Cy Young Award winner he traded away, and a major league outfielder to add to the Quadruple-A players the Mets already have.

So of course, I woke up this morning hoping to find something new on MLB Trade Rumors.  I found their "Week In Review" segment and perused the list of transactions and rumors for all major league teams.  This is an example of what I found.  (Thanks to Daniel Seco at for his thorough work.  For the complete "Week In Review" list, please click here.)

  • The Rangers agreed to a five-year, $55MM extension with Matt Harrison. The contract contains an team option for a sixth year in 2018 that can become a vesting option if Harrison pitches certain innings plateaus.
  • The Nationals agreed to sign free agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28MM contract. Soriano posted a 2.26 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 35.9% ground ball rate for the Yankees this past season.
  • The Red Sox and Mike Napoli reached an agreement on a new contract. Napoli gets $5MM plus incentives for the one-year deal that could reach $13MM.
  • The Mariners, Nationals and Athletics combined on a three-team trade that will send Michael Morse to the Mariners, John Jaso to the A's and a three-player package to the Nationals that includes minor league right-handers A.J. ColeBlake Treinen and a player to be named from the Athletics. 
  • The Diamondbacks agreed to sign J.J. Putz to a one-year extension that will keep him in Arizona through 2014.The LSW Baseball client will reportedly receive a $7MM salary in 2014.
  • The Pirates agreed to sign right-hander Jeff Karstens to a one-year deal worth $2.5MM.
  • The Rockies signed Miguel Batista to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Batista, 41, posted a 4.61 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9 in 52 2/3 innings for the Mets and Braves last season. 
  • The White Sox agreed to sign Matt Lindstrom to a one-year contract with a club option. Lindstrom, 32, pitched to a 2.68 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 47 innings for the Orioles and Diamondbacks last season.
  • The Indians signed Ryan Raburn to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Raburn averaged 15 home runs per season from 2009-11 and owns a career batting line of .256/.311/.430.
  • The Phillies signed right-hander Juan Cruz to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
  • The Marlins signed Austin Kearns to a minor league deal with an invitation to MLB Spring Training.

Austin Kearns, International Marlin of Mystery

I see where the defending NL East champion Nationals traded away outfielder Michael Morse to Seattle and signed closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal.  I also see that the Phillies signed reliever Juan Cruz and plan to invite him to Spring Training.  Heck, even the frugal Marlins signed outfielder Austin Kearns to a minor league deal.  I see many teams in the majors mentioned here.

I don't see the Mets.

Well, if you want to be technical about it, the Mets are mentioned, but only because the Rockies signed Miguel Batista off the Mets' scrap heap.

Almost every team in baseball is wheeling and dealing, signing and refining, moving and improving.  The Mets, on the other hand, are not doing anything worthy of a rhyme.  In fact, they're not doing anything at all.

Since trading R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays on December 17, the Mets have done the following:

Never mind the fact the MLB Trade Rumors didn't mention anything about the Mets making a transaction last week (Landon Powell).  All the Mets have done over the last month is sign journeyman players, including a former Met who hasn't pitched since the last time he was a Met in 2010 (Pedro Feliciano).  Sure, they've re-signed some of their own players, like Tim Byrdak and David Wright, and avoided arbitration with Bobby Parnell and Ike Davis.  But that about sums up their activity.

The Mets say they're interested in starting pitcher Carl Pavano.  They would like to remain in the mix for outfielder Michael Bourn.  They gave a look-see at closer Brian Wilson.  But I wouldn't bet all the money in Papa Smirk's piggy bank that either of those players will be receiving their fan mail at Citi Field in 2013.

"Seriously, why do you call me Papa Smirk so much?"

Sandy Alderson is asking the fans to be patient.  Although he claims that he is not sacrificing 2013 for the future, he also hasn't been doing anything to make the upcoming season more than just a battle for fourth place with the Marlins.

