Jonathon Niese endured. Ike Davis awoke. David Wright served the main course to one lucky Acela Club patron. The Florida Marlins learned that no one — and I mean no one — comes into our house and pushes us around (hubris not applicable on final days of seasons). And while all this was going on, per Steve Zabriskie as the division was clinched in 1986, a certain inevitabiity became a reality.
What do you think the following names had in common prior to Saturday’s win?
• Mel Ott
• Mickey Mantle
• Duke Snider
• Bernie Williams
• Darryl Strawberry
• Mark Teixeira
• Tim Jordan
• Daniel Murphy
If you said none of the above was going to help the 2010 Mets one little bit (save possibly for some motivational speaking), you’d get partial credit. But there is a more specific answer: each of the aforementioned players stood as the home team home run king of a different New York ballpark that’s been used for major league baseball since 1900.
Stood…or stands? I suppose the present tense is applicable, though in the case of one of these men, he’s suddenly got company.
Did I say suddenly? More like it’s about time!
Did you see that shot David hit? Where it landed, under the Amtrak sign? How it bounced into somebody’s $15 dish of mousse? I made up the last part, but it did rattle around up there among the high rollers (in whose ranks I dined…once). That was as emphatic a Met home run as Citi Field has seen in its eight months of action.
Not that it’s seen very many Met home runs emphatic or otherwise since opening on April 13, 2009. The first Met home run was lined that night to left by Mr. Wright. It figured to be the first of many off David’s bat in the history of the brand new ballpark.
Define many. Your definition probably exceeds what Wright produced last year home or away. David didn’t even lead his team in home runs. Nor did he lead his stadium.
That honor belonged to his teammate, Daniel Murphy, which no doubt surprised everyone, Murphy included. In 2008, the last year of alleged pitcher’s park Shea Stadium, David swatted 33 home runs overall, 21 at Shea. During his two months as a rookie sensation the same season, Daniel homered twice, once at Shea. In the minors two years ago, he hit 13. There was nothing in his background to suggest he would become any ballpark’s all-time home run leader.
There was little to suggest it would happen even in the limited sample provided over the course of six months. Daniel himself waited a while to get on the Citi board, and when he did, it was not clear he actually had. His very first Citi Field home run was the condiment that barely skimmed the infamous white and yellow Subway Sandwich sign on May 27. Four umpires got together, caucused over video and sent up a puff of white smoke to indicate Murph’s home run order was indeed good to go.
Throughout 2009, as sluggers named Sheffield, Delgado and Beltran fell by the wayside and Wright simply stalled, it was left to Murphy to carry the home run load for his team. It was a light load, to be sure. The ’09 Mets hadn’t heard about power to the people, let alone power to any particular field. They hit 95 homers overall (down from 172 in ’08, plummeting to the franchise’s lowest power ebb since 1992), with 49 of them at Citi Field (versus 95 at Shea the year before). On a team that ostensibly featured sluggers whose career tater totals flash impressive numbers like 509, 473, 273 and now 150, it fell to a kid who has 14 lifetime home runs to lead the way.
Daniel Murphy sextupled his 2008 sum in 2009. He hit 12 home runs, the lowest total to lead the Mets since the unplugged power trio of Steve Henderson, John Stearns and John Milner each pounded a dozen to lead the legendarily wretched 1977 Mets. His split was 5 on the road, 7 at home. Fittingly, the last Met home run of 2009 belonged to Daniel, struck the final Friday night of the season, making sure the 2009 Mets would not trail the 1977 Mets in something besides wins and not trading Tom Seaver.
Y’know, I truly loved each of those guys in his time, but I swear only a Mets fan could breathe a sigh of relief that somebody had matched Steve Henderson, John Stearns and John Milner in anything.
I’d been thinking about Daniel Murphy in the past week. There hasn’t been much occasion to do so in 2010. As you know, he was days away from starting the season at first base — tutored by Keith Hernandez and everything — when his right knee took a wrong turn in a Spring Training rundown. There went April and May.
Murph, for all his documented 2009 shortcomings, would have been a damn sight better than Mike Jacobs at first. Of course he also would have been a damn sight worse than Ike Davis, who made us forget Jacobs this year at least as fast as Carlos Delgado made us forget him in 2006. Meanwhile, we more or less collectively forgot about Murphy. Now and then we’d get an update from Injury Land, that spa where the Mets hide their lame and halting for indeterminate periods of time best measured with glaciers (Kelvim Escobar is said to have sent a postcard, but I don’t know if it ever arrived).
Somewhere along the way, probably while we were trying on I LIKE IKE t-shirts, Daniel Murphy recovered from that nasty medial collateral ligament sprain. He played in some Extended Spring Training Games — is there another team on Earth that can extend Spring Training like the Mets? — and, when pronounced fit, transitioned from injured major leaguer to healthy minor leaguer. Murph was handed a plane ticket to Buffalo and a second baseman’s glove. Last year’s first baseman who didn’t homer enough for a corner infielder (even if he homered more than everybody else around him) was going to work on becoming a middle infielder with pretty good pop.
That was until the other night when he turned a double play for Buffalo and absorbed a dirty Syracuse slide to that very same right knee. Some busher named Leonard Davis took Murph out for the season.
What can you say on our erstwhile left fielder/first baseman’s behalf at this point beyond “ouch” and “hope you get better…again”?
Daniel Murphy’s 2008 hinted at promise, which, naturally, led the Mets (and not a few Mets fans) to imagine he’d be a two-strike, line drive machine for the next ten years. He struggled in left field to start 2009, found some solace at first base, but didn’t hit to anybody’s great satisfaction. His world has now fallen apart three times in 2010: the injury in March, Davis getting called up in April and the cheap slide of June. But before Saturday, he still had one thing going for him besides a surfeit of green MURPHY 28 gear presumably priced to move in the Clubhouse Shops — he still had the Citi Field home run record all to himself.
