By: Jordan Silver

The Mets: An American League Team in the National League

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An interesting juxtaposition occurred this past Saturday night. In Louisville, Kentucky, Nyquist, a 2-1 favorite won the Kentucky Derby. By winning the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, Nyquist is hoping to repeat the magic of a year ago when American Pharoah became the twelfth Triple Crown winner (the first since Affirmed in 1978). Approximately two hours later, Bartolo Colon became the oldest pitcher ever to hit his first career home run. Colon took 30.6 seconds to complete his home run trot. That’s according to Statcast, which keeps track of this sort of information. Had you taken the audio of the Kentucky Derby and put it over the video of his trip around the bases, then perhaps his first round tripper would also have been the most exciting two minutes in sports. The portly pitcher even invoked some false bravado by bragging, “Once I hit it, I knew it was gone.”

Colon’s home run was not only personally historic, but also symbolic of the Mets season to date. Colon has been a solid presence as the fifth starter (keeping the injured Zack Wheeler’s spot warm) in the rotation. He has had a strong season on the mound with a 3-1 record and 2.82 ERA. Still the career .092 hitter has contributed on a team full of contributors. Whether Neil Walker or Asdrubal Cabrera or Lucas Duda or Yoenis Cespedes, this season’s early success can point to different players stepping up when needed.

As of Monday, May 9, the Mets lead the majors with forty-seven home runs. The Cardinals are second in the National League with forty-four and Baltimore is first in the American League with forty-three. Add to that, that the Mets have only given up sixteen dingers for a league-leading differential of +31. These stats raise the question: are the Mets really a National League team?

In the most literal sense, yes, they are a National League team. Their official name is the New York Metropolitans National League Baseball Club. But as currently constituted and, certainly, with the ways they have been winning, are they a classic NL team? In that case the answer is no.

From 1966 through 1971, the Baltimore Orioles made four World Series (winning two) with the long ball. Famously, Earl Weaver, their manager in the 1969-1971 years, boasted his teams’ prowess of getting the timely three-run home run. Manufacturing runs, especially via the sacrifice just did not happen for that team. “There are only three outs an inning and they should be treasured,” Weaver remarked. “Give one away and you’re making everything harder for yourself.” Small ball and “station-to-station” hitting has always been a hallmark of National League baseball strategy. So if that’s the case, then why has the dinger taken over?

In a Nike commercial Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine said, “Chicks dig the long ball.” Clearly that’s still a baseball truism. Purists will sit through a pitcher’s duel. But in today’s hyped up, ADHD, Grand Theft Auto society, the instant gratification of the home run is needed to win over the younger generation. ESPN routinely shows highlights of the best homers as well as the crazed calls by a team’s announcers. John Sterling is well-known for his pun-fueled home run calls. Gary Cohen’s “it’s outta here” is a staple of the Mets’ TV broadcast. Chris Berman is famous for his “back, back, back….” call. The late Stuart Scott would punctuate his calls with “Yahtzee!” or “boo-ya” where Dan Patrick would be a little more understated with a simple “Gone.”

Ever since the home run barrage of the late 1990s, team after team would try to find its own Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa. Once the steroid bubble burst four-bagger production slipped. Still Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper and several others (including our own Cespedes) have helped to bring about a home run resurgence. The Home Run Hitting Contest is still All-star weekend’s highlight.

The 2016 Mets were not built to solely rely on the long ball. Their roster was based on pitching and solid contact hitters. Walker (nine home runs) was brought in to sure up the defense and get on base. David Wright (four), playing his first full season after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, was looking to regain any semblance of the player that made multiple all-star teams. Cespedes (eleven) and Duda (seven) were counted on to provide the power. Michael Conforto (five), a classic contact and gap hitter, has provided fair power displays since being moved into the third hole.

In 1980 the Mets did not get a single home run from the catching position. Not one. That’s right, zero home runs from Butch Benton (played in twelve games in 1980; zero career home runs), Ron Hodges (36 games; nineteen career home runs), John Stearns (91 games; forty-six career home runs) or Alex Trevino (106 games; 10 career home runs). This year’s roster has one home run from the catching corps. Rene Rivera, the Las Vegas 51s starter (filling in for the injured Travis d’Arnaud) has the lone round tripper. It should be added that Rivera is a twelve-year journeyman player with a total of twenty-one career home runs.

There has long been a debate about the designated hitter. Purists want to see it gone altogether. Some, including this blogger, would like to see it adopted in both leagues rather than an at-bat that features the hapless flailing that’s characteristic of today’s pitcher. Then you get a moment like Colon, and the debate takes on a strange turn.

Predicting who will win a world series (prior to the season) is almost as difficult as guessing which long shot will win the Kentucky Derby. Giacomo, at 50-1, won in 2009. This year, Shagaf, at 60-1, came in dead last and didn’t even finish. What we do know is that the current Mets team is showing an ability to win. Whether by the home run or a better than expected bullpen, they have finally moved into first place. And whether by stature as a veteran presence or his girth, Bartolo Colon is showing that he can be the thoroughbred that will carry them through the season.

Rookie lefthander, Steven Matz is donating to Angela’s House with every strikeout he throws. Purchases of this shirt will also result in donations to this vital charity. Click here:
http://www.mondomonsterwear.com/products/mets-aces


Jordan Silver has been a journalist and marketing/multimedia consultant for over twenty years. He has produced documentaries and television productions both nationally and internationally. Aside from his own blog which observes politics and modern culture, he has been published in the Miami Herald, ABCNews.com and various other publications. His company Ag Media Solutions, Inc. (www.agmediasolutions.com) represents several boutique firms and religious organizations as their outsourced marketing department. In addition, his apparel line, Mondo Monster Wear (www.mondomonsterwear.com), features designs that parody sports and pop culture.

He enjoys wine, cooking, golf, vintage movies and researching history and politics. In addition, he shares his love of the Mets, NY Giants, NY Rangers and music (The Beatles, RUSH and 80s Heavy Metal) with his two children. He lives on Long Island and can be found most summer weekend days on the beach or boat with his girlfriend and their blended families.

About Jordan Silver

Jordan Silver has been a journalist and marketing/multimedia consultant for over twenty years. He has produced documentaries and television productions both nationally and internationally. Aside from his own blog which observes politics and modern culture, he has been published in the Miami Herald, ABCNews.com and various other publications. His company Ag Media Solutions, Inc. (www.agmediasolutions.com) represents several boutique firms and religious organizations as their outsourced marketing department. In addition, his apparel line, Mondo Monster Wear (www.mondomonsterwear.com), features designs that parody sports and pop culture. He enjoys wine, cooking, golf, vintage movies and researching history and politics. In addition, he shares his love of the Mets, NY Giants, NY Rangers and music (The Beatles, RUSH and 80s Heavy Metal) with his two children. He lives on Long Island and can be found most summer weekend days on the beach or boat with his girlfriend and their blended families. Rookie lefthander, Steven Matz is donating to Angela’s House with every strikeout he throws. Purchases of this shirt will also result in donations to this vital charity. Click here: http://www.mondomonsterwear.com/products/mets-aces

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