Alderson has acquired some good young talent since he came on board prior to the 2011 season.  Through shrewd trades, he's been able to add a number of top prospects, like Zack Wheeler, Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, to name a few.  But the major league talent at Citi Field still leaves a lot to be desired.

Scott Hairston is a good outfielder and a fine hitter.  Against lefties, he's as good as they get.  It should be a no-brainer for Alderson to bring him back into the fold.  But he's waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting some more, just to get Hairston to bite on a one-year deal.  If Hairston really is seeking a two-year deal worth somewhere in the $8 million range, why wouldn't Alderson take that chance?

He already doled out two-year contracts to relievers D.J. Carrasco and Frank Francisco, but he can't do the same for an outfielder (a position the Mets desperately need to fill) who actually has produced during his time with the team?  As a famous entertainer once said, "what up with that?"

Say Hairston is signed by the Mets to a two-year deal worth $8 million ($4 million annually).  And say he doesn't produce as well as he did in 2012.  Given his history against left-handed pitching and the team control until 2014, as well as his relatively low annual salary, wouldn't he be a valuable trade commodity?  What team wouldn't want him at that price?  But if the Mets were to give him a one-year deal, he'd just be a rental for a potential playoff contender.

For the Mets, it should begin with Scott Hairston.  Then they should add pieces who are ready to contribute at the major league level.  Then, and only then, will I believe the Mets are doing something to make this season more than just a competition with the Marlins for fourth place.

Frank Cashen had a five-year plan for the Mets when he came aboard as the Mets general manager in 1980.  By year five, the team was competitive.  However, Cashen inherited a team that hadn't won 70 games since 1976 and needed a complete overhaul.  The current Mets, despite their shortcomings, have won at least 70 games in each of the last four seasons and have been in the playoff mix at the All-Star Break every year.  But they've fallen apart every season after the break and haven't truly shown any type of improvement in the last four years.

Year five for Sandy Alderson will be in 2015.  Will the Mets have what it takes to contend for an NL East title by then?  We know the teams around them aren't going to be steadfast with their major league rosters.  It's time for the Mets to change.  We already know what happens to them when they remain the same.

The Mets That Got Away: Kevin Mitchell

Imagine being a skilled baseball player who is locked into one position on the diamond.  That player has all the talent in the world and is poised to advance to the major league level.  There's one only problem.  He's blocked by another player who is already manning that position.

From 1981 to 1984, Hubie Brooks became a fan favorite as the Mets' third baseman.  After a stellar 1984 campaign, Brooks was part of a four-player package that was sent to Montreal on December 10 for catcher Gary Carter.  Three days before that deal was consummated, the Mets acquired third baseman Howard Johnson from the Detroit Tigers for starting pitcher Walt Terrell.  Along with Ray Knight, who the Mets picked up in a trade with the Astros in August, the Mets had a surplus of third basemen on their active roster.

While the Mets were doing their best Art Vandelay impersonation, importing and exporting any third baseman not named Jim Fregosi, a young minor league third baseman kept waiting for the day he'd receive the call to be a regular in the major leagues.  After five seasons of toiling in the minors, with only one short seven-game tryout in 1984 to put on his major league résumé, the young infielder finally got his chance to play regularly at the major league level in 1986.  One year later, his Mets tenure was over, a victim of his own talent on the field and his questionable, sometimes volatile, behavior off it.

After a rough childhood in San Diego, Kevin Mitchell had plenty to smile about in New York.

Kevin Darnell Mitchell did not have the best childhood growing up in San Diego.  As a teenager, he was involved in the gang lifestyle, surviving multiple gunshot wounds.  Mitchell made his share of poor choices as a youth, but the one choice that would eventually get him off the streets, perhaps saving his life, was baseball.

