Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fun Facts About Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe

Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe were traded by the Atlanta Braves to the New York Mets yesterday for minor leaguer pitchers John Gant and Robert Whalen.  The trade instantly gives the Mets a credible third baseman who can actually hit in Uribe.   (Sorry, Soup.  You may be good food, but you're a lousy hitter.)  It also gives the Mets versatility with Johnson, who can play multiple infield positions as well as the outfield.

Okay, all that you know.  It's not my duty to regurgitate what others have already written about the two newest Mets.  Rather, it falls upon me to share what you didn't know or what you would not have thought of asking, mainly for fear that someone would think you were a weirdo or a forty-something who lives in your mom's basement and craves more meat loaf.

So let's not dilly-dally any longer.  Ladies and gentle-Mets, I present to you some fun facts about Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.

Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson celebrate a home run by Uribe against Washington.  Uribe loves to face N.L. East pitchers.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Out of the first 1,000 Mets to appear in a Mets uniform, Johnson was one of the most common surnames, while Uribe had never been seen on the back of a Mets jersey.  In fact, when Kelly Johnson makes his Mets debut, he will be the eighth Johnson to play for the Mets (this doesn't include all-time club leader in managerial wins and division titles, Davey Johnson).  Kelly Johnson will join Bob W. (1967), Bob D. (1969), Howard (1985-93), Lance (1996-97), Mark (2000-02), Ben (2007) and Rob (2012) in the fellowship of the Johnson ring.  The surname Johnson will also tie Jones as the most common last name in club history.  For all you kids out there who like to keep up with the Joneses, those players' first names were Sherman (1962), Cleon (1963, 1965-75), Randy (1981-82), Ross (1984), Barry (1992), Bobby J. (1993-2000), Chris (1995-96) and Bobby M. (2000, 2002).

Newton's Third Law of Motion states that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."  The same can be said for the two newest Mets.  For every Johnson that has donned a Mets uniform, there have been no Uribes.  In fact, Juan Uribe will become just the third Met to have his last name begin with the letter "U", joining Del Unser (1975-76) and Lino Urdenata (2007).  When Uribe plays his third game for the Mets, he will pass Urdenata into second place for games played by a "U" player, as Lino appeared in only two games as a reliever and amassed a grand total of one inning pitched for the 2007 Mets.  How uncommon has it been for a Met to have his last name begin with the letter "U"?  Let's just say there have been as many Mets players to have surnames beginning with a lower case "d" (Matt den Dekker, Travis d'Arnaud, Jacob deGrom) as there have been upper case "U" guys.

Even in this era of free agency, it's rare to have a player suit up for every team in the same division.  Octavio Dotel, who began his career as a Met in 1999 and played for a major league record 13 teams, couldn't manage this feat.  Neither could Mike Morgan, Ron Villone or Matt Stairs, despite the fact that each player played for a dozen different franchises.  But not only has Kelly Johnson accomplished this rare achievement, he played for all five teams within a division in a span of less than two years.

The Arizona Diamondbacks traded Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays on August 23, 2011.  He then signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Rays on February 5, 2013.  Ten months later, he signed a free-agent contract with the New York Yankees, who then traded him to the Boston Red Sox on July 31, 2014.  Thirty days later, on August 30, 2014, he was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles.

So let's review the stops made on Le Tour de Johnson.  On Closing Day 2012, he was a member of the Blue Jays.  He then played the entire 2013 season with the Rays, followed by a three-team pit stop in 2014, splitting time between the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles.  That's all five American League East teams in exactly 23 months (his last game with Toronto was on October 2, 2012 and his first game with Baltimore was on September 2, 2014).  Perhaps his familiarity with the A.L. East is one of the reasons the Mets acquired him, as the team plays the Rays, Orioles and Red Sox in August and square off against the Yankees in September.  Johnson can exact a modicum of revenge against the A.L. East squads that spurned him.

Speaking of reasons why the Mets acquired these two players, Juan Uribe has always been a good major league hitter, smacking 20+ homers in four separate seasons.  (By comparison, only six players in Mets history have produced four or more 20-HR campaigns while in a Mets uniform - Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, David Wright, one of the eight Johnsons [Howard], Dave Kingman and Kevin McReynolds.)  But in addition to his prowess in power, Uribe has always handled N.L. East pitching extremely well.

Uribe has started 155 games in his career against the four teams he will now face the most (Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington).  That's just about a full season's worth of games.  Against those four teams, Uribe has a .279 batting average and a .439 slugging percentage, which is higher than the lifetime .255/.419 numbers he has put up against all the other teams he's faced.  He's also produced 62 extra-base hits in 606 at-bats against the four teams - an average of one extra-base hit every 9.77 at-bats.  He averages an extra-base hit every 11.0 at-bats against every other team.  It should be noted that beginning next Friday, 35 of the Mets' last 60 games are against N.L. East teams.

Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe have been brought aboard to fill a few holes in the offense, which has been downright offensive at times.  Anyone can spit out numbers (kinda like I just did in that last paragraph), but who's going to tell you about the abundance of Johnsons and the dearth of Uribes in Mets lore?  How are you going to compete against Gary Cohen and Howie Rose in next year's edition of "Beat The Booth" if you don't know about the Tour de Johnson?  And before you say that Uribe's an old fart who will only be competitive in a hot dog eating contest against Bartolo Colon, not only is Uribe a slayer of cured meats, but he's also a slayer of the N.L. East, having terrorized pitchers in the division for the equivalent of a full season.

Hey, at least if Uribe doesn't work out as a hitter, he can always manage the team for a day, as he did last year for the Dodgers. 

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