Last night, the Mets took in a big win against the Phillies, winning 6-3 and bouncing back once again from a tough loss the day before. New York got a good deal of offense from home runs by Jeremy Hefner and Scott Hairston, but this power display got its spark from the most unexpected and unpronounceable source: the Mets’ first-ever “Mr. Q,” shortstop Omar Quintanilla.
On the second pitch he saw from Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton in the 2nd inning, Quintanilla (and that’s kin-tuh-NEE-yuh for you non-speakers of Spanish) blasted a double off the wall in left center, coming home to score two batters later. In the 6th, it was “deja-vu all over again:” Omar doubled to right on Blanton’s second pitch, scoring soon after on Hairston’s homer. By the time Quintanilla was finished, he was 3-4 with those pairs of doubles and runs.
A career .213 hitter before last night, Omar was only getting his chance because the Mets were desperate for a man to fill the 6-slot in the field. Ruben Tejada? Injured. Ronny Cedeno? Also injured. Justin Turner? Most recently injured. With shortstops dropping like flies, Terry Collins had no choice but to bring up Quintanilla, who provided the team with its most recent Amazin’ moment in a so-far Amazin’ season.
In a way, this 30-year-old career minor-leaguer, a man who has played slivers of seasons in the major leagues since 2005, is a microcosm of the entire Mets organization since Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took the reins last season. Quintanilla had no expectations attached to him; he was seen, like the overwhelming majority of men to ever play professional baseball, as someone who could hit in the minors but not in the majors. But his parent club needed him, and for one night at least, he exceeded everyone’s expectations and helped his team win a ballgame, much to the adoration of his new hometown fans.
In all likelihood, Omar Quintanilla will not spend much time in Flushing; when the depleted New York infield starts to heal, he will be one of the first to go back down to Buffalo (much to the Bisons’ relief – how many of the Triple-A team’s stars have been raided in the last two years?). But if he continues to do the job he is asked to do to the best of his ability, he will carry the respect of Alderson’s organization and the admiration of the Citi Field faithful.
Quintanilla’s night represents the culture change Alderson and Collins have instigated in the clubhouse. These guys’ players may not be the most talented or most heralded, but gosh darn it, you won’t find a group of players who work harder than this collection in orange and blue. They come to work every day, do their jobs, and do them to the best of their abilities every time. When fans walk away from Mets games, they see a team that left it all on the diamond, win or lose. Terry Collins summed it up just right last night, saying something to the tune of “When you put on that Met uniform, certain things are expected of you.” We saw those things last night from Mr. Q.