Mitchell was drafted out of high school by the Mets as a third baseman in 1980.  He made his professional debut for Kingsport in the Applachian League in 1981 and proceeded to move up one minor league level per year.  From 1981 to 1983, Mitchell was one of the best hitters in the Mets' minor league system, batting .312 with 23 HR and 146 RBIs in 747 at-bats.  In 1984, Mitchell advanced to AAA-Tidewater for the first time, but slumped at the plate, hitting only .243.  But after four years in the minors, Mitchell was finally called up to the Mets in September 1984, collecting three hits in 14 at-bats.  Mitchell started two games at third base during his brief seven-game stint in the majors, before going back to Tidewater to start the 1985 season.

With Howard Johnson and Ray Knight forming a lefty-righty platoon at third base, Mitchell never got a chance to play for the Mets in 1985, despite raising his batting average at Tidewater from .243 to .290.  It appeared as if Mitchell was doomed to start his sixth professional season in the minors in 1986.  But manager Davey Johnson wasn't about to let that happen.  In fact, he made sure Mitchell would find a way to New York, even if it was at a different position.

As the Grapefruit League schedule was winding down, Johnson started to give Mitchell opportunities at other positions on the field.  Mitchell was tearing the cover off the ball in Florida, batting .333 with three homers and eight ribbies in his first 21 at-bats.  But he was also learning how to play the outfield, as well as other infield positions, to increase his chances of going north with the team.  The newly-acquired versatility worked, as Mitchell was invited to join the Mets back to New York in April.

At first, Mitchell was used primarily as a pinch-hitter over the first two weeks of the season.  But when Mitchell was given a start in center field on April 19, he took full advantage of the situation and forced the Mets to change their stance on how often they were going to play him.  In that game, a 3-2 victory over the Phillies, Mitchell went 2-for-4 with an RBI.  His run-scoring double tied the game in the sixth inning.  Two innings later, Mitchell produced a one-out single and later came around to score the go-ahead run on Gary Carter's RBI single.  The victory pushed the Mets above .500 at 4-3.  They would not lose again in the month of April.

Mitchell made five starts for the Mets in April and had multi-hit games in all but one of them.  For the month, Mitchell hit .391 and had an outrageous .652 slugging percentage and 1.069 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).  His fast start helped catapult the Mets to a 13-3 record and a five-game lead in the NL East.  By June 14, the lead had reached double digits and Mitchell was a big part of the Mets' success.

No matter where he played on the field, Kevin Mitchell was always consistent at the plate.

Although he only recorded 94 official at-bats through June 14, Mitchell made the most of his playing time, batting .330 with 12 extra-base hits (nine doubles, three homers), 14 RBIs and 14 runs scored in limited action.  Mitchell started only 15 of the Mets' first 47 games, but once the summer began, he became invaluable to the team, starting 11 games from June 17 to July 6 to allow the regulars at various positions to take occasional days off as the temperatures rose.  The temperatures weren't the only things that rose in June and July.

Beginning June 17, Mitchell went on an absolute tear at the plate, hitting .500 (18-for-36) with six doubles, two homers, eight RBIs and 11 runs scored over a 13-game span.  Mitchell started eight of those 13 games at a new position (shortstop), while splitting the other five games between third base, left field and right field.  Mitchell's batting average was now at a season-high .370 and it was becoming almost impossible for Davey Johnson to leave his name off the starting lineup card.  But the events of July 22 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati made Johnson's decision-making much simpler.

The Mets went into their July 22nd affair with the Reds with a 61-28 record and a 13-game lead over the second place Expos.  Cincinnati appeared to be on their way to a 3-1 victory when future Met John Franco was brought into the game to face Keith Hernandez with two outs and the tying runs on base in the ninth inning.  Hernandez lofted a fly ball to deep right that Dave Parker appeared to have lined up for the final out of the game.  But Parker, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, dropped the ball, allowing Lenny Dykstra and Tim Teufel to score the tying runs.  The game went into extra innings, where all sorts of crazy things happened.

