Mailbag: Did Henderson best the Mets?
Reporter Marty Noble answers Mets fans' questions
I saw the statistic you wrote about -- that Rickey Henderson had led off the first inning with a home run more times by the time he played with the Mets in 1999 than the Mets had in their history. How can that be true? Rickey had played just 21 years by the time he signed with the Mets, and they were born in 1962. They had all those games -- 17 [years] times 162 [games] before he was a rookie. You can't be right. Where did you get your information?
-- Jon H., Sandy Hook, N.J.
My information came from the Elias Sports Bureau, the Society for Baseball Research and my own research in 1999. And when Jose Reyes led off the first inning with a home run Thursday, I checked again with Elias. Henderson had, in fact, led off the first inning with a home run 73 times through 1998, and the Mets had done so 72 times.
That's what made it an intriguing statistic.
If you still doubt it, consider this: You could take Walter Johnson's 417 career victories, add the career victories of all the cup-of-coffee starters who never won a game and not approach Cy Young's 511 victories.
When great players are involved, statistics can seem distorted.
By the way, the Mets have led off the first inning with a home run 27 times since the beginning of the 1999 season. Henderson was responsible for two of the instances. Think of it -- 27 times in 9 1/2 seasons after 72 times in 37 years.
Once Duaner Sanchez comes off the disabled list, I suppose he will be a free agent. The Mets should consider re-signing him to a two- or three-year contract. He is so valuable to their bullpen when he's healthy. With nasty stuff and a blazing fastball, Sanchez should be the prime setup man when he returns, and should be in a Mets uniform for as long as possible.
-- Jordan R., New York, N.Y.
First, Sanchez won't eligible for agency until after the 2009 season, when he has six years of Major League service.
Now, why would the Mets want to offer him anything more than one-season contract, even if they were competing for his services?
Sanchez did pitch brilliantly last season. But that was a finite body of work -- 55 1/3 innings in 49 appearances. No guarantee exists that he will be effective when he returns this season or next. And no part of the game is more fickle than short relief.
Sanchez has to prove himself all over again, and the episode in Spring Training when he was sent home for not adhering to the workout schedule didn't endear him to manager Willie Randolph.
I know this is looking ahead, but what if the Mets moved outfield prospect Fernando Martinez to second base? Then they would have an outfield of Carlos Beltran, Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez with an infield of David Wright, Jose Reyes, Martinez and Carlos Delgado.
-- Alex X., Cresskill, N.J.
I've never quite understood the public's fascination with changing players' positions. It's one thing to develop a shortstop and shift him to second base, but to move an outfielder to second base is a dramatic move with the chance to be traumatic. Not everyone has the Craig Biggio gene and can move all over the diamond. Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Henry Aaron played first base late in their careers. Each was a brilliant athlete, but none of them distinguished himself on the infield.
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Now that Julio Franco is gone, do you think Ramon Castro may get some time at first base when Delgado needs a rest? The only Met with significant time at first base, other than Delgado, is Shawn Green, but he also bats left-handed and Delgado probably would be resting only against a left-handed starter.
Damion Easley probably is the only other option, and he has played 21 games there. However, he plays several positions and can get at-bats from those spots. Castro is the only other right-handed-hitting option. He has never played first, but it seems like if he can pick it up, it would be a good way to get a good hitter more at-bats. What do you think?
-- Adam S., Hillsborough, N.J.
See the preceding response, and remember what you saw when Mike Piazza played first base. First is not an easier position.
With all the speculation about Paul Lo Duca not returning next season and a certain someone rehabbing as a catcher in the Minor Leagues out West, is there any chance the Mets could make a cheap move to get Mike Piazza as a backup catcher and -- for the World Series -- designated hitter? You would think, if Roger Clemens and Julio Franco still played hard into their mid 40s, that Piazza at age 38 still has a chance to show he can play. To have him back at Shea Stadium would be a dream come true for all true Mets fans
-- Marty C., Toms River, N.J.
So you want the Mets to acquire a player who might serve as a DH for a maximum of four games in October and carry him for 2 1/2 months as a backup catcher with tarnished defensive skills? They have greater issues to address.
Because Endy Chavez made that great catch in Game 7 of the NLCS last year, could he go into the Hall of Fame just for that?
-- Jacob K., Croton, N.Y.
Once he plays 10 seasons in the big leagues, Chavez will be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration. But I suggest he would have to make many more catches and amass many more hits before the ballot-screening committee would think once, much less twice, about him.
Now that the Mets have been around for 46 years, why don't they hold an Old Timer's Day like the Yankees? They have had nights like the reunion of '86 team, but no games.
-- Scot S., New York, N.Y.
They have had games. They weren't as well-received as those with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were in the Bronx, and not all players are inclined to show their age.
I see the setup relief role as lacking on this team and would like to see the Mets make a move for a more reliable setup man not prone to allowing home runs like Aaron Heilman has been. What are your thoughts? It would allow Joe Smith and Pedro Feliciano to be used more situationally, and the Mets can still bring Guillermo Mota along to see if he can produce effective innings.
-- Robert N., Archbald, Pa.
Randolph would welcome an upgrade. Mota and Scott Schoeneweis -- more than Heilman -- have not provided what the club had anticipated.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.