These former Mets would have had different careers under MLB's new rules

Steve Trachsel, New York Mets vs New York Yankees - July 1, 2006
Steve Trachsel, New York Mets vs New York Yankees - July 1, 2006 / Chris Trotman/GettyImages

With Major League Baseball debuting three significant on-field rule changes this season, it’s fair to wonder how different the careers of former New York Mets would have been had they already existed.

To recap – MLB will have a pitch clock, larger bases, and restrictions on defensive shifts in 2023. Putting aside postseason format changes and the advent of replay challenges, fans have not seen rule changes like these since the pitching mound was lowered after the 1968 season. Baseball will be a bit different – hopefully, for the better.

But what if these rules existed all this time? Just one automatic strike to a hitter not ready for the clock, an extra steal with bases just a few inches closer, or a ball not fielded by someone who would have otherwise over-shifted could have flipped entire game scripts. They could have dramatically altered the narrative of baseball as we know it – from wins and losses to championships.

For three notable former Mets, the new rules could have been career changing.

Perhaps the most obvious case is that of Steve Trachsel. The right hander had one of the more interesting tenures in Queens, going from a minor league demotion after just eight starts in 2001 to tying for the team lead in wins in 2006.

What fans arguably remember most about Trachsel, however, is how much time he would take in-between pitches. While no official stat exists, there were times he was clocked close to two minutes between pitches, during which fans would implore him to throw the ball. It was enough to earn him the nickname, “Human Rain Delay.”

Trachsel might’ve been Exhibit A for arguing in favor of the new pitch clock had he still been playing today. And while he fashioned a respectable 16-year big-league career, who knows how successful (or long) it might’ve been if he had to – literally – hurry up.

On the bases, no one in Mets history was more dangerous than Jose Reyes. His 408 stolen bases as a Met stand as the franchise record, with 258 steals over a four-year span from 2005-2008 (average of 64.5 per season).

Those numbers would dwarf the field in today’s game – Jon Berti of the Marlins led MLB in steals in 2022 with 41 – but how much greater could it have been with bigger bases? With bases now three square inches larger, more steals and infield hits could be coming league wide. Would Reyes have had a shot at hitting triple digits in a single season under those circumstances?

Finally, as far as shifting goes, there are likely many cases worth revisiting, but we’ll go with Mo Vaughn, who had a short and rather disappointing tenure with the Mets. After missing all of 2001 due to injury, Vaughn was traded to the Mets for 2002, when he hit 26 home runs and posted an .805 OPS – solid by any measures, but not quite as good as the lofty standards he’d set before then.

Vaughn had a higher tendency to pull in his two seasons with the Mets – over 81 percent of balls he put into play across 2002-2003 were either to the pull side or up the middle. While defensive over-shifting was less prevalent in those days, the new rule on having two infielders on each side of second base could’ve helped Vaughn find more hits. Would that have been enough to extend his career just a bit longer?

It's easy to play a game of ‘what-ifs,’ but these three cases stand out in recent Mets history. As the impact of the new rules plays out across the league, we’ll certainly have many more to chew on.

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