With the score still tied in the bottom of the tenth, Pete Rose pinch-hit for Franco and singled off Jesse Orosco.  Eric Davis replaced Rose as a pinch-runner and proceeded to steal second and third base.  But when Davis popped up into Ray Knight after his slide into third, Knight showed off his Gold Glove skills (as in Golden Glove boxer, not as in defensive wizardry) and popped Davis in the mouth with a right hook.  As third base umpire Eric Gregg ran for cover (and perhaps a cheeseburger or three), a donnybrook broke out at third base that made the Pete Rose-Bud Harrelson fight in the 1973 National League Championship Series pale in comparison (which is ironic since Davis was pinch-running for Rose and Harrelson was now the Mets' third base coach).

Almost every player and coach in uniform sprinted onto the field as fights broke out left and right.  Kevin Mitchell, who was hitting pitchers hard all season, decided to hit them in a different way in the melee.  Mitchell took out two-fifths of Cincinnati's starting rotation, tossing Bill Gullickson aside and flipping Mario Soto away.  According to Jeff Pearlman's book "The Bad Guys Won!", Mitchell had several players piling on top of him, but still managed to notice that the team was short one fighter.

"I have three guys on me, people are trying to kill each other, it's all-out mayhem.  And one guy is on the pine, watching it all happen."

George Foster - a Met since 1982 after being acquired from the Reds in a blockbuster deal - remained on the bench for the duration of the brouhaha.  Manager Davey Johnson was not pleased that Foster never set foot on the field to help his teammates.  As a result, Johnson benched Foster and inserted Mitchell into the everyday lineup as the team's leftfielder.  Foster would only start three more games as a Met before being released on August 7.  Mitchell performed well in his new role, batting .355 (11-for-31) with three homers and five RBIs in his first eight starts following Foster's benching.

Mitchell kept his season average above .300 until August 16, when an 0-for-5 performance against the St. Louis Cardinals in an extra-inning loss dropped his average to .296.  Mitchell finished the regular season splitting time between left field and right field, producing only four extra-base hits over his last 91 at-bats.  But his season as a whole had to be considered an overwhelming success.

Mitchell played six defensive positions in 1986, spending time at every position except second base, pitcher and catcher.  In only 328 at-bats, Mitchell batted .277 with 22 doubles, two triples, 12 HR and 43 RBIs.  He also scored 51 runs in limited duty.  For his efforts, Mitchell finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year vote behind Cardinals closer Todd Worrell and Giants second baseman Robby Thompson.  Mitchell became the tenth Met to finish in the top three in the Rookie of the Year vote, following Ron Hunt (1963; 2nd place), Tom Seaver (1967; 1st), Jerry Koosman (1968; 2nd), Jon Matlack (1972; 1st), John Milner (1972; 3rd), Steve Henderson (1977; 2nd), Hubie Brooks (1981; 3rd), Darryl Strawberry (1983; 1st) and Dwight Gooden (1984; 1st).

After a spectacular regular season, it was on to the postseason for Mitchell and the Mets.  The Mets were playing the Houston Astros in the National League Championship Series in a battle between the two 1962 expansion mates.  The Mets split the first two games in Houston with Mitchell not getting into either game.  But in Game 3, Mitchell was the catalyst of a key rally.

Making his first start in the team's first postseason game at Shea Stadium since Game 5 of the 1973 World Series, Mitchell came up to bat against Bob Knepper in the sixth inning with the Mets already down 4-0.  With the specter of Mike Scott looming in Game 4, the Mets had to mount a rally.  Mitchell came through, leading off the sixth with a base hit.  Keith Hernandez followed with a single of his own before Gary Carter reached base on an error by shortstop Craig Reynolds, which allowed Mitchell to score the Mets' first run.  One batter later, the game was tied on a three-run homer by Darryl Strawberry.  Mitchell would get a hit in his next at-bat in the seventh inning but did not score.  The Mets would go on to win the game, 6-5, on Lenny Dykstra's two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

The two hits in Game 3 would be the only safeties Mitchell would get in the NLCS, as he only played one more game in the series, going 0-for-4 in the series-clinching Game 6 victory.  Mitchell only produced two hits in the World Series against Boston, but the second hit would be the most important hit of his young career.

