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Is This the Worst Bench in Mets History?


(ROB CARR/GETTY IMAGES) Without starters like David Wright, the NY Mets bench has been exposed.

Once upon a time, just three or four decades ago, when pitchers went nine innings and relievers went two or three, major league teams would carry nine or 10 pitchers on their staff and have a bench of seven or eight position players.

In this age of 12-man pitching staffs, most teams now have five-man benches. Frequently this season, the Mets have had a four-man bench, because they perpetually have someone sidelined with an injury who, because dithering is what this organization does best, is not on the disabled list but also not available for that game.

Beyond this, the identity of these four or five players the Mets have in reserve has varied based on how many times the likes of Daniel Muno, Johnny Monell and Eric Campbell have been shuttled between Las Vegas and New York. But one thing has not changed: This could very well be the worst bench the Mets have ever had.

In 40 plate appearance, veteran Quadruple-A player Kirk Nieuwenhuis batted .079 this season before the Mets cast him loose and the Angels picked him up. Nieuwenhuis only lasted a week or two in Anaheim before he was let go, and the Mets anxiously scooped him back up and sent him to Vegas. Before he was optioned out to Vegas after several years as the Mets’ No. 2 catcher, Anthony Recker batted .143 in 58 at-bats, with two of his three RBI coming on a pair of solo home runs in the same game. No matter how good a handler of pitchers or how good an arm behind the plate, .143 with no run production isn’t up to major league standards, except maybe on this team.

Monell, Recker’s replacement on the roster, has improved on Recker’s production–by hitting .167 in 31 plate appearances. The Mets have also given 27 plate appearances to Daniel Muno, a utility infielder who can’t play shortstop and who has batted .083.

After Michael Cuddyer, the Mets other big “score” in the off-season was securing John Mayberry Jr. to be their lefty-mashing right-handed bat off the bench. In 92 plate appearances, the son of former Kansas City Royals slugger John Mayberry Sr. has produced a slash line of .188/.250/.365. Mayberry Jr. has mashed left-handed pitching to the tune of a .205 batting average.

The Mets did everything they could to keep young veteran infielder Ruben Tejada anchored to the bench until multiple injuries and incompetencies forced them to give Tejada a semi-regular role–but not at shortstop, which is not only his natural position, but the spot at which the team has nobody else with the ability to play there. Tejada hit for awhile, showed he has neither the skill nor instinct to play the hot corner, and now his average has sunk back to more Tejada-like levels at .224.

Left-handed hitting outfielder Darrell Ceciliani has actually been one of the lesser “offenders” since arriving from Las Vegas because he actually has some useful skills, including the ability to play all three outfield spots and something nobody else in entire organization seems to have: A little bit of footspeed. The Mets are so slow that Ceciliani’s four stolen bases are just one off the team lead, even though he’s only played in 36 games.

And we’ve saved the worst for last. The organization’s stubborn failure to ever build a roster with position-player depth (a fatal flaw that dates back to the Omar Minaya regime and is Exhibit A of the resolute cheapness and/or financial straits of the Wilpon ownership), and its persistent refusal to upgrade the roster with available major league talent, is best epitomized by the torturous continual employment of Eric Campbell at third base.

Campbell is not, at this point in the season, protected in any way by apologists who could argue that he’s only had a small “sample size.” No, the 28-year-old non-prospect, who would have trouble surviving on most organization’s Triple-A rosters, has come to bat 156 times this season. Campbell has a .167 batting average and a .540 OPS. His defense at third has been even worse than that.

When the Mets won their last World Series 29 years ago, they did it without any position player other than Wally Backman having a career year. Most of their regulars had solid, but unspectacular, seasons within the normal statistical range of their careers. But, in addition to having a starting pitching rotation without a weak link, what that 1986 Mets team had–which it did NOT have the year before despite winning 98 games–was a bench that rivaled any in baseball history.

Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra platooned in center field, Backman and Tim Teufel (one of whom will be the next Mets manager) platooned at second base and Ray Knight and Howard Johnson platooned at third base. Whichever three of those players were not in the starting lineup made up just part of a mightily potent bench that also included rookie super-sub and future MVP Kevin Mitchell, useful fifth outfielder and productive lefty pinch-hitter Danny Heep and, after the August release of malcontent George Foster, handy switch-hitting veteran Lee Mazzilli.

Compare that to a 2015 bench whose best threats as pinch-hitters–whether they are used there or not–are probably pitchers Stephen Matz, Noah Syndergard and Jacob deGrom.


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