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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Power of 128 and Counting

Those graphing skills you may have retained from geometry class will finally come in handy if you are yearning to illustrate the upward trajectory of the Mets’ single-season runs batted in record.

1962: 94 — Frank Thomas
1970: 97 — Donn Clendenon
1975: 105 — Rusty Staub; tied by Gary Carter in 1986
1990: 108 — Darryl Strawberry
1991: 117 — Howard Johnson; tied by Bernard Gilkey in 1996
1999: 124 — Mike Piazza; tied by David Wright in 2008

Each of those totals loomed as singularly impressive until somebody surpassed it (even if somebody matched it). They’re still impressive in and of themselves. Whatever limitations the run batted in might encompass as an indicator of overall offensive production, we still know a high number of runs batted in when we see it. We intrinsically understand that a number must be pretty high if nobody comes along and posts a higher one for quite a while despite every batter’s literal best-case scenario — and therefore every batter’s deep-seated goal when he comes to the plate (even those just trying to get on base) — being that a run scores as a direct result of what he does while batting.

We never in the course of a game think, “I wish our team hadn’t just scored another run.” Everybody who isn’t the opposing pitcher or among those invested in that opposing pitcher’s team’s cause is thrilled to see a run batted in. Advanced though modern statistics may be, the RBI perseveres as aspirational in every game, good or bad, in every season, good or bad. Geez, Thomas’s 94 RBIs on the 1962 Mets are more than twice as many games as the outfit for whom he was driving them in won. A supercut of Frank’s at-bats could have constituted a pretty complete team highlight film in living black and white.

Thomas held the Met RBI record for eight years, Clendenon for five, Rusty for fifteen (four shared with Carter), Straw for one, and Hojo for eight (three shared with Gilkey) until Mike put it out of reach of all but one Met (David) for the next 23 years. It had been ages since somebody smashed or pulled up alongside the Mets runs batted in barrier.

But now we and the Mets Record Book are living in the Age of Alonso, and in the Age of Alonso, we’re gonna need a taller sheet of graph paper.

The most urgent takeaway from Sunday in Oakland was the 13-4 thumping the Mets laid on the A’s. Unless we’re overthinking draft order, we never wish our team hadn’t just won another game. This isn’t a year for draft order thinking. This is a year when every win matters and, as Monty Python might suggest, every run is sacred. There was no saving any of it for tomorrow, currently today. Today’s an off day anyway.

Sunday was largely taken care of in the bottom of every inning Max Scherzer pitched (the first six, with one run allowed) but destined to be defined in the top of the fourth. The Mets already led, 3-0, thanks to a rare RBI from Tyler Naquin and two increasingly common ribbies from Eduardo Escobar. It represented a promising start, but the Mets weren’t finished. They couldn’t be. The Mets led Saturday, 3-0. It didn’t keep. Sunday they added on, first via Francisco Lindor doubling with two runners on (no mean RBI machine himself, Francisco the shortstop’s season sum stands at 103), then Pete Alonso homering with Lindor on second. That gave Pete 125 RBIs, or the most runs any Met had ever driven in within the confines of a single season. More than Piazza in ’99 and Wright in ’08. More than the standard that had stood for so long that a person suspected it was forever unbreakable.

But not as many as Alonso would have by the end of Sunday, specifically after the three-run double he lashed into the right field corner in the eighth turned an 8-1 laugher into an 11-1 howler. Pete Alonso now held a brand new Mets single-season runs batted in record of 128. Chances are that record will rise more than once between tomorrow night and the end of business on October 5.

There is no such thing as too many runs, regardless of lead, regardless of opponent. The Mariners’ 11-2 lead at Kansas City on Sunday became the Royals’ 13-12 victory. The Mets lead the National League East by 1½ games. Alonso leads the NL RBI race by 16. I had to look up the latter standings. I’m not sure I realized Pete was still ahead of all National League batters — Paul Goldschmidt is a distant second — in what has become his signature category in 2022. I don’t spend a waking moment not cognizant of where the Mets stand relative to the Braves. The Mets are barely ahead of Atlanta after 154 games on the shoulders of at least a couple of dozen fellas making the most out of their orange-and-blue opportunities. The strongest of those shoulders belong to the regular first baseman, intermittent DH and tolerable pitchman (he’s more convincing anticipating a delivery of pancakes than he is sneaking up on Nathan in the front seat) we call the Polar Bear and we call when we need a run batted in.

Over the next eight games, we will be pulling hard for the Mets to pull away from the Braves. That’s the prize that counts most, at least until after October 5. Pete putting further distance between himself and everybody else who drives in National League runners for a living, not to mention anybody who ever drove in Met runners before, will amount to a powerful bonus.

6 comments to The Power of 128 and Counting

  • Seth

    Pete deserves and has earned this record — it was great to see how happy he was to reach it, too.

  • Eric

    “There is no such thing as too many runs, regardless of lead, regardless of opponent.”

    By the same example — yesterday’s Mariners-Royals game — there’s no such thing as a meaningless run regardless of deficit and opponent. There’s no game clock in baseball and as the Royals reminded yesterday, a lot of runs can score in between 3 outs. A solo HR down 6 in the 9th inning? Maybe stat padding; maybe the start of an epic comeback. The same HR up 6 in the top of the 9th inning? Maybe the final winning margin after the home team rallies in last ups.