After going 1-for-4 in the series' first five games, Mitchell was on the bench for the first nine innings of Game 6.  After the Red Sox pushed across two runs in their half of the tenth inning, Mitchell went back to the clubhouse to make travel arrangements for San Diego.  After Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flied out against Calvin Schiraldi, it appeared as if Mitchell would indeed by flying home to San Diego instead of staying home for a potential Game 7.  But when Gary Carter singled to keep the Mets' hopes alive, Mitchell had to abort his travel plans and find his way to the batter's box as a pinch-hitter for Rick Aguilera.  Forgetting to put on his protective cup but remembering to bring his rally-extending bat to the plate, Mitchell singled to center, moving Carter to second base.  When Ray Knight fought off a two-strike pitch by dunking it behind second baseman Marty Barrett for the Mets' third straight single, the Red Sox lead had been cut in half and the tying and winning runs were on base.

With the free-swinging Mookie Wilson coming up to the plate, Red Sox manager John McNamara removed Schiraldi from the game, replacing him with Bob Stanley.  At the time, Stanley was the team's all-time saves leader.  He was now being asked to record his biggest save yet.  After six pitches and several foul balls, Stanley was one strike away from accomplishing his job.  But pitch No. 7 was anything but lucky to Stanley and the Red Sox, as the pitch found its way to the backstop, eluding catcher Rich Gedman's glove and Mookie Wilson's contorted body.  Just minutes after producing the most important hit of his career, Mitchell scampered home to score his biggest run, tying the game at 5 just minutes after third base coach Bud Harrelson had instructed him to watch out for a wild pitch.  Three pitches later, Wilson hit a little roller up along first behind the bag... (ah, you know the rest).

Mitchell would get the start in Game 7 against southpaw Bruce Hurst but did not collect a hit, going 0-for-2 against Hurst.  Mitchell was removed from the game for a pinch hitter in the seventh, but not before Ray Knight had given the Mets their first lead of the game on a home run off Game 6 losing pitcher Calvin Schiraldi.  The Mets would go on to win the game and the World Series, with Mitchell and his teammates piling on top of the jubilant Jesse Orosco and Gary Carter after Marty Barrett swung through strike three.

Kevin Mitchell had labored through the Mets' minor league system for the better part of five seasons.  Finally, after a strong month in spring training and the support of his manager, Davey Johnson, Mitchell burst upon the scene in 1986, giving the Mets another young talent with a bright future.  Mitchell had also earned valuable postseason experience at a young age, with no hit bigger than the one he produced in the pressure-packed tenth inning of Game 6 against the Red Sox.  Unfortunately, that hit turned out to be his final hit as a Met.

Six weeks after riding up the Canyon of Heroes with his victorious teammates, Mitchell was traded to his hometown San Diego Padres in a seven-player deal that brought slugger Kevin McReynolds to New York.  The deal removed one of the more popular members in the Mets clubhouse and replaced him with a player who, though valuable in his own right, would rather be fishing and hunting than socializing with teammates in the clubhouse.  According to Jeff Pearlman, Davey Johnson was not pleased with general manager Frank Cashen's decision to trade Mitchell, saying:

"I didn't want to trade Mitchell.  I knew what a pure hitter he was, and he could easily have settled into a starting job.  But Cashen said he was going to get in too much trouble here.  I had no say."

But the team was convinced that Mitchell was going to corrupt Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and felt their two young stars would be better off with Mitchell as far away from them as possible.  Strawberry and Gooden did go on to have drug and alcohol abuse problems, while Mitchell was forging an All-Star career for himself on the West Coast.  Meanwhile, McReynolds had his share of success in New York for five seasons, but was already on the decline by the time he was 31.  As successful as McReynolds was, he never led the Mets to the World Series.  Mitchell, on the other hand, did make another return to the Fall Classic, and he did it by posting the type of season no Met has ever had.

