For almost two years, for 34 score and 18 days*—shit, that’s 99 flippin’ fortnights, this is biblical—the New York Mets did not hit a grand slam. That’s the whole team. The only Mets drought lasting longer is the no-hitter drought, currently at infinity. Since Angel Pagan went yard with the bases loaded on August 1, 2009, no Mets players has seen a grand slam outside of the breakfast menu at Denny’s.** And after 299 games without one, the Mets hit two grand slams in one game last night. And, fittingly I guess (or maybe not, who knows?***), since this team is known for its free agency flops, each slam was hit by a highly scrutinized free agent. Add in a 4 for 4 night by a soon to be free agent I hope the team isn’t stupid enough to trade or let leave, and last night’s 14-3 Mets victory is a compelling moment.
*If I did my mental math right.
**You can punch me right now for such a crappy Rick Reilly-esque pun.
***Now I’m feeling like Peter King. Get me a shitty overpriced Starbucks latte.
Jason Bay hit the first glam, as part of a seven run 4th inning. Carlos Beltran followed with a grand slam the very next inning. And that’s where their similarities end. Bay has been widely criticized since he was first signed as a free agent before the 2010 season, and rightfully so. Bay was a very good player for the Pittsburgh Pirates putting up WAR*s of 6.1 and 5.4 in 2005 and 2006, and a WAR of 5.0 in 2009, his first full season with the Boston Red Sox after the famous Manny trade. His traditional counting numbers in 2009 were great, too, with a HR/RBI line of 36/119. And then he hit free agency as a 31 year old slowfooted outfielder and signed a $66 million four year contract with the Mets. His power has evapored in cavernous Citi Field. His WAR this season is 0.3. He hasn’t even provided one half of one win in value over what the Mets could have gotten from a guy off the Triple-A scrap heap making minimum wage. And, as he’s only getting older and slower and shittier, yup, I think we can throw the BUST label on right…about…now.
*WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. It’s a stat we sabermetric nerds in our mother’s basements like to use. It’s an all inclusive stat combining offense and defense, adjusted for park effects, and it says how many more wins a team has with a given player than it would with replacement level talent like a utility player or a player down in Triple A. It’s wins above replacement and not wins above average because if a starting player gets injured, an average player won’t be available to fill in (he’ll already be starting somewhere else), a marginal player will. Typically, an All Star caliber player provides 4 to 5 wins above replacement, and 7 to 10 wins above replacement is pushing MVP territory. Joey Votto won the 2010 NL MVP, and Fan Graphs calculated him as a 7.3 WAR player. For a great understanding of sabermetric stats, please check out the (sadly retired) Fire Joe Morgan blog’s glossary.
Carlos Beltran, called third strike to the contrary (damn you, Adam Wainwright!), is not a bust. Since his debut in 2005, he has provided solid center field defense, and nice right field defense this year, and tremendous offensive value throughout, other than in last year’s injury shortened season. Yes, Beltran is in the final season of a seven year, $119 million contract. And he’s been worth every penny. Just through 2010, Beltran’s given the Mets about $119.8 million in value, when we rate what teams spend on average per win. Before the final season of his contract even began! As Brendan Bilko from Surviving the Citi says, “the man has already been worthy the deal if he opts to stop playing today.”
If the Mets traded Beltran, I’d be sad, but I’d understand. He is a free agent at the end of this season, he’s 34, and his creaky knees have already moved him to right field. His brilliant and, yes, maybe Hall of Fame worthy best seasons are behind him. But the Mets would be crazy to trade the man who went 4 for 4 last night with his 15th triple. Jose Reyes right now may be the best player in baseball. In 76 games, not quite half a season, he already has 5.1 WAR. He’s provided near full season MVP production in half a season. He plays a premium (THE premium) defensive position, and plays it well. And, beyond the stats, he’s the type of player that makes you think, wow, this guy’s the best player on the field. He passes the eye test as well as the stat test.
I know the Mets don’t want to shell out premium dime to bring Reyes back. But ownership will regret it if they make a second Tom Seaver trade.