Skip to main content

Racin' Jason

Shea Stadium has puzzled, bedeviled and flummoxed many a good hitter with its combination of dimensions and weather conditions. There's a frustration factor that comes from too many long fly balls turned into outs and the result is that the batting average plummets.

In my 25-odd years of Mets watching, I've seen the ballpark dominate the player, rather than the other way around, a few too many times. There was one hitter though, who for what was otherwise a rather dismal campaign, had a complete mastery of everything Sheaness.

In 2003 we were introduced to Jason Phillips, a rather candid Californian with molassesesque speed, a sharp quick bat, and a penchant for doing nimble splits to catch stray throws at first base. In the absence of Mo Vaughn, Phillips, who signed with the Blue Jays on Tuesday, became the team's most pleasant surprise.

By July 13, the Mets were basically dead and buried, at 39-53 and in the NL East basement with one day remaining before the All-Star Break. Art Howe, Tom Glavine and company all got off to miserable starts, injuries took their toll, and the eason really had few purposes by this point. The Mets and Phillies were putting the wraps on a three-game series at Shea, with Tom Glavine twirling against Brett Myers. The real highlight of the day was that ex-Mets closer Tug McGraw, battling a brain tumor, threw out the first pitch, but there was a game to play as well

The Phillies led 2-0 going into the home fifth when the Flushing 9 strung together a nice rally. Jose Reyes knocked in one run and Phillips brought him home with a double. He then scored when Jeromy Burnitz followed with a double.

The Mets held that 3-2 lead into the 9th, but 2003 was not a kind year to their closer Armando Benitez, who yielded the tying run after retiring the first two batters in the ninth in what turned out to be his last game with the team. He left to a series of rather unpleasant sounds from those who attended the contest.

In the ninth inning, the Mets had a man on with one out for Reyes, who hit a line drive to right field. Bobby Abreu had trouble with it and Roger Cedeno stumbled his way to third base, putting the Mets within 90 feet of a win. The Phillies intentionally walked Jeff Duncan, an odd move, albeit a forced one since they decided it was best to set up a force at any base. Phillips, who already had two hits, got ahead 2-0 on Terry Adams and whacked the next pitch to right field, good for a game-winning single.

That kind of hit became a familiar sight. Phillips succeeded be he was patient and smart. He was a good clutch hitter and a good table setter because of his ability to hit the ball into the gaps and his skill for drawing walks. He also had no issues with one of the most difficult ballparks in baseball. In his rookie campaign, Phillips hit .354 at Shea Stadium, with a .556 slugging percentage (comparitively speaking, Mike Piazza only slugged better than that in one season during his Mets career). He finished the season in a slump, as a .217 September took him down to .298 and that served to foreshadow the events of the next two seasons.

Over that time, Phillips has abandoned that which made him good, causing most to dwell on what makes him bad (his lack of speed has established him as one of the slowest in the game). He seemed to be a bit rushed at the plate, the solid line drive singles and doubles turned into pop ups, and he voiced his frustration in ways that ticked some folks off, particularly the media in Los Angeles where he played during the 2005 season. I don't have a particular answer as to why Phillips' head got all screwy (pardon the pun), but I'll be an interested observer in seeing if he can return to form in Toronto.

True Metdrivers know...The only other Jason to get a walk-off hit for the Mets is Jason Hardtke.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mets Top 100 Home Runs: From No. 76 (Alex Ochoa) to No. 80 (Dom Smith)

In 2009, I did a project for my website, Mets Walk-Offs and Other Minutiae, celebrating the best home runs in Mets history. I selected the top 60 regular season home runs and the top 15 postseason home runs. The reason I picked 60 was because it represented the top 1% of home runs in Mets history (and 15 just felt right for postseason, giving us 75 overall).
This was fun to do, but it was imperfect. I had one egregious omission. I tended to favor oddities.
It’s time to give that project an update. And why not do it as a top 100?
The Mets have hit 7,671 regular season home runs. The top 80 represent about the top 1%. And the top 20 postseason home runs get us to an even 100 to celebrate.
Come along for the ride. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the reminiscing. 
Hopefully you’ll find it Amazin’.
80. Dominic Smith’s season-ending walk-off 
(Sept. 29, 2019 vs Braves) True story: I pulled into a parking spot right in front of my apartment as Dominic Smith came to bat. Rather than stay and listen to the ra…

Mets Top 100 Home Runs: From No. 16 (Carl Everett & Bernard Gilkey) to No. 20 (Tommie Agee)

In 2009, I did a project for my website, Mets Walk-Offs and Other Minutiae, celebrating the best home runs in Mets history. I selected the top 60 regular season home runs and the top 15 postseason home runs. The reason I picked 60 was because it represented the top 1% of home runs in Mets history (and 15 just felt right for postseason).
This was fun to do, but it was imperfect. I had one egregious omission. I tended to favor oddities.
It’s time to give that project an update. And why not do it as a top 100?
The Mets have hit 7,671 regular season home runs. The top 80 represent about the top 1%. And the top 20 postseason home runs get us to an even 100 to celebrate.
Come along for the ride. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the reminiscing. Hopefully you’ll find it Amazin’. 


The rest of the list can be found here.


20. Tommie Agee reaches new heights 
(April 10, 1969 vs Expos) Tommie Agee set the tone for a new beginning in the first week of the 1969 season. Agee had a dreadful 1968 that began in spring t…

Cliff Notes

Alright, so it's 2 days later and the challenge for me now, after reading through about a dozen game stories and listening to talk radio, is to provide a fresh perspective on walk-off #324. If you're going to be a serious reader of this blog, you know what happened already, so let's look at what made this particular walk-off stand out.

It would seem that the place to start is with the idea that everything broke just right on both sides of the ball. Particularly, I'm talking about Carlos Beltran's catch in the 7th inning, where he went over the center field fence to rob Jose Molina of a home run. Every no-hitter seems to have one defensive gem that makes it possible and perhaps that's true of great walk-off moments as well (We'll be looking into that!)

Marlon Anderson's home run required a remarkable combination of events. It was only the sixth inside-the-park home run at Shea Stadium by a Met and the first since Darryl Strawberry in 1989. It required that…