In the first game of the Subway Series this year, Justin Turner drove in a run for the sixth consecutive game, tying a Mets rookie record (which Turner would later break), prompting Gary Cohen to say, “Holy Benny Agbayani.” Getting his first real shot at extended playing time, Justin Turner has produced for the Amazins, hitting .330/.372/.455 with a homer and 20 RBI in just 27 games (94 plate appearances). In 1999, Agbayani was doing something similar.
Like Turner, who had cups of coffee in the big leagues in 2009 and 2010 with the Orioles and Mets (totaling 21 games and 40 PA), Agbayani got his first real shot in 1999 after playing 11 games (16 PA) in 1998 with the Amazins. Also like Turner, Agbayani was a hitting machine. Over his first 27 games in ’99, Benny hit .400/.458/.880 (yes, .880 slugging percentage) with ten homers and 17 RBI. Agbayani would sock a total of eleven long balls before the All Star break, which is the second most by a Mets rookie in that time frame (the record is held by Ron Swoboda, who hit 15 in 1965. Ike Davis matched Agbayani with 11 dingers of his own before the break last season).
Agbayani of course cooled down from his torrid start, and for the season hit a very respectable .286/.363/.525 with 14 homers while receiving fewer starts down the stretch. Over the course of his Mets career, which lasted through the 2001, the Hawaiian native hit .282/.372/.461and hit a walkoff home run in the thirteenth inning of Game 3 of the 2000 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. Prior to the 2002 season, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies as part of a three team trade that brought Jeromy Burnitz, Jeff D’Amico (and others) to New York. He never regained his form and didn’t play in the majors again after that season, although he did play in Japan under Bobby Valentine.
Like Agbayani, Turner will eventually cool down, which should be expected. But like Agbayani, Turner can continue to serve a useful role with the team. Once David Wright and Davis return, Ruben Tejada will likely be sent back to Buffalo, leaving the door open for Turner and Daniel Murphy to platoon at second base. In the end, I don’t see Turner as being anything more than a solid utility infielder for the Mets (I could definitely be wrong though), but every team needs those guys on their roster. For now, the Mets should continue to ride Turner’s hot streak and be thankful they had someone like him in their system to take the place of a couple of injured players. In another decade or so, I fully expect Gary Cohen to exclaim, “Holy Justin Turner!”