In 1987, Mitchell played third base and left field for the San Diego Padres before being once again involved in a seven-player trade.  This time he was shipped off to San Francisco along with pitchers Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts for Chris Brown, Keith Comstock, Mark Grant and Mark Davis.  Davis went on to become a Cy Young Award-winning reliever with the Padres, while Lefferts and Dravecky were key contributors to the Giants' postseason push in 1987.

Mitchell had a breakout season in 1987, combining to hit .280 with 22 HR and 70 RBIs for the Padres and Giants, despite playing in only 131 games.  For the second consecutive season, Mitchell played in the postseason, but this time he didn't make it to the World Series, as the Giants lost the NLCS in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.  Mitchell did manage to collect eight hits in the seven games, including a double and his first postseason home run.

Mitchell regressed in 1988, batting .251 with 19 HR, although he did manage to drive in a career-high 80 runs for the Giants.  The homers and RBIs ranked second on the team behind first baseman Will Clark (29 HR, 109 RBI).  For the first time in his career, Mitchell did not get to play in the postseason.  His playoff drought would end the following season in a big way.

In 1989, the Giants were involved in a tight three-team race for the NL West title.  Through their first 70 games, the Giants were never more than three games out of first and were never in first place by more than three games.  San Francisco didn't take a five-game lead in the division until late August and never had a lead of more than seven games at any point in the season.  They started off slowly, going 12-13 over their first 25 games.  Although Kevin Mitchell had driven in 25 runs in that time, he was only hitting .280 with six homers.  But over the next five weeks, Mitchell went on a power tear not seen at Candlestick Park since the days of Mays and McCovey.

From May 2 to June 6, Mitchell played in 32 games (30 starts), hitting .339 and reaching base at a .402 clip.  But Mitchell wasn't just hitting for average.  He was also showing tremendous power.  Of his 40 hits during the 32-game span, 60% of them went for extra bases.  Mitchell had seven doubles, one triple and an incredible 16 homers in 118 at-bats over that stretch, carrying the Giants to a 21-11 record.

By the All-Star Break (which wasn't a break for Mitchell, as he was selected to play in the game), Mitchell had already set new career highs in home runs (31) and RBIs (81).  He was also threatening to become only the sixth Giant to record a 40-homer season, following in the footsteps of Hall of Famers Mel Ott, Johnny Mize, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey.  On August 22, Mitchell joined that exclusive club, hitting his 40th homer against the team that originally drafted him.  Mitchell blasted his historic homer in the sixth inning off the newly-acquired Frank Viola, who had struck out ten batters over the first five innings.  Ten days later, Mitchell once again dealt a crushing blow to the Mets in their quest to repeat as NL East champions, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including a three-run homer off Ron Darling in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach.

"You think Kevin Mitchell won't recognize me if I wear these dark sunglasses on the mound?"

After not having won a division title since 1971, the Giants secured their second National League West division championship in three seasons on September 27, advancing to the NLCS to take on the Chicago Cubs, who were attempting to win their first National League pennant in 44 years.  Mitchell was one of many contributors in the Giants' run to the 1987 NL West title, but he became "the man" on the 1989 division-winning team.  Mitchell led the league in home runs (47), RBIs (125), total bases (345), slugging percentage (.635), OPS (1.023) and intentional walks (32).

How dominant was Mitchell's 1989 campaign?  Howard Johnson finished second in the NL with 36 homers.  Mitchell hit his 37th homer on August 11, meaning he could have missed the last seven weeks of the season and still would have led the league in homers.

Mitchell continued his assault on opposing pitchers in the NLCS, batting .353 with two homers and seven RBIs in five games against the Cubs.  But he was denied the NLCS MVP Award, as teammate Will Clark played out of his mind in the five-game series, batting .650 (13-for-20) with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs.  In the pennant-clinching fifth game, Mitchell drove in the game-tying run in the Giants' 3-2 victory.  Of course, Clark drove in the other two runs.

