Catcher Victor “Vic” Valencia spent 11 seasons in professional baseball, but played only 25 games at Triple-A and never reached the majors. Debuting in the Yankees system in 1995, he showed good power, bashing 16 home runs in 411 at-bats in 1998 and 22 homers in 396 ABs the next year, but little other offensive skill. In nearly 2,900 at-bats, he hit just .224.
I’ve written to him twice in my day, both times through his home address. Initially, I sent to him in May 2020 and he responded just 10 days later, signing a card. I again wrote to him in December 2021 and he signed 1/1 just 22 days later.
For a few years in the 2000s, Augie Ojeda was a decent utilityman mostly for the Diamondbacks and Cubs, spending significant time at second base, third base and shortstop. He was even a postseason stud, hitting .444 in 9 at-bats for Arizona in the 2007 National League Division Series against his future club, Chicago.
All told, he spent 15 seasons in professional baseball, including part of all of nine in the majors. He spent a few seasons with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, my former hometown team, so I inevitably saw him play in-person and received at least one autograph from him at the stadium.
I sent to him in mid-November 2021 and he signed 1/1 less than a month later.
Playing for the Dodgers and Cardinals in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Tracy Woodson didn’t leave much of a mark, appearing in just 215 games over five seasons. However, in 1992—his first year with St. Louis—he hit .207 in 114 at-bats, and in 1988 with Los Angeles, he appeared in both the National League Championship Series against the Mets and the World Series against the Athletics, earning a ring.
Ending his professional career with a bang, he hit 23 home runs with 89 RBI at Triple-A in his final campaign, 1996.
He has signed for me twice. I first sent to him through his home address in February 2018 and he responded 220 days later, signing a card. I again sent him a card in late November 2020 and he signed just 25 days later.
I sent to Springer in late November 2021 and he responded in 32 days, signing 1/1.
I never understood how Springer managed to forge such a long career—18 seasons—or why teams kept signing him. From 1992 to 1998, his ERA was 5.18 and he had not posted a mark under 4.10 to that point. Then in 1999, he had a solid year with Atlanta—a 3.42 mark in 49 appearances—but he followed that with ERAs of 5.08, 7.13 and 8.31, missing a year in-between.
Granted, from 2004 to 2008, he had a solid run with the Astros and Cardinals, posting ERAs of 2.18 and 2.32 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. But in 2004, he was already 35. That was his 13th season. How does a guy with a career 5.18 ERA and 86 ERA+ through 2003 forge a 13-year career without being a LOOGY?
Whatever magic teams thought he had kept him around long enough to appear in 740 games, which is 84th all-time—tied with Ryan Madson and one spot behind Steve Carlton … a starting pitcher.
Schroeder was a catcher for the Brewers and Angels, playing mostly in the ’80s. He wasn’t quite a slugger like Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk or Lance Parrish, but he held his own, averaging 26 home runs per 162 games. And though that sounds impressive, he never actually hit more than 14 in a single campaign, as he was mostly a backup throughout his eight-year career.
His 1987 season was rather anomalous. Before that year, he was a .197 career hitter and after that year, he batted .189. But something clicked in ’87, as he hit .332 with 14 home runs, 42 RBI and 83 hits in 75 games (all career highs). Not too shabby.
I’ve sent to him three times in my life. The first request, sent in late June 2018, is still floating around out there—he hasn’t responded. When I mailed to him in August 2021, he signed a card in 42 days. A few months later, in December, I sent him another card, and he signed it in 21 days.
Chris Carpenter is a former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher for the 2000s and 2010s Cardinals who had Hall of Fame potential but not Hall of Fame health or consistency in the early going, when he was a Blue Jay. Cris Carpenter also pitched for the Cardinals … and that’s basically where the similarities end.
That Cris Carpenter pitched for St. Louis from 1988 to 1992 before moving on. He was a reliever of minor consequence, though his 1992 season was pretty solid—73 games, 2.97 ERA.
And unlike the more modern Carpenter, Cris has always been amenable to autograph seekers, signing for me twice. I’ve written to Chris six times over the years and he has yet to respond … and he barely responds to anyone else, either.
