When Mike Baxter was sent to AAA at the beginning of June it was buried by the more noteworthy Ike Davis demotion. The move was not really questioned as it was background noise. Baxter had not been much of a role-player through the first two months of the season and simply became part of the roster shakeup.
Last season Mike Baxter emerged as a late-game offensive spark for the Mets, hitting .458 with a .545 OBP as a pinch hitter. He hit .224 as a starter, but that was primarily not his purpose on the team and his pinch-hit production made him a decent fourth outfielder.
Mike Baxter hit only .212 in 47 games this season, before he was sent down. He had 4 doubles and 4 RBI in his limited playing time. He was still a strong pinch-hitter, batting .400 and reaching base in half of his plate appearances. However, as a starter he hit .188 and in the first six innings of games only .133. He was not a big enough name to garner real criticism but he clearly was not producing as expected.
Baxter’s time in AAA got off to a rough start. He hit .220 in his first 15 games, had only 2 doubles, 3 RBI and was not even getting on base regularly with a .303 OBP. After the game on June 27 he left the team as his wife was due to have their first child. I theorized that Baxter was distracted by playing thousands of miles away from his soon-to-be-expanding family. The birth of his child was sure to take a load off his mind, as he would no longer worry about rushing across the country in the middle of the game, but only time would tell.
Mike returned to the 51s on July 4. He has now played 20 games since the arrival of his son. As a father he is hitting .296 and has 9 RBI. His OBP is .412 and he has even stolen 3 bases. The production is coming back and he is hitting the way he should in an offense-driven league.
Whether the changes were all mental or included an adjustment to his swing, Mike Baxter has bounced back from his underwhelming start to the season. The Mets happen to have a short bench right now with Jenrry Mejia taking Kirk Nieuwenhuis‘s spot on the roster and perhaps Baxter could make his way back to New York when the Mets want to even out the roster.
Mike Baxter has had one wonderful off-field change in his life since the end of June. Maybe the Mets can reward his on-field improvement with a trip back to the big leagues.