Short, but productive. Those words describe both Brett Butler and his one-year stint with the Mets. Looking to improve an offense that finished dead last in OBP the season before, GM Joe McIlvaine signed the diminutive center fielder just two weeks before Opening Day 1995, giving the lineup a leadoff hitter capable of getting on base -- and for a stretch of games in mid-July, Butler got on base just about every time he stepped to the plate.
Butler’s hot streak began at Wrigley Field, where he went 3-for-5 on July 17 and 4-for-5 on July 18. Facing the Cardinals on the 19th, Butler again went 4-for-5, this time with a pair of triples. On July 20, he started the game with an infield single. Leading off the third inning, the slap-hitting Butler turned on a pitch for his only home run of the season. A third hit followed in the fourth. A ground out in the fifth ruined Butler’s perfect night, but in the eighth he laced yet another single, giving him three consecutive four-hit games and a total of 15 hits in his last four. Butler took an oh-fer the next day, but the barrage raised his OPS nearly 80 points and put him within one safety of tying the major league record for most hits in a four-game span.
- A happy birthday to former owner Nelson Doubleday, Jr., who turns 79 today. In 1980, Doubleday engineered the purchase of the Mets from the Payson family, which had owned the club since its inception. He served as the team’s chairman until 2002, when internal dissention led him to sell his stake to Fred Wilpon.
- Met for a minute