Jordany Valdespin raised a few eyebrows on Friday by tweeting a picture of himself sporting a cap of the villainous Miami Marlins. This latest questionable decision on ’Spin’s part comes only days after he was suspended by his Dominican Winter Ball club for “insubordination.” These are the latest examples that are a cause for concern for Met fans and front office workers, as Valdespin’s talents are being overshadowed by his immaturity. But for at least one moment, before any of the other stuff started propping up, Jordany gave Mets faithful something to shout about in the form of our next Amazin’ Ten.
#5 – Jordany ’Spins Papelbon (May 7)
After a disappointing road trip to Denver and Houston, New York rebounded with a home series win over the Diamondbacks. Despite losing Ruben Tejada to injury the day before, the team was looking to extend the momentum at Citizens Bank Park against the five-time defending NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies. Although fairly even in the standings thus far, it appeared to be a mismatch as the Phillies sent out Roy Halladay to face the Mets’ Jonathon Niese.
That mismatch was apparent from the get-go when, after Halladay sat his first three down in a row, Niese surrendered a leadoff double to Jimmy Rollins. Rollins went to third on an Andres Torres throwing error and scored on John Mayberry’s sacrifice fly. In the bottom of the second the home team made it 2-0 when Placido Polanco doubled in Carlos Ruiz.
In past years, the fat lady’s song would have been heard all the way in Queens, as no team, let alone the Mets, would have been able to overcome Doc Halladay. But after Niese calmed down and finished off the 5th inning without allowing any more damage, New York was still in striking distance. With two out in the top of the 6th, Andres Torres walked and Kirk Nieuwenhuis singled. On a 1-1 splitter that didn’t split enough, David Wright hit a hard grounder to left field that caromed off the extended seating and produced the game-tying double.
Manny Acosta pitched a perfect 6th for the Mets, but the water got choppier than a Braves crowd in the 7th and 8th. Bobby Parnell loaded the bases in the 7th frame but Hunter Pence hit a hard groundball to Daniel Murphy at second base, who flipped it to Justin Turner for the first out. Pence and the ball arrived at first in a dead heat and young first base umpire Alan Porter gave the tie to the runner, and for a moment it appeared the Phillies had retaken the lead. But second base umpire Ron Culpa saw Shane Victorino interfered with Turner’s throw by sliding too far away from the bag; Culpa overruled Porter and gave the Mets the double play.
But the Mets weren’t to shore yet: Parnell put runners on second and third with one out in the 8th inning. Freddy Galvis was up to bat and he hit a hard groundball right back to the mound. Parnell, thinking he could get big Ty Wigginton at the plate, fired home and hoped Josh Thole could hold on. He did. Wigginton was out, but Thole was shaken up. The resulting concussion would keep him sidelined for the rest of the month. But in the here and now, the Mets kept the Phillies from scoring after they had been on the precipice for two innings in a row, and when Tim Byrdak struck out Erik Kratz to end the inning, the visitors would have their chance to win it.
That chance would not be easy: it would have to come against the prize of the Phillies’ offseason acquisitions: former World Series winner Jonathon Papelbon. Up to this point the man had been lockdown for his new team: 9/9 in save opportunities with a 0.82 ERA to boot. The odds were long for the Mets, but what was it Tug McGraw always said?
Daniel Murphy took up nine pitches but ended up striking out. Ike Davis showed some rare early-season patience and drew a walk. Justin Turner harmlessly fell on three pitches. Up came Thole’s backstop replacement, Mike Nickeas, far from an offensive juggernaut. But after fouling off two straight 1-2 fastballs, Nickeas got ahold of a slider and blasted a double to the wall in left. Any faster runner would have scored, but Davis could only get to third. The Mets had runners in scoring position with two down and the pitcher’s slot up. Who was left to pinch hit?
Just a guy who had seen limited action in his first trip to the big leagues and was hitless in his first six at-bats. He showed some potential, but he couldn’t be expected to come through in such a clutch situation. That’s what everyone thought when Jordany Valdespin stared down a first-pitch fastball. But a second pitch from Papelbon was all he needed to see: with a rocket that sent the ball (and Gary Cohen’s voice) sky-high, Valdespin had himself a first big league hit in the form of a three-run homer. Smiling all the way around the bases, he touched home to give the Mets a stunning 5-2 lead. The rest of the game was an afterthought as the Phillies, deflated by Valdespin’s gut-busting swing, went down quietly against Frank Francisco.
The Mets won this thriller and ended up sweeping the three games at the Bank. As for Valdespin, it was the beginning of a remarkable year coming off the bench: he set a Mets’ club record with five pinch-hit home runs, which accounted for over half of his longballs on the year. With a nice side of speed to go along with that power, it appeared New York finally had its sparkplug answer to the loss of Jose Reyes.
Unfortunately, in games when Valdespin played more than just a one-off roll, the results were most disappointing. He only hit .241 and walked 10 times in 206 plate appearances, garnering an OPS of just .710. While valuable as a right fielder, he was lacking at every other position. And then there’s the immaturity factor, as evidenced by the stories at the top of our story. In short, as my old high school social studies teacher used to say, if Jordany Valdespin wants to remain part of the long-term solution for the New York Mets, he needs to learn to keep the good, and get rid of the bad.
May 7: The fifth most Amazin’ game of 2012. In a couple days we get closer to the end with #4 in our countdown.
Amazin’ Ten of 2012
#5 – Jordany ’Spins Papelbon (May 7)