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The Grady Bunch

Anybody who knows his or her Brady Bunch will remember when Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy formed a singing group [1] in order to go on the Pete Sterne Amateur Hour and win the money to buy their parents a sparkly anniversary present. They named their act after the gift they had their eye on: the Silver Platters.

The Silver Platters didn’t win the grand prize of a hundred bucks, but several decades later, the New York Mets — featuring a half-dozen fresh-faced kids of their own — did win a baseball game handed to them on a silver platter by a man named Grady [2].

Now as then, we’re talking good wholesome Friday night entertainment for the entire family.

It’s usually a sunshine day [3] when the Mets play the Phillies. It’s Us 12, Them 5 thus far this season, including an 11-3 mark dating back to Mother’s Day [4], which would make Carol Brady pleased as punch. This is the matchup that’s kept the 2014 Mets barely aloft. Subtract the Phillies from the Mets’ schedule and we’re rooting for a team that’s on pace to win a paltry 70 ballgames for the entire year. Thanks to Philadelphia not withdrawing from the National League East, we’re looking at a good 76 victories, not to mention gripping a place other than last.

You take what you can get. What the Mets got Friday was a success born almost entirely of their opponents’ failure. Not that Jacob deGrom [5] didn’t comb the Phillies out of his ’do with little ado over seven one-run innings (none earned), but since when does that matter to a Mets starting pitcher? He wasn’t getting supported by his hitters, which made him no different from his lesser-coiffed buddies Niese and Wheeler the last two nights. Jacob seemed destined to put in his curlers burdened by a no-decision when lightning struck.

There was no lightning over Flushing, actually, but I’m assuming something got between Grady Sizemore [6]’s glove and the two-out short fly ball Juan Lagares [7] popped into his general vicinity. The Mets had the bases loaded, which sounds more impressive than it was. There was a walk, a steal, a hit by pitch, and another walk. By standing in place, three Mets converted their existence into a potential collective scoring threat.

They would have provided no more than the basis for philosophical pondering — if the Mets fall to Phillies, should they be left in a forest? — had not Sizemore’s glove proven so cooperative. A putout that appeared to carry no more than a 10% chance of Castilloing [8] turned into a drop that put two runs on the Mets’ half of the board. Then, for extra fun, Lagares from first and Eric Campbell [9] from third effected a double-steal, which translates to WHOA, A STEAL OF HOME, an achievement that is always astounding.

So a little baserunning, a little contact and some well-advised taking added up to three runs that turned a 1-1 deadlock into a 4-1 Mets lead that that Jeurys Familia [10] and Jenrry Mejia [11] sewed up for deGrom. Perhaps newbie second baseman Dilson Herrera [12], the 14-year-old called up from a nearby playground, thinks the Mets win like this all the time.

No moment like this one to inaugurate a new tradition. What does Herrera (who’s actually 20 and alighted from Double-A Binghamton) know from the Mets not winning? He was the most neo of the neophytes, but he wasn’t exactly alone in being relatively new on the MLB scene. Six of the nine players in the Met lineup had never participated in the big leagues before last year. They may not all work out in the end, but when your immediate goal is not falling a half-game behind the decrepit Phillies, you might as well trot out your youth and commence to judging whether it’s capable of maturing.

Tough break for Daniel Murphy [13] going on the DL with one of those injuries the Mets didn’t initially indicate was any big deal, but as long we don’t have our hits leader available, it was a nice surprise to be greeted at Citi Field by Dilson Herrera rather than the twenty-third coming of, say, Omar Quintanilla [14]. Nine years ago next month I was similarly delighted to show up at Shea [15] and find Anderson Hernandez [16] starting at second base. The Mets were out of it then, too, and whatever there was to glean from another gander at Miguel Cairo [17] or Jose Offerman [18] could not equal the simmering excitement of a watching a rookie who had it all in front of him.

