Todd Zeile had a tough assignment for the 2000 New York Mets as the replacement for John Olerud. He filled in nicely with a productive year at the plate.
The Mets were left with a noticeable hole at first base. They decided to fill it with well-traveled free agent Todd Zeile, a man once traded alongside Mike Piazza from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Florida Marlins.
Mets fans may have a tough time believing Zeile was only with the team for two years when he initially came. He did return for his final year in 2004, but for now, let’s focus on what he gave this franchise back in 2000 when he had the tough task of replacing Olerud.
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Coming off a year where he hit .293/.354/.488 with the Texas Rangers, Zeile was flying high. He had just hit 24 home runs and drove in 98. The numbers were nearly the best of his career.
Something Zeile had proven he could do over the years was take the field regularly. He played 163 games in 1996 which he split with the Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles. In 1998 and 1999, he played in 158 and 156 respectively.
For the 2000 Mets, they got 153 games and 623 plate appearances out of Zeile. Although he wasn’t quite as amazing as he was a year earlier with the Texas heat helping him out a bit, he did provide them with power, run-production, and a regular base runner.
Zeile slashed .268/.356/.467 with 22 home runs and 79 RBI in 2000. The OBP was actually higher than what he did one year earlier, showing just how patient he could be at the plate. In fact, Zeile had nearly as many walks as he did strikeouts. The veteran infielder managed to find 74 free passes in 2000 compared to 85 strikeouts.
The season was a unique one for Zeile as it marked the first time in his career he was exclusively a first baseman. Throughout his time in Major League Baseball, he was routinely switching from first base to third base. It made sense in this era. Typically, teams carried a first baseman with a little more pop than what Zeile could display even on the windiest of days.
Most of Bobby Valentine’s lineups in 2000 had Zeile batting fifth or sixth. In those holes, he gave the Mets quality at-bats and the chance to clean up the bases after some of the more imposing offensive weapons.
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Zeile’s mark was might. And while he didn’t have the same success Olerud did, he ensured the Mets wouldn’t go into the year with any questions at the plate.