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When I think of offensive ineptitude, I think of the Mets bench. When I think of a career minor leaguer who can possibly serve a valuable purpose for the Mets down the road, I think of Jason Pridie. Since being called up, Pridie has turned heads by belting a few home runs in clutch spots, something that the every day players have rarely done so far this season. I think most fans can agree that the Mets are far from a playoff caliber ball club. There are gaping holes in the starting rotation and the lineup does not produce consistently enough to contend. With that said, I think that this year, seemingly more than ever, the Mets bench has left so much to be desired. Whether its Willie Harris grounding out softly with a runner in scoring position or Scott Hairston swinging out of his shoes leading off down 2 runs in the 9th, the bench players on this team have just not come through.
Bench players in baseball are some of the most under-appreciated athletes around. When called upon off the pine, they are basically thrown to the wolves and must perform with far less comfort than someone going up for their 4th at-bat of a game. In addition, they usually find themselves in crucial situations of games. It is a role in which failure requires a player to wait another night for redemption, but if a big hit is delivered, an invaluable source of energy is ignited and can carry over.
The Mets have had some very reliable pinch hitting specialists in the past. Rusty Staub was a feared pinch hitting dinosaur in the 70′s and early 80′s. In one of the most significant trades that the Mets made in the 80′s, they sent pitcher Mike Scott to the Astros for outfielder Danny Heep, who would prove to be a vital player off the bench for the team’s storied run of ’86. More recently, Matt Franco established himself as a feared bat off the bench in the late 90′s and early 2000′s. His claim to fame was in the subway series at Shea in 1999 when he laced a 2-run single with two outs in the 9th to win a game off Mariano Rivera. And of course, the all-time pinch hit leader himself, Lenny Harris, had two separate stints with the Mets and hit .302 as a bench player during the 2000 season.
Jason Pridie is a player I’d like to see succeed as a pinch hitter for the Mets in the future. Of course, I’d like to see, Hairston, Harris, and company succeed right now but in my mind they are just not good hitters and have not displayed an ideal approach in critical spots. Pridie hasn’t shown us that he can be that elusive, Matt Stairs’esque pinch hitter but I like him for his sneaky power, his eye at the plate, and the fact that he hasn’t really looked over-matched yet since he’s been called up. If a relief pitcher makes a mistake, especially over the inner half of the plate, I like Pridie’s chances of making the most of it and doing damage, all with lunch pail in hand. His potential might seem minor, but if the Mets can put together a winning formula in the near future I’d be happy to see Pridie be a part of it.