I first sent a card to Cris (no ‘h’) in August 2020 and received it back signed 27 days later. I sent to him again in November 2021 and received that card back in 46 days.
Mike Madsen, not to be confused with the similarly named actor, was once a fairly well-regarded prospect in the Athletics system. He was 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA his first professional campaign, 2005, and by his third, he was in Triple-A. He even made the 2007 Futures Game. Unfortunately, he never advanced beyond Triple-A, as it appears injuries took their toll.
I wrote to him in late November 2021 through his home address and received his autograph 24 days later, on December 17.
Pitcher Rafael Novoa spent parts of two seasons in the majors, playing for the Giants in 1990 and the Brewers in 1993. He wasn’t particularly successful either year, though he did manage a save in seven appearances for San Francisco—despite a 6.75 ERA—and he completed two of his seven starts with Milwaukee, despite going 0-3.
I sent to him in mid-November 2021 and he responded in just 25 days. I sent to him again last November, but he has yet to reply.
I used to collect Royal Rookies cards religiously as a kid—one free autograph per pack!—so, despite the company releasing sets only twice, in 2000 and 2001, I accumulated a lot of their cards.
That’s why, though Jon Tucker never reached the major leagues—he peaked at Double-A—I had enough cards to write to him three times. He’s signed each time.
I first sent him a letter in mid-November 2009 and he signed 3/3 in just 8 days. I wrote to him again in July 2019 and he signed 1/1 in 10 days. I most recently wrote to him in December 2021 and he signed one card in 11 days. He also included a signed note.
Offensive stud:Carlos Correa (SS, Astros). Correa went 0-for-6 last night, yet his week’s performance still trounces all others. Having gone 10-for-29 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 8 runs scored, the shortstop raised his season mark to .282 and illustrated, yet again, why he is one of the best shortstops in the league. With a few games left in the season, Correa has already tied his career high in home runs with 24 and has far surpassed his previous high of 82 runs scored with 100. 2021 has been Correa’s first full campaign since 2016, when he played 153 games, and shows his potential when he’s completely healthy. This factoid does, too: He averages 29 home runs, 105 RBI and 94 runs scored per 162 games.
Offensive dud: Mike Moustakas (3B, Reds). Moustakas has been an All-Star three times. As recently as 2019, he had 35 home runs and 87 RBI. In 2015, he earned a little MVP support. What an inglorious decline it has been, then, for the 2007 #2 overall pick, who was selected after David Price and ahead of the likes of Josh Donaldson. Over the past week, Moustakas is 1-for-13 with 4 strikeouts and 2 errors—a rough patch in what has been nothing less than a horrid past couple seasons for the slugger who owns 196 career home runs. In 2020, he hit .230 in 44 games; this year, his slash line is .208/282/.372 with 6 home runs and 22 RBI in 62 games. He has missed much of the season due to multiple maladies and is currently on the injured list again. He was not a good investment for the Reds, who signed him prior to the 2020 campaign and who own him through 2023 with a 2024 option … at a cost of $16 million next year.
Pitching stud: Ian Anderson (SP, Braves). Anderson debuted with a bang last season, going 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in six starts for Atlanta. This year, he hasn’t quite matched that performance, but his numbers impress, nevertheless: In 23 starts, he is 8-5 with a 3.60 ERA, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. Over the past week, he’s added a win and struck out 13 batters to just 3 walks in 12 2/3 innings, while hitters slashed just .163/.217/.442 against him. Though he’s an excellent pitcher, Anderson is the sort of batsman that proponents of a National League designated hitter point to when making their argument—in 34 at-bats this season, he has two hits and 26 strikeouts.
Pitching dud: Brandyn Sittinger (RP, Diamondbacks). The 27-year-old rookie had a rough go of it in his first taste of the majors, allowing 4 runs in 4 2/3 innings overall and 3 runs in 1 2/3 frames over the past week. The hurler isn’t much of a prospect, having flunked out of the Tigers chain before ever reaching Triple-A and spending time in independent baseball in 2019. Even this season, his WHIP at Triple-A was 1.409. Though he strikes batters out with some proficiency—he averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in the minor leagues this season—I can’t imagine he is long for the majors. He’s just another hurler the pitching-thin 48-104 Diamondbacks threw at the wall to tie them over for the rest of the year.