The Giants had advanced to their first World Series since 1962, taking on their cross-bay rivals, the Oakland Athletics.  The A's took the first two games in Oakland by a combined 10-1 score.  San Francisco could only muster nine hits in the first two games but Mitchell had three of them.  The Loma Prieta earthquake delayed the World Series for nearly two weeks, but even the extended break couldn't wake up the sleeping Giants.  Oakland swept the World Series, denying the Giants their first championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958.  Mitchell batted .294 in the four games, but didn't hit a home run until the sixth inning of Game 4.  By that time, the Giants were already trailing by eight runs and Oakland had all but wrapped up their first title since 1974.

Mitchell didn't take home the hardware he really wanted in 1989, but he did win the National League MVP Award, beating teammate Will Clark by 89 votes.  Mitchell also earned his first Silver Slugger Award for being the top hitter at his position.  In addition to his outstanding accomplishments at the plate, Mitchell also produced one of the most amazing defensive plays of the year, sending Ozzie Smith back to the dugout in disbelief.

After his career year in 1989, no one expected Mitchell to duplicate his once-in-a-lifetime campaign.  But that didn't stop Mitchell from trying.  Although he missed 22 games for the Giants in 1990, Mitchell still managed to hit .290 with 35 HR and 93 RBIs.  He was also selected to his second All-Star team.

In 1991, Mitchell missed 49 games with various injuries, but continued to provide a powerful bat when healthy.  Mitchell had 27 HR and 69 RBIs for the Giants in 113 games.  Unfortunately, it would be his final season in San Francisco and the final year he was able to play 100 or more games.  It would not, however, be the last year Mitchell would be productive.

Not wanting to pay Mitchell, who still had three years and $11.25 million left on his contract, the Giants traded the slugger to Seattle prior to the 1992 season.  The trade left a bad taste in Mets general manager Al Harazin's mouth, particularly because he was led to believe that the Mariners did not want "anyone's $3 million player".  Harazin had offered Seattle Kevin McReynolds in a deal that could have made Randy Johnson a Met, but was turned down.  Hours after being denied by the Mariners, Harazin traded McReynolds to Kansas City in a deal that brought Bret Saberhagen to New York.

Mitchell had a poor season in Seattle, hitting only nine home runs and driving in 67 runs in 99 games.  After one uneventful year in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle traded Mitchell to Cincinnati for former Nasty Boy and World Series champion Norm Charlton.  The trade seemed to rejuvenate Mitchell, as he hit a career-high .341 for the Reds in 93 games.  Mitchell also hit 21 doubles and 19 homers in only 323 at-bats in 1993, finishing the year with a .601 slugging percentage, his first time above .600 since his 1989 MVP season.

In 1994, Mitchell played his first healthy season in nearly half a decade.  Mitchell had a modest April, batting .289 with five homers and 13 RBIs.  But he had a tremendous month of May, batting .387 with ten homers and 17 RBIs.  Although Mitchell had a .322 batting average, 21 homers and 50 RBIs by the All-Star Break, he was not selected to play in his third Midsummer Classic.  Mitchell took his All-Star snub out on National League pitchers, batting .338 with nine homers and 27 RBI over his next 23 starts.  But alas, start No. 24 never happened, as baseball went on strike after all games were completed on August 11.

Mitchell never got a chance to go for his second 40-homer season, finishing the abbreviated season with 30 HR and 77 RBIs.  Mitchell also hit .326 and finished the year with a career-high .429 on-base percentage and .681 slugging percentage.  Mitchell's name was all over the National League leader board in 1994.  He finished in the top ten in batting average (.326; 6th in the NL), on-base percentage (.429; 3rd), slugging percentage (.681; 2nd), OPS (1.110; 2nd), home runs (30; 6th) and walks (59; 6th).  His efforts did not go unnoticed by the MVP voters, as Mitchell placed ninth in the 1994 NL MVP race.  It was the second top ten MVP finish in Mitchell's career, following his first place finish in 1989.

Whether in New York, San Francisco or Cincinnati, Kevin Mitchell always had a smile when he had a bat in his hands.

