David Justice spent only one week with the New York Mets and never actually played a game for them. If things worked out differently, he may have been a fan-favorite in Flushing.
Remember the week David Justice spent with the New York Mets? From December 7, 2001, until sometime on December 14, he was the property of the Metropolitans after he was traded for in a deal involving Robin Ventura. It was a rare trade between the Mets and New York Yankees which quickly turned when the former flipped him a week later to the Oakland Athletics for Mark Guthrie and Tyler Yates.
Justice never got his chance to play for the Mets. Instead, he spent his final big league season with the 2002 Athletics, most famously shown in the movie Moneyball.
His year in Oakland was probably better than most anticipated. In 471 plate appearances, the 36-year-old veteran slashed .266/.376/.410. The numbers were well below what he was able to do in his prime. However, with the ability to still rip an occasional home run and work a ball four, he could have very well become a fan-favorite in Flushing.
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The 2002 Mets didn’t do much worth remembering. They were a team we might actually have expected to see Justice play for. Mixed in with Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, and Jeromy Burnitz—he would have fit right in.
Of course, the Mets probably wouldn’t have had Burnitz in the first place if they had held onto Justice. He was acquired in late January in a three-team trade. If you’ve been following the Mets long enough, you probably remember how disappointing his return to New York turned out to be.
There wasn’t a whole lot to enjoy about the 2002 team. At 75-86, they were signaling to the rest of the league that a major change would need to happen if they were going to return to the playoffs again anytime soon.
In years like the 2002 season, it’s important to latch onto top performers and enjoy whatever you can. Mike Piazza was still there and hitting the cover off the ball. So was Edgardo Alfonzo, now over at third base. These veterans managed to keep us all interested. The same cannot be said about the newcomers.
Justice may have been different. There’s something about overachieving veterans all fans in sports seem to latch onto. Bartolo Colon is a great example of this. We didn’t just love him because of his “everyman” body. He was also a successful pitcher that seemed to do better than most would have thought.
There’s no telling how Justice may have fared in a year with the Mets. Just because he did well with the Athletics doesn’t mean it would have been the same case switching from the Bronx to Flushing. For all we know, he may have had a very Gary Sheffield-like stay with the orange and blue. Sheffield, of course, most remembered for hitting home run number 500 with the Mets and not doing much else of note during the 2009 campaign.
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Justice is one of those players from the 1990s and early 2000s that was a member of the Mets briefly but never got play for them. Alongside other “what-ifs” like Joe Randa and Charles Johnson, he only made a brief pit stop at Shea Stadium before moving on to new adventures.