"The Mets are not exactly known for their third basemen, but have developed a reputation for overhyping prospects and burdening them with expectations. Examples range from Gregg Jefferies to Shawn Abner to the Generation K star-crossed pitchers Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher, and Jason Isringhausen."
-Lee Jenkins of the New York Times, July 22, 2004
In the nine years since that article was written, the one constant for the New York Mets franchise has been its brilliant, perhaps even presently under-hyped, third baseman. David Wright, who made his debut on this date in 2004, has fulfilled just about every reasonable expectation put on him by fans and franchise alike since he first trotted out to the hot corner at a stadium that no longer exists (Shea) to face a team that's gone the way of the dodo, too (the Montreal Expos).
For a fantastic read on what David Wright means to Mets fans at this point in his career, check out this Classical piece from earlier in the week. As for what happened in the man's major league debut, keep reading here. According to the same Times article quoted above, David's first day in the bigs actually started the night before with a phone call from coach/mentor Howard Johnson, who told the young man to "go up there and break all my records."
Hojo's place in the Mets' history books went unchallenged on July 21, 2004, however. Batting seventh behind such luminaries as Kaz Matsui and Richard Hidalgo, Wright didn't get his first at-bat until the bottom of the second. Facing the Expos' John Patterson, he worked the count to two-and-two before popping up to the catcher, future teammate Brian Schneider. One inning later, Patterson put the Wright in a quick two-strike hole, then got the overanxious rookie to ground out to the third.
It wouldn't be until David's fourth and final plate appearance of the day that he got the ball out of the infield. Batting against reliever T.J. Tucker in the seventh, Wright demonstrated a promising display of opposite field power by driving a fly ball that sent right fielder Terrmel Sledge nearly all the way back to the warning track. The Mets' once and future captain would be forced to take an oh-for-four collar, albeit it in a 5-4 win, a deal he'd likely still make to this day.
- Mike Bordick turns is 48. A Met by way of one of the more shortsighted trades Steve Phillips made as general manager, Bordick was in the midst of a career year when the Mets acquired him just before the 2000 trade deadline. Though he homered in his first at-bat with New York, he quickly regressed to his historical norm of being a below-average offensive player. Meanwhile, Melvin Mora, the centerpiece of the package the Mets gave up to get Bordick, went on to amass 29.1 WAR for the Orioles and make two All-Star teams.
- First baseman Brian Buchanan hits the big 4-0. Buchanan started one game for the Mets in 2004 and he went 0-for-2 with a walk. He retired from baseball five years later, perhaps to spend more time with family, which includes his father-in-law, Basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek.
- Former Mets player and coach Mike Cubbage is 63. In 1981, Cubbage became the 70th person to man the hot corner for the Mets. He returned to Flushing in 1990 to handle third base coaching duties. Cubbage also took a turn in the hottest seat in the dugout, serving as the team's interim manager after Buddy Harrelson was let go with seven games left in the 1991 season.
- Brett Hinchliffe turns 39. Hinchliffe's one start for the Mets in 2001 proved to be his last MLB appearance. He went two-plus innings, allowed eight runs, and was pulled due to ineffectiveness. Two years earlier, in his first major league start, Hinchliffe lasted just three innings, but that's because he was ejected for starting a bench-clearing brawl.
On July 21, 1976, the Mets acquired Jim Dwyer and Pepe Mangual from the Montreal Expos for Wayne Garrett and Del Unser. Two days later, Unser beat his old team with an eleventh inning walk-off home run.
Games of Note
Before Tom Seaver came to town, Al Jackson was the closest thing the Mets had to an ace and he pitched like one on July 21, 1965. Facing a Pittsburgh Pirates lineup stacked with three future Hall of Famers, the little lefty carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Jackson retired one of those Hall of Famers, Bill Mazeroski, for the first out of the frame, but the next batter, future Cooperstown inductee Willie Stargell ripped a single to end Jackson's flirtation with history. Ozzie Virgil tallied another one-bagger for the Pirates in the ninth, but Jackson worked around it for a 1-0 victory.
Five years later, on July 21, 1970, the Mets found themselves on the short end of a no-hit bid. Clay Kirby of the San Diego Padres had a rough start to his day, allowing a first inning run on two walks, a double steal, and a ground out. The hard throwing Kirby was effectively wild from that point on, though, and he kept the Mets' bats silent through eight. To his misfortune, the Padres offense was mum, mustering a mere three base knocks off Jim McAndrew. Trailing 1-0, manager Preston Gomez pulled Kirby for a pinch hitter. The move failed and it fell to Friars reliever Jack Baldschun to both preserve the no-hitter and keep things close in the ninth. He failed miserably on both counts, giving up three hits and two runs. Enjoying some good luck for a change, McAndrew set down the Padres 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the inning for a complete game shutout.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
The Boston Red Sox became the last Major League team to integrate on this date in 1959 when they used second baseman Pumpsie Green as a pinch runner in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss to the White Sox. Four years later, the Mets acquired Pumpsie (and pitcher Tracy Stallard) from Boston for infielders Felix Mantilla and Al Moran. Green flourished upon joining the Mets organization, putting up a productive .308/.406/.491 line at Triple-A Buffalo. Blocked by Ron Hunt at the major league level, the team shifted him to third for a September audition and he responded by generating over half a win's worth of offensive value in just 66 plate appearances.
Showing the same frustrating logic that doomed the team to 100-loss seasons in five of its first six years, the team opted not to give Green a starting job in 1964, granting those duties to former Brooklyn Dodgers farmhand Charley Smith instead. Smith posted a sub-one WAR in 127 games while Green languished in upstate New York for the second straight year. As a team in '64, the Mets got on base less than 30 percent of the time (Smith and his .275 OBP was a prime offender). Pumpsie, meanwhile, walked more often than he struck out and bedeviled International League pitchers by reaching base at a .371 clip. Yet he never got another call to join the parent club and left the organization the following year.