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Minutiae Break: The Slowest Mets

This likely being the final week of Mike Piazza's Mets career, we'll take the time to pay tribute to his walk-off accomplishments.

That comes tomorrow (aka Tuesday). Today we have some fun.

I share a trait with Mike Piazza. I walk faster than I run. In second grade, I peaked speed-wise. I ran the anchor leg in class relay races, often against our speedsters, Leon Johnson and Daniel Caraballo. I won a few. I lost most of the time. It was all downhill from there.

When Mike Piazza runs, he runs hard. I grant him that and applaud the effort every time he grounds to short. The problem is that at his fastest, he runs at the speed of a second-grader. It is one of his two primary flaws (the inability to throw out basestealers being his other foible). I think Mookie Wilson could reach second base on a ground ball single down the line before Mike Piazza would reach first. Keep in mind that Mookie is approaching 50 years of age.

If we're going to toast Mike Piazza this week, than we must roast him as well. We have done a "Tidrow List" in tribute to bad Mets relief pitchers and a "McRae List" for Mets that were difficult to watch. We shall honor Mike's sprint-deficiency by creating a list in his honor.I present "The Piazza List," a celebration of the slowest Mets of my lifetime (since 1975).

Position Players
Mike Jacobs- Thankfully there is someone to whom Piazza can pass the torch. Jacobs is someone whose foot speed is about 1/100th of his bat speed. Jacobs may turn out to be Richie Sexson or more likely, Ben Broussard, but I'm willing to guess that if he ever gets 500 AB in a season, not only will he strike out 140 times, but he'll probably lead the majors in GIDP. If they add a skills competition at the All-Star Game, might I suggest a Slowest Man Competition (Televised on ESPN8, The Ocho). The top two seeds could be Jacobs and ex-Met slug Jason Phillips. Jacobs has an outside chance to break Carlos Baerga's Mets mark for most GIDP in a season of less than 100 AB (8 in 1996).

Octogenarian Staub- That's the name I'm giving to Rusty Version 2.0, one of the most popular Mets of all-time, because by the time he made his mark as the great pinch-hitter with the looping swing, it took him 120 steps to go 90 feet.

Elliott Maddox- There's not much worse than a baseball player who thinks he's fast, but really is not. There was a time when Elliott Maddox had speed, like 1972 when he stole 20 bases for the Rangers. By the time he reached the Mets, that dashing ability, and his baseball acumen had unfortunately evaporated. Maddox attempted to steal 28 bases with the Mets. He was caught 22 times.

Mike Vail and Jose Vizcaino- Madox's baserunning issues were rivaled only by two men, Vail and Vizcaino. Vail never stole a base as a Met, but was gunned down on eight occasions. Vizcaino somehow stole a base in 1994, but was given the thumb on 11 other occasions.

Willie Montanez- No Mets player has had more plate appearances without a triple than Shea-Hey Willie's 1,121. Yet he had nine stolen bases. Go figure.

Mackey Sasser- And no Met had more plate appearances without a steal than Mackey Sasser's 1,002 (0-for-3 in steal attempts as a Met, one career stolen base came with the 1993 Mariners). Yet, he had five triples with the Mets. Go figure. The other trait he shared with Piazza: an inability to cleanly throw the ball to second base.

Honorable Mentions: Ron Hodges, Mo Vaughn, Joe (4 GIDP in one game) Torre, Butch Huskey, John Olerud, and Barry Lyons among others

Sid Fernandez- In 496 at-bats with the Mets, the heavily-built Fernandez had two triples. Explain to me how he finished with two more than Rickey Henderson had during his Mets tenure? Fernandez is best known in my inner circle for injuring himself while legging out a three-bagger in the midst of a no-hitter against the Giants in 1987. Somewhere a cry of anguish is heard on the island state of Hawaii: "Why didn't I stop at first base??????"

Alejandro Pena- No reliever in Mets history walked more slowly from bullpen to mound than Pena (rivaled in baseball only by Lee Smith), whose unimpressive 96-game run in 1990-91 with the Flushing 9 preceded an amazing couple of months with the 1991 Braves, whom he carried to Game 7 of the World Series. I forget who said it (Tim McCarver or Tommy Lasorda?) but someone said of Alejandro: "He even stands slow."

James Baldwin- When Baldwin came in to pitch for the Orioles against the Yankees the other day, YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay noted that nobody in baseball walked from the mound to the dugout more slowly than this Met for a Minute (15.00 ERA in two starts in 2004), whom I subsequently dubbed "The Patron Saint of Four-and-a-Half Hour Games."

Steve Trachsel- He is a must for this list since he is well documented as one of the slowest workers in baseball (along with Russ Ortiz). A Greg Maddux-Trachsel matchup is fascinating, more as a battle of wills between two contrasting moundsmen, than for the game itself. They met during Trachsel's Mets tenure on September 22, 2001, but Maddux, perhaps spooked by Trachsels' aura, lasted only 1/3 of an inning. The rematch came July 17, 2003 when Maddux pitched a complete game and won in a very manageable 2:26


Anonymous said…
As I've pointed out over at Faith and Fear, I find fan claims of "I could do better!" rather dubious, but I swear, after watching him form his own expansion team from my vantage point on the first base side of the mezzanine during the 2002 season, if a street-to-platform sprint was necessary to catch the 7:33 out of Penn Station to Long Beach, I would've beaten Mo Vaughn. I've slowed considerably over the past three years but based on the cameo he made at a press conference for Mike Bloomberg, I'm guessing Mo hasn't gotten any faster.

Mo is a special case. He is to slowness what the Grand Canyon is to potholes. There's no point comparing anybody else to him.

Gotta throw in, in the normal-slow category, Jason Phillips (whom I saw go halfway on a deep fly ball to left a year ago and then attempt to tag up, making him slow and stupid), and Dave Magadan, the patron saint of unexciting first basemen. Yes, Mags had that nice stretch in 1990 but man was he slow. You know that expression regarding times you're supposed to take your mind off...well, you know? "Think about baseball," they tell you. For years, I thought about Dave Magadan in those situations and it pretty much killed my will to live.

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