Dishonorable mention: Jace Fry (RP, White Sox; 3 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 L).
Alas, it was a busy day today; one only has time for the Studs and Duds. No fun facts, no autographs, no notes and musings, no random articles (which I haven’t written in a while, come to think of it). What a letdown.
Offensive stud: Tyler O’Neill (OF, Cardinals). The 26-year-old O’Neill isn’t a superstar yet, but he’s working on it. Over the past week, he’s hit .391/.481/.826 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI, 9 runs scored and a couple stolen bases to bring his September line to .333/.405/.712.
Thrice a Baseball America top 100 prospect, the slugger showed big power in the minors, but hadn’t yet shown it on the major league stage—until this season. He slugged at least 25 home runs three times on the farm, with another campaign of 24; in just 64 games at Triple-A in 2018, he had 26 dingers. From his major league debut in 2018 to 2020, he slugged just .422 in 410 at-bats. This season, he has 28 home runs and a .536 mark in 429 ABs—plus, he’s shown respectable speed, tacking on 13 steals.
In terms of performance, his rank on the team is right up there with (potential) future Hall of Famers Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Goldschmidt’s WAR and home run totals are 5.5 and 26, respectively; O’Neill’s are 5.3 and 28, while Arenado’s are 4.1 and 32.
Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino hasn’t improved upon his 0-for-7, 6 strikeout performance over the past week, so here he remains. His position is hard to shed mostly due to his showing on September 14 against Pittsburgh, when he went 0-for-4 with 3 Ks; prior to that game, he hadn’t whiffed in 10 at-bats (quite impressive, as he has averaged one every 2.4 ABs this season), but of course, that was the exception rather than the rule. From August 20 to August 30, he struck out in seven straight games, with two in four of them.
Dishonorable mention: Andrew Young (2B, Diamondbacks; 1-for-9, 4 Ks, 1 E).
Pitching stud: Logan Gilbert (SP, Mariners). Seattle’s long awaited-return to the playoffs probably won’t be this season, but if the likes of Gilbert and fellow former first rounder Jarred Kelenic continue to blossom, the trip might happen sooner than we think. Gilbert was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 14 Ks and just two walks allowed in 13 innings over his past two starts, bringing the rookie’s season ERA down to 4.74; it was 5.44 less than a month ago.
The 14th overall pick of the 2018 draft, Gilbert rose through the minor leagues swiftly, playing just a single game at Triple-A this year and splitting 2019 between three levels. His totals in his brief minor league career are promising—11-5 W-L, 2.12 ERA, 140 IP, 99 H, 170 K—and that bodes well for the Mariners’ future playoff aspirations. They haven’t reached the postseason since 2001, when that 116-46 club was vanquished by the eventual-pennant winning Yankees.
Pitching dud: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals). It just hasn’t been Finnegan’s week. On September 15, he gave up 4 hits and 4 earned runs against Miami—the Marlins of all teams!—to blow a save and take a loss. A couple days later, on September 17, he surrendered 3 hits and 2 earned runs against Colorado, again blowing a save, again taking a loss. Despite tossing an inning, K-ing a batter, allowing no runs and earning a save last night, also against the Rockies, he still owns a 16.20 ERA these past seven days and is the Dud, again. C’est la vie.
Triples hurt your Hall of Fame chances: The last player to lead the league in triples and earn eventual Hall of Fame induction was Paul Molitor, who tied Lance Johnson for the American League lead with 13 in 1991.
The Hall is more amenable to strikeouts: With a league-leading 182 Ks in 2003, Jim Thome is the most recent player to pace the loop in strikeouts and make it to Cooperstown.