To be discouragingly accurate, there turned out to be not a whole lot in front of Anderson Hernandez, a slick-gloved middle infielder who barely hit, went away, came back around and then slipped into the annals of inconsequentiality. Nevertheless, you can’t but help want to look ahead to something when all you have to look down on is the Phillies. We’ve looked ahead, since 2013 started going nowhere, to Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores [19], Travis d’Arnaud [20], Matt den Dekker [21], Jacob deGrom and Dilson Herrera. Friday night we looked at all of them on the same field. And they won. Or they accepted the win when it was presented to them by a Phillie who, like most Phillies, seems old enough to be their father.

***

The only downside to the unanticipated debut of Herrera, besides Murphy having to get hurt for it to happen, is it brings to an end a somewhat historic streak. I say “somewhat,” because I’m the only one who probably noticed or cared about the history that was being made.

As mentioned a few weeks ago when it first drew my attention [22], the Mets had gone quite a spell without inducting a wholly new player into the Metropolitan ranks. On June 10, Taylor Teagarden [23] made his Met debut. Then, from June 11 through August 28, nobody made his Met debut. In this era when somebody we’d either waited breathlessly for or had barely heard of was disrupting our personnel files on a semi-regular basis, the silence grew eerie. Nobody had followed Teagarden onto the all-time roster, which sat frozen at 981 across the summer.

Herrera broke the ice when he donned No. 2 [24] and became Met No. 982. The drought or deep freeze or whichever climatological Met-aphor you choose was over after 71 games. How did that stack up against similar dearths of debuts?

Pretty impressively. With help from Baseball Reference [25] and some source material Ultimate Mets Database [26] graciously shared with me, I am able to tell you the Teagarden-to-Herrera fallow period was a) the longest by a Met club in 26 years; and b) the sixth-longest in team history. Because you’re dying to know more, here are the Top 10 gaps between Met debuts.

1. 91 Games — Al Weis [27] on April 15, 1968 to Jim McAndrew [28] on July 21, 1968 (1st game)

2. 82 Games — Mackey Sasser [29] on April 10, 1988 to Bob McClure [30] on July 14, 1988

T3. 79 Games — Keith Hernandez [31] on June 17, 1983 to Ron Darling [32] on September 6, 1983

T3. 79 Games — Rick Anderson [33] on June 9, 1986 to Kevin Elster [34] on September 2, 1986

5. 74 Games — Charlie Williams [35] on April 23, 1971 to Jon Matlack [36] on July 11, 1971 (2nd Game)

6. 71 Games — Taylor Teagarden on June 10, 2014 to Dilson Herrera on August 29, 2014

7. 70 Games — Bob Apodaca [37] on September 18, 1973 to Jack Aker [38] on June 16, 1974

8. 69 Games — Bobby Pfeil [39] on June 26, 1969 to Jim Gosger [40] on September 7, 1969

9. 63 Games — Dale Thayer [41] on May 28, 2011 to Mike Baxter [42] on August 8, 2011

10. 62 Games — Darren Bragg [43] on May 16, 2001 to Gary Bennett [44] on July 24, 2001

The common thread that ties each of these streaks together, as far as I can tell, is absolutely nothing. You see some great Met years (including the two best) and some uninspiring Met years. You see names you identify as all-time Mets and names you’ve likely purged from your memory if they ever floated up there at all. You will perhaps note the oddity of the gap Teagarden-Herrera passed last — Apodaca-Aker — and wonder if it’s correct. Yup, it is: the Mets entered 1974 without committing a wholly new player to their roster, the only time that’s ever happened in these parts. Imagine waiting until June to mint a Met in 2015 and then discovering that it’s a journeyman reliever à la Aker.

Hmm…maybe I shouldn’t give our habitually lethargic front office any ideas.

Also worth noting, since we’re noting any of this, is two of these spells were punctuated somewhere in the middle by Recidivist Mets (onetime Mets who, like Anderson Hernandez in 2009, found their way home from some other team to their natural Metsian habitat). Bob L. Miller [45] returned from eleven years spent elsewhere to add his Stengelesed right arm [46] to the pennant push on September 26, 1973; exiled heartthrob Lee Mazzilli [47] resumed wearing the only uniform that ever suited him (tightly) on August 8, 1986. Miller had last been a Met in 1962, Mazzilli in 1981, so they felt new, but they weren’t really.

The Mets having a man named Dilson, however, is pretty novel.