Mitchell's resurgent season coincided with his contract year, but instead of remaining in the major leagues, Mitchell chose to spend 1995 overseas, signing the richest contract in Japanese baseball history to play for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks.  But weight problems and a recurring knee injury limited his stay in Japan to just one year.  Mitchell returned to the United States in 1996, signing a free agent contract with Boston, where he hit .304 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 27 games.  The Red Sox then traded Mitchell back to Cincinnati, where he prospered, hitting .325 with 11 doubles, six homers and 26 RBIs in only 114 at-bats.  Mitchell continued to be an on-base machine in Cincinnati, recording a .447 OBP after his return to the Reds.

In parts of three seasons with Cincinnati from 1993 to 1996, Mitchell only had 747 official at-bats.  But when he was playing, he was incredibly productive, batting .332 with 50 doubles, four triples, 55 HR and 167 RBIs.  Mitchell also had a .414 on-base percentage and slugged at a .631 clip.

Mitchell played the final two years of his major league career in the American League, playing 20 games for Cleveland in 1997 and 51 games for Oakland in 1998.  After batting .204 with six home runs and 32 RBIs for the Indians and A's, Mitchell played in Mexico in 1999, followed by a stay in the Independent League in 2000 and 2001.

Kevin Mitchell did not put up Hall of Fame numbers in his 13-year major league career.  He finished his career with a .284 batting average, 224 doubles, 234 homers, 760 RBIs and 630 runs scored.  None of those numbers would even be ranked No. 1 on the Mets' all-time leaderboard.  But Mitchell spent a lot of time on the bench and the disabled list.  In fact, according to his page, Mitchell's 162-game average was quite impressive.  Mitchell averaged 30 doubles, 31 HR and 101 RBIs for every 162 games he played.  Those numbers compare quite favorably to Mets' current all-time home run leader Darryl Strawberry, whose 162-game average over his 17-year career projected to 26 doubles, 34 HR and 102 RBIs.

After the Mets traded Mitchell following the 1986 season, Mitchell made sure the Mets never forgot who he was.  In 4½ seasons as a Giant, Mitchell tore Mets pitching apart, batting .307 (59-for-192) in 52 games versus his former team.  Mitchell also hit seven doubles, one triple and 14 home runs against the Mets, while scoring 39 runs and driving in 38.  Project those numbers over 162 games and you have yourself a bona fide Met killer.

Mitchell didn't just toy with the Mets as a Giant.  In his renaissance season with the Reds in 1994, Mitchell completely annihilated Mets pitching.  On May 28, Mitchell came up to the plate as a pinch-hitter and slugged a game-winning homer in the ninth inning off John Franco at Shea Stadium.  The following week, Mitchell faced the Mets at Riverfront Stadium and was the star of the series.  Mitchell reached base eight times in the three-game set and launched two more homers, taking Bret Saberhagen (who was in the midst of his own renaissance season) and Mauro Gozzo deep.

It can be said that the Mitchell-and-friends for McReynolds-and-hunting-buddies deal was a wash.  After all, McReynolds did help the Mets win the NL East in 1988, finishing third in the NL MVP race.  But McReynolds' career fizzled after the 1990 season.  By then, Mitchell had already won a National League MVP Award and had led his team to two division titles and one World Series appearance.  And in 1994, while McReynolds was finishing out his 12-year career for a sub-.500 Mets team, Mitchell was still raking the ball in Cincinnati and helping his team stay in first place in the NL Central when the strike wiped out any possibility of a division title for the Reds.

Some Mets fans might claim that Kevin McReynolds was underrated.  But looking back, how many of them would take back that trade so that Mitchell would have remained a Met?  The history of the New York Mets franchise might have looked completely different if Kevin Mitchell had not gotten away from them.

Note:  The Mets That Got Away is a thirteen-part weekly series that spotlights those Mets players who established themselves as major leaguers in New York, only to become stars after leaving town.  For previous installments, please click on the players' names below:

January 7, 2013: Nolan Ryan
January 14, 2013: Melvin Mora