Why’dya quit? Thirty-three players had 150 or more hits in their final big league season, with the most belonging to Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1920. That year, he had 218 knocks, but was soon banished from the game for his alleged involvement in the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal. Numbers 2 and 3 on the list were also Black Sox: Buck Weaver (208 H in 1920) and Happy Felsch (188 H in 1920). Number 4 was Irv Waldron, who had 186 hits, 102 runs scored and a league-leading 141 games played, 641 plate appearances and 598 at-bats between the old Milwaukee Brewers (who eventually became the Baltimore Orioles) and Washington Senators. And most incredibly—that was his only year in the big leagues! With 169 hits in 2016, David Ortiz is the most recent player to finish with 150-plus knocks in his final campaign.
No runs, no walks, no strikeouts: The last pitcher to throw a complete game shutout without walking a batter or setting one down on strikes was Detroit’s Rick Porcello, who blanked Oakland 3-0 on July 1, 2014. Before him, the last to do it was Baltimore’s Jeff Ballard on August 21, 1989. He beat Milwaukee 5-0.
What a Series: The 1946 World Series was the only postseason experience of Ted Williams’ career. He hit .200 in the losing effort, as Boston fell to St. Louis in seven games. It also featured Enos Slaughter’s famed Mad Dash, when the future Hall of Famer scored all the way from first on a Harry Walker single. It put St. Louis up 4-3 in the 8th inning; the game finished with that score and St. Louis finished with the World Series victory.
Gotta catch the fight: Bill Lange, a star centerfielder for the Cubs in the 1890s, had priorities other than spring training baseball on his mind in March 1897. Wanting to see a prize fight between boxers James Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons, he feigned injury, even having a friend in the media write a fake story about his malady. After the fight, he “recovered” and played a full season, batting .340 with a league-leading 73 stolen bases.
Scribe at the hot corner: Bo Durkac spent seven seasons in professional baseball, mostly in the indy leagues. And he was good—in 1999, with the Chico Outlaws, he batted .337 with a .441 on-base percentage in 90 games and the next year, he hit .331 with a .465 OBP. While he was playing, he contributed to Baseball America’s website and wrote 2001: A Baseball Odyssey, about his stint in the Taiwan Major League in 2001. In 2003, he wrote How to Become a Professional Baseball Player.
Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: With another hit today, Cabrera is now 21 away from 3,000 for his career. The Tigers have 12 games left.
Max Scherzer 200 win watch: It’s not possible for him to reach the milestone this season, but put him on your radar for next year: He won number 190 against Cincinnati yesterday and is now just 10 away. Both the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw (184 wins) and Cardinals Adam Wainwright (183) could feasibly reach the mark in 2022, as well.
Mets victories bring no joy: New York beat Philadelphia 3-2 today on Jeff McNeil‘s decisive, tie-breaking, 7th inning home run off starter Kyle Gibson. Oh, but what joy is there in a victory as meaningless as this? For lo, we Mets fans have ridden the highs and lows of this season for these few months and can no longer take the soul crushing lows we are burdened with not just now, but year-in and year-out. I weep at the thought of another disappointing September, knowing we came this far just to lose it all in the end. The forlorn, melancholic chill of the shortening autumn days brings with it the unbearable sadness of the closing of yet another baseball season where redemption is no longer possible and even miracles can no longer save us. Yea, October for Mets fans seems a decade, a lifetime, an eternity away, the light at the end of a tunnel that only gets longer as we trek further and further into it. Why, why, why must the hands of fate wrap their icy, bony, fingers around our hearts and squeeze them until they can no longer beat, wringing us of any hope or optimism? I cry knowing the children of this year shall not see their heroes deGrom and Conforto and Stroman bring them postseason heroics. Oh, isn’t that what the Mets need now, a hero? Can’t anyone here play this game? Or do they not care for victory, just their paychecks? Give us something, anything. 1986 seems so long ago … and it was.
…alright, that was a little over the top, but these Mets, man, what a let down. Every single year it’s the same thing. A great start and they tank toward the end of the campaign. It never ends.