    Alonso and DH get along. I wonder what Alonso’s stats would look like if Dom Smith had been able to hit well enough to more or less play 1B full-time and relegate Alonso to more or less full-time DH. Alonso might be rivaling Judge’s season with even more RBIs right now.

    When I looked at BR’s list of top 10 Mets individual single-season RBI totals I was struck that it includes 3 pairs (1999: Piazza, Ventura; 2006: Wright, Beltran; 2008: Wright, Delgado). I don’t expect Lindor to collect 12 more RBIs to tie 2008 Delgado at 10th and join Alonso on the list, but it’s not impossible.

    It’s been some month alternating dominant wins and ugly losses. Scherzer was hired to join aces with deGrom. He was also hired as ace insurance for deGrom, and he was dominant yesterday following deGrom’s ugly loss. Given Scherzer’s physical breakdown this season, I wonder how much longer he has left as a Cy Young-level ace. I’m glad whatever elite stuff he has left will be spent as a Met.

    As a matter of course, I’m rooting for the Mets to go to Atlanta (or wherever the series will be housed) with a 4 game lead. But I also feel that the 2 teams have raced this long this close to each other, they and we their fans deserve the payoff of a head-to-head series that practically decides the division title. An NLCS meeting would be bigger stakes by an order of magnitude, but it wouldn’t be the direct culmination of 156 games over 6 months.

    I’m relieved Nimmo and McNeil are apparently okay. I’m worried about Marte. DeGrom, too. Ruf still isn’t hitting.

    Congratulations to homegrown ex-Mets Gimenez and Rosario.

  • Blair Schirmer

    “I wonder what Alonso’s stats would look like if Dom Smith had been able to hit well enough to more or less play 1B full-time and relegate Alonso to more or less full-time DH.”

    —Sorry to have to say it, but Dom is an abymsal 1Bman, racking up either -9 or -10 OAA in his 1152 innings at the bag since he reached the majors. That’s around -11 in what’s typically considered a full season of defense: 1350 innings in the field.

    As for Pete, he’s at -17 OAA in his 3977 innings at 1B, pro rating to -6 OAA in 1350 innings (which is roughly where he is in 2022).

    Pete’s below average, but Dom by OAA would score up as among the game’s worst if he played a full season there.

    I bring this up, not to hassle, but to express my puzzlement as it seems almost an article of faith among Met fans that Dom is not just the better fielding 1Bman of the two, but is even a good fielding 1Bman.

    He isn’t. He scoops well, but does everything else poorly. He allows a lot of extra base hits because he has almost no range. He’s carrying Pete’s weight on a much smaller, shorter frame, and that’s evident. Pete looks clumsy when he collapses on balls in that odd sort of diving motion, but he gets there, recovers nicely, comes up with the ball, and makes accurate throws to whomever is covering the bag. He does this on balls Dom will often simply watch scoot past him.

    Anyway, consider me puzzled.

    Btw, the extra weight Pete is clearly carrying this season may be accounting for the fall from his ascendancy to average at the bag in 2021—and that’s too bad. He’s simply not a good enough hitter to put up a season like Dick Allen’s 1972, which more than carried Dr. Strangeglove’s iffy fielding.

    Let’s hope Pete gets back to work on it, gets back down to his listed weight of 245 (or even 10 pounds lighter), and gives himself a real shot at being a star—rather than just a power hitter hitting behind some sharp, fast players who make him look good, but who himself never really quite carried his strong BA and OBP from the minors to the majors.

    I remember when the talk prior to 2019 was whether Alonso would make it as a major leaguer, and wondering if anyone was looking at his minor league numbers. The only real comp I could find for Pete was Giancarlo Stanton. No one else was particularly close. It was also impossible to miss how Pete had not just succeeded but dominated at every level. Guys who do that without holes in their games don’t fail in the majors, short of catastrophic injury. Van Wagenen didn’t do much that I liked, but bringing up Pete at the beginning of 2019 was a solid move. Pete and Squirrel should have been brought up at the 2018 ASB, to get their feet wet as of the middle of an otherwise lost season, but for some reason the Alderson Mets had been dangling Dom and Amed over the fanbase, so there we were.

    Still, a Hall of the Very Good career may be possible for Pete, but not if he can’t keep the weight down. I know that since the country got fat this is a touchy subject, but I hope it’s not considered out of bounds on this site. Cheers, all

    • Curt Emanuel

      Good info on Dom’s fielding. Only reason to bring him up is if we’d need a left hand bat. I don’t know how many options he has left though and he wouldn’t be on the playoff roster anyway. Has been hitting well in Syracuse. The HR stroke seems to be back.

      Going to Mets pages at Baseball Reference, Dom happens to have the highest single-season slugging % in team history. During the COVID year so over just 60 games. Nothing against him but seeing that on those pages seems an affront to folks who did something over 162 games.

    • Eric

      By the eye test, Smith looks more smooth, agile, and sure than Alonso at 1B. The measurements apparently say otherwise.

      Interesting point about weight. Alonso is listed at 6’3”, about the same as gold glovers Goldschmidt, Freeman, and Olson. But their listed weights are ~220 lbs while Alonso is listed at 245 lbs. Smith is listed at 6’0” and 239 lbs.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Re: stats on Pete’s fielding. If you do the same on Escobar it is not pretty. A few weeks back he was among worst in majors, don’t know about now. Yet our broadcasters continue to claim he has been terrific. It’s the aging Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken syndrome–make few errors and no one notices the lack of range….