Not to make Daniel Murphy any more miserable than he must be, but it wasn’t exactly to his credit that he gripped it as long as he did. He didn’t play as a Met these past two months, yet that seventh Citi Field home run he launched to right last October 2 had withstood all challenges through this June 4.
“What challenges?” you might be wondering. Gary Sheffield faded into the Flushing mists with 5 Citi Field home runs on his ledger of 509 lifetime. Carlos Delgado is gone, presumably stuck forever on 3 CF HRs out of 473 in a career he still hasn’t officially called quits. Beltran? You mean the latest apparition to reportedly alight amid the fog of Extended Spring Training? Let’s see him extend his Citi Field total of 3 home runs (273 total) before we believe it will ever happen. The only Met who was really pushing Murphy’s record of 7 at Citi of late was Rod Barajas, who has struck 5 of his team-leading 11 at home.
David Wright? If every day were Opening Day, he’d be The Thing That Ate Citi Field. He hit that home run against the Padres to kick off 2009. He hit another in the first home game of 2010 versus the Marlins. In between, he smacked a grand total of 4. After Opening Day this year and before Saturday afternoon, he hit zero. Did plenty of homering on the road, but dimensions and walls and goodness knows what else continued to hold him back at the place where’s he’s at least as big as life, if not bigger.
That was until the third inning, against Nate Robertson, when no wall, no dimension, no pressure, no beaning, no nothing could hold David Wright back. Finally, his second home-cooked home run of the year, his seventh ever in the still reasonably new ballpark (and his 150th overall).
David Wright has tied Daniel Murphy for most career home runs at Citi Field. Y’know, I truly hope Murph heals and finds a place to play somewhere in this sport, but I swear only a Mets fan could breathe a sigh of relief that somebody had matched Daniel Murphy in anything.
David could take the lead at anytime now. Or Rodney Allen Rip ’Em could feel frisky and grab it for a while. Ike has sent 3 out of the Citi and has shown signs more readable than “Subway” that he could go deep fairly often. (For all you cynics out there, Chase Utley leads the opposition with 4.) We don’t know who’s going to own this record when it grows more substantive, but when we learn his identity, we’ll be placing that Met alongside some true New York baseball royalty.
Who hit the most home runs at the Polo Grounds? That would be Hall of Famer and all-time good guy Mel Ott, with 323. Add in the 25 he slugged at Ebbets Field, and you’re talking about the man who literally swatted the most shots within the five boroughs of New York City.
Who hit the most home runs at the first pre-renovation Yankee Stadium? Mickey Mantle, 266, or seven more than the Babe for whom that House was built. Remember, Ruth played three fence-busting seasons at the Polo Grounds before Yankee Stadium opened (yet still managed 85 goners from 1920 to 1922, good enough for eighth most at Coogan’s Bluff).
Who hit the most home runs hit at Ebbets Field? Who else but the Duke of Flatbush? Edwin “Duke” Snider landed 175 baseballs onto Bedford Avenue and adjacent thoroughfares. Snider nosed out his future Met teammate Gil Hodges by three dingers to lead all Bums for homers hit at home.
Who hit the most home runs at renovated Yankee Stadium? Bernie Williams, 143. The Yankees don’t recognize the 1976 park as a different structure from the 1923 model, but look at the pictures. It was, in all practicality, a new ballpark, and the Yankee who had an edge when it came to homers there was their latter-day center fielder.
Who hit the most home runs at Shea Stadium? Darryl Strawberry, of course, with 127. All but four of them were crushed in a good cause. Three came as a visiting Dodger in 1991. One was launched on behalf of the other New York team when they were seeking temporary refuge from their crumbling renovated stadium in 1998 and played a single home game in Queens. Even through Darryl’s unfortunate disguise a dozen years ago, Shea’s Apple instinctively recognized its native Strawberry from the good old days of 1983 to 1990.
Who has hit the most home runs at new Yankee Stadium? Who can tell the way balls have flown out of the Anti-Citi? A quick peek of the homer logs shows the pinstriped leader to date there is Mark Teixeira, with 27, three ahead of Alex Rodriguez, who missed the first month of 2009 when the wind tunnel was particularly active in the Bronx. Hunch: A-Rod passes M-Tex before too long.
Who hit the most home runs at Washington Park? Surely you didn’t think we’d forget the pre-Ebbets home of the Dodgers/Superbas. Brooklyn played ball at this third version of Washington Park from 1898 through 1912, back when the ball was as dead as the Marlins were Saturday, yet ye olde trolley-dodging fans had occasion to cheer a Tim Jordan roundtripper 17 times. Technically, Jordan shares Washington Park home run honors with Jimmy Sheckard, who also homered there 17 times. But we’re leaning toward Jordan here since all of his Washington Park home runs were walloped for the Superbas/Dodgers while Sheckard hit 1 home run in Brooklyn for the Cubs and hit 6 others in Washington Park before 1900. As you probably know, 19th century rules specified that any batter who lined a ball off any nearby possum was automatically awarded four bases. And the possum.
• Who has hit the most home runs at Citi Field? Through the game of June 5, 2010, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets and David Wright of the New York Mets, a paltry 7 apiece. Barring a horrendous act of nature, David will hit more there in a Mets uniform, hopefully as soon as June 6, 2010.
I’m afraid I have no idea whether Daniel will ever get another swing as a Met, home or away.