Thursday, September 27, 2012

Milestone Men

Wednesday night was a coronation of sorts for David Wright, as he broke Ed Kranepool's 36-year old team record for Hits. In a style that seemed almost fitting, Wright's record-breaking 1,419th career hit came on a 60-foot scratch single in front of Pedro Alvarez in the 3rd inning. I suppose ultimately it didn't matter what kind of a hit it was, it's in the books nonetheless. It took Ed Kranepool 18 seasons to amass 1,418 hits, but Kranepool spent many years as a part-time player and the latter part of his career, he served as a pinch-hitter altogether. But since he departed, nobody ever seriously challenged his career Hits record. Cleon Jones was the only player within earshot for years. Edgardo Alfonzo mounted a challenge in the early 2000s, but he was let go before he could make a final push towards the record. David Wright, on the other hand, seemed to be primed for a moment like this from the day he joined the team in 2004. Jose Reyes, who now sits 3rd on the all-time list with 1,300 hits, also could have been a contender, but for all his exploits never held quite the same regard as David Wright has. Though Wright's arrival in New York wasn't greeted with the same amount of anticipation as, say, Darryl Strawberry, it was still an important day moving forward for the Mets. Wright's career has had the highs and lows that anyone's career could have, but he has basically been regarded as the Mets' cornerstone ever since he arrived here, and he's done little to dispel that. He arrived with a great deal of poise and polish that belied his 21 year old self. His performance has varied little from season to season, anomalous seasons like 2009 and 2011 came because he was either injured, left stranded without any support in the lineup, or both. But through it all, Wright has been pretty much everything you could have asked for in a young star player. No, he's never been the breakaway superstar he's sometimes hyped up to be; his best seasons have come when he's been a key cog working with other big names (hitting in between Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran usually helped). Sometimes, he's drawn criticism for his failures. But he's always been there, day in and day out. And now, he's begun to put his stamp on his career as a Met. Last night, his 1,419th career hit came in his 9th season, half the time it took Kranepool to establish the former standard. It remains to be seen what he'll accomplish here, certainly his contract status and the state of the team going forward will have a lot to do with that. If he continues here, he has the opportunity to set organization standards that look much more respectable than the ones he's been breaking. Either way, however, people said of Wright when he first arrived here that he stood a good chance of owning every meaningful offensive record in Mets history before he turned 30. He turns 30 on December 20th of this year, and right now, the last club record he's chasing is Darryl Strawberry's record of 252 Home Runs. If he sticks around, he'll get that one, too.

Not to be overlooked, however, is R.A. Dickey's first attempt at 20 victories this afternoon. It's been 22 years since Frank Viola won 20 games for the Mets, and only Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden and David Cone have reached that plateau with the Mets. Dickey certainly seems, at first glance, out of place among those names, but given the work he's put in, and the resurrection of a once-thought-dead career, nobody deserves this recognition more. Winning 20 games would, perhaps, be the final chapter to one of the most Amazing stories in Mets history. R.A. Dickey did not arrive on the Mets with any kind of regard in 2010. In fact, I decried his promotion as grasping at straws, and assumed he'd pitch 2.2 innings, give up 7 runs, and be gone quicker than Chan Ho Park. I've been wrong about many things, but never moreso than I was about Dickey. It's 2 and 3/4 seasons later, and Dickey has gone from a last resort to an All Star, and, perhaps, a Cy Young Award winner. His is the kind of story you couldn't make up. Dickey's 2012 season has already been incredible enough. One more victory would put it right up there as one of the best in Mets History.

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