Growing up as a baseball fan in the 1990s, I knew a lot about which men would become the next big stars in the league. One of those guys who had a ton of baseball cards featuring how much of a star he would become was Eric Valent. Originally a first-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1998, it took Valent until 2004 as a member of the New York Mets to have his one memorable and productive big league season.
Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the minor league draft, Valent joined the 2004 Mets with a rather pedestrian resume. By the time the season was over, he had completed one of the better one-hit-wonder seasons in franchise history.
Eric Valent accomplished a few notable feats with the Mets in 2004
Prior to joining the Mets, Valent had only 100 major league plate appearances. He only drove in a pair of runs and failed to even go yard. Well, it changed with the Mets. He hit 13 home runs in 2004 and drove in 34 total runs. Slashing .267/.337/.481, he was much more like the player the baseball card companies told me he would become.
Far from superstar numbers, Valent did have one very memorable game for the team on July 29. During a visit to Canada to play the Montreal Expos, Valent went so wild on them that they had to move to D.C. the next season.*
*Not really, but if I was Valent, this is what I’m telling everyone.
Just looking at the Mets lineup on this day shows the state of the team. Kazuo Matsui hit leadoff and the clean-up hitter was Richard Hidalgo. Slotted in at number seven in the lineup, the only position player behind Valent was David Wright.
If you’ve followed the Mets long enough, you know what Valent is best known for. A single in the second inning, a double in the third, a home run in the fifth, and a triple in the seventh helped him complete the cycle. The 4 for 4 start led the Mets to a 10-1 victory north of the border. In this one game, Valent became the answer to a trivia question.
Valent’s success went beyond this one game. Playing a mix of left field, right field, and first base, he was a fine player for the Mets this one season.
Sadly, the success didn’t last. The next season, the curse of single RBI seasons continued. Valent played in 28 games and had 50 plate appearances for the club. He slashed .186/.300/.256 and drove in a single run; something he did in two of his three pre-Mets seasons. The season not included on this list didn’t include any RBI at all.
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You won’t find too many guys in Mets history with a year that stands out as much as the 2004 season does for Valent compared to all others. Add in a cycle, you have one of the team’s most unexpected and unique years a player has put together.