Here comes Kelenic: Mariners top prospect Jarred Kelenic has struggled mightily this season, carrying a .099 average through his first 111 at-bats. But it looks like the sixth-overall pick of the 2018 draft is beginning to put it all together: Since September 7, he has slashed .257/.333/.657 with 4 home runs, 9 RBI and 8 runs scored in 35 at-bats. Ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the game going into 2021, the 21-year-old outfielder tore up Triple-A with a .320 batting average, 9 home runs and 28 RBI in 30 games. His power-speed potential cannot be underestimated—he had 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases between three minor league stops in 2019; between the majors and minors this year, he has 21 dingers and 11 steals.
Dalbec coming into his own: Another highly regarded prospect, corner infielder Bobby Dalbec of the Red Sox, is also turning the corner. After struggling to elevate his average above the .210s for much the campaign, the slugger has slashed .324/.419/.797 with 9 home runs and 23 RBI over the past month. Now 26, he has twice been named by Baseball America as one of the game’s top-100 prospects—and he played like one last year in his big league debut, slugging .600 with a 149 OPS+ in 80 at-bats. Dalbec strikes out frequently, with 145 Ks in 389 at-batsnthis season, but he has the power that could get him to 500 career home runs one day—in 455 ABs between two minor league stops in 2018, he slugged 32 dingers.
A nice run for Lyles: Rangers pitcher Jordan Lyles, who owns a career 5.22 ERA and 82 OPS+ and who has somehow lasted 11 seasons in the major leagues despite being no better than mediocre the entire time, looks like he might finally, belatedly, be living up to his first round billing. Since August 21, he is 4-1 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 1/3 innings; he’s surrendered just 26 hits and struck out as many batters. He owns a 3-0 record and a 1.74 ERA over his last three appearances, spanning 20 2/3 frames. Better late than never—the Rockies took him as a first round, supplemental pick in 2008 after losing reliever Trever Miller to free agency. The Rangers signed him as a free agent in 2019.
Urena’s bouncing back: Tigers hurler Jose Urena has never been an All-Star, but he showed promise as a youngster in the Marlins system in the late 2010s. Between 2017 and 2018, while in his mid-20s, he tossed 343 2/3 innings and surrendered just 307 hits; he maintained a .548 winning percentage on those poor Marlins teams that went a combined 140-183. He had the best ERA among the team’s starters both years. Since then, however, he has gone 8-21 with a 5.45 mark in 203 innings; this year, now with Detroit, he is 4-8, 5.68 in 95 frames. His numbers could have been worse, but over his past 18 innings dating back to July, he has posted a 2.50 ERA with just 3 walks. His WHIP is a disastrous 1.611 this season; he got it down to 1.278 during this stretch.
The Offensive Stud is a revolving door of Blue Jays at this point.
Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). After a few days away, Hernandez is back on top.
The outfielder has continued his electric September by hitting .409/.480/.727 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 7 runs scored over the past week. He is slashing .371/.473/.726 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI this month and .304/.355/.527 with 28 dingers and 104 RBI on the year.
The Blue Jays are so stacked that his 4.0 WAR ranks just 5th on the club, though he paces the team in RBI and his OPS+ (138) is second behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 176. Since 2018, Hernandez has averaged 34 home runs, 97 RBI and 90 runs scored per 162 games.
Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino remains the week’s worst with his 0-for-7, 4 K, one error performance.
When he’s on, he’s on, but the 27-year-old has been plagued by too many cold streaks this season. In one seventeen at-bat stretch in late July and early August, he had just one hit for a .059 batting average; from August 20 to September 3, he had a single hit in 27 ABs for a .037 mark.
While his power potential cannot be denied—he averages 32 home runs per 162 games—his inconsistency cannot be, either. How much of a leash does Cincinnati give him? His defense is middling, his speed is negligible (one steal this year) and his on-base percentage is paltry (.305 for his career). They’re in the thick of the playoff race. It’s amazing they’ve stuck with him so long.
Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Welcome back Max, we haven’t seen you in what, a couple days?
The 37-year-old Scherzer is pitching like he is in the middle of his prime—he is 2-0 in his past two starts, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 16 batters, in 15 innings of work. He didn’t surrender an earned run, but that’s nothing new—Scherzer hasn’t given one up in five straight starts, meaning he is riding a 37 inning scoreless streak.
It’s a little soon to say, “watch out, Orel,” but this run shows just how much the righty has aged like fine wine. He now stands at 15-4 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA in 29 starts this year; he’s tossed 169 innings, but just surrendered his 100th hit on September 12.
With an ERA+ of 195, he is on pace to have the highest full-season mark of any pitcher since 2018 and the highest among pitchers his age or older since 2005, when 42-year-old Roger Clemens had a 226 mark.
Pitching dud: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals). Well, Finnegan was having an excellent season before this hiccup.
Prior to September 15, he had a 2.61 ERA in 59 appearances; that number is up to 3.39 now, thanks to a two-game stretch in which he allowed 7 hits, a couple home runs and two walks in 2 1/3 innings of work. He blew two saves and took the same number of losses, bringing his record to 5-8.
Though his campaign has had its ups and downs, he was on the right track until this blip—from August 15 to September 12, he had an 0.68 ERA and .174 OBA in 13 appearances. In just a couple innings, all that progress was undone.
Ten game winners: Which team’s pitching staff featured the most ten game winners? It’s a tie between three clubs with seven, each. The 1914 Philadelphia Athletics were the first, with men like future Hall of Famers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender toeing the rubber. They won the AL Pennant that year but lost the World Series to the Boston Braves. The 1939 Yankees, with the likes of Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez among their number, achieved the feat; they beat the Reds in the Fall Classic. The ’76 Reds did it without any future Hall of Famers or anyone winning 15 games. They avenged their 1939 loss to New York, beating them in the World Series.
The power of placebo: Bill Shipke was a weak-hitting third baseman who batted .199 in a career that spanned from 1906 to 1909. At one point in 1908, a fan gave Shipke, then of the Senators, a piece of paper with “magical properties” with instructions to tape it to his bat. Shipke did and had an excellent month after beginning the experiment. No date was specified for when he used the paper, however I surmise it was late May to late June. He rattled off a stretch in which he batted .300 in 42 at-bats.
Just one? The only woman to manage full-time in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was Bonnie Baker. She led the Kalamazoo Lassies to a 36-73 record in 1950. She was a more successful player, earning a couple All-Star selections.
Family affair: The AAGPBL’s Jean Faut pitched for the South Bend Blue Sox from 1946 to 1953. Her manager the final three seasons? Husband Karl Winsch. Faut was one of the best pitchers in the league’s history, tossing two perfect games and two no-hitters. Winsch played in the minors from 1942 to 1944. He managed the Blue Sox through 1954, leading them to a 232-187 record.
Grand slam for the old lady: From the Baseball-Reference.com Bullpen: “On September 14, with Bill Robinson and Ed Ott aboard, John Milner was intentionally walked by Bob Forsch to get to [Phil] Garner, who took him deep to center for a grand slam in the 7th inning. Phil’s wife rarely missed a home game but had not been there and got mad—’How could you hit the only grand slam of your career the one night I don’t come to the game?’ Garner told her he would hit one the next day. On September 15, Omar Moreno, Robinson and Willie Stargell were on base in the first inning, when Garner homered off of Woodie Fryman. It was the first time in 77 years, since Jimmy Sheckard, that a National Leaguer had hit grand slams in consecutive games; Brooks Robinson had done it in the AL in 1962.”
Won the most: The winningest manager in Negro league history was Candy Jim Taylor, who finished with 955 victories, three pennants and two league championships in 27 seasons.
This one stung my young Mets fan heart when I was a sprightly and youthful 14 years old. I liked Vance Wilson. As far as backups go, he was a decent option to spell starting catcher Mike Piazza. But, unfortunately, the cold business of baseball doesn’t take the feelings of kids into consideration.
Wilson was taken by New York in the 44th round of the 1993 amateur draft and was one of three men from that round to make the majors leagues, with the others being utility man Bry Nelson and pitcher Ed Yarnall.
Moving up a level per year, his ascension through the minor league system was steady. By 1998, he was in Triple-A. By 1999, he was in the majors for a single game; he didn’t get an at-bat. It was about the same in 2000, as well—four games, four at-bats with the big club.
Two-thousand-and-one was his chance to prove his worth. And boy did he. Though he hit just .246 in 65 Triple-A games, he batted .298 in 57 at-bats over 32 appearances behind Piazza after a mid-season promotion. Through his first 32 at-bats of the season, he carried a .406 average. Now you can see why I came to like him so much. To my young mind, this guy was good!
His arrival was especially refreshing, since his predecessor, Todd Pratt, hit just .163 before being traded to Philadelphia in late July for catcher Gary Bennett. After a few solid years in New York, Pratt had flopped. Bennett was a short-timer.
But Wilson was there to stay.
And for a few seasons, he was a reliable, if not headline-grabbing, backup. In 2002, he hit .245 in 163 at-bats, clobbering five home runs, including the first of his career, a shot off Expos pitcher Javier Vazquez on April 13. An adept fielder, he caught 49 percent of potential base stealers to lead the league.
With Piazza hurt much of the 2003 season, he was New York’s primary catcher, hitting .243 with 8 home runs in 268 at-bats. Okay, maybe starting wasn’t for him—his 75 OPS+ was the worst of his career—so the Mets put him back into a reserve role for 2004 and he responded by hitting .274 with 4 home runs and 21 RBI in 157 at-bats. Quite an impressive rebound.
The Mets thought so, too. In fact, with his stock elevated, they shipped him to Detroit for 22-year-old middle infield prospect Anderson Hernandez in January 2005.
If Hernandez panned out, the trade would have been a steal for New York. A backup catcher for a defensive wizard, as Hernandez was? It could have been a huge win for the Mets. But things rarely work out that way in Metsdom.
It didn’t look like he would ever play shortstop for the club, as Jose Reyes was the heir apparent for the position. But he could also play second base.
Rated alongside Lastings Milledge, Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez as a Mets top prospect, New York was counting on Hernandez to develop into something. But his bat never caught up to major league pitching. He had three cups of coffee with New York from 2005 to 2007, hitting .138 in 87 games.
In August 2008, he was sent to Washington as the player-to-be-named later in a deal for reliever Luis Ayala. Not surprisingly, Hernandez hit .333 with a .407 on-base percentage upon escaping New York.
A couple weeks shy of a year later, feeling sellers remorse, the Mets sent minor league infielder Greg Veloz to Washington to recoup Hernandez to help shore up that injury-ravaged 2009 squad.
With starting shortstop Jose Reyes hurt and his replacement, Alex Cora, tearing ligaments in both his thumbs and needing surgery, New York called on Hernandez to start the rest of the year. He underwhelmed to the tune of a .251 batting average. He fielded just .955 at short.
The Mets left him unprotected and Cleveland claimed him off waivers in March 2010. He spent one more year in the majors, hitting .220 in 54 games between the Indians and Astros, before being sent away for good.
Though Hernandez’s big league career was done, his professional career was not. After a couple seasons in Triple-A, he became a voyager, playing in Mexico, Japan and the Dominican Republic. As recently as 2019-20, he was still going in the Dominican Winter League.
As for Wilson, he collapsed to a .197 average in 152 at-bats for Detroit in 2006 but rebounded to a .283 mark with 5 dingers and 18 RBI in the same number of ABs the next year. Meanwhile, the Mets’ backup that season, Ramon Castro, hit .238 with an 83 OPS+.*
*Granted, Castro himself was an effective backup and I was not enthused when they traded him to the White Sox partway through 2009 for pitcher Lance Broadway, of all people. Broadway had a 6.75 ERA in 8 relief appearances for New York.
’06 proved to be Wilson’s final big league campaign. Injuries limited him to three games at Triple-A in 2007 and he missed all of 2008. He played in the Royals system in 2009—at Double-A—but was released in April 2010, before the season began. He chose to retire.
Wilson was an effective reserve who gave the Mets four solid years of service. In return, they received promise and potential that didn’t work out.
Promise and potential. That defines the Mets of the past, oh, 35 years. But when it comes to production … it rarely manifests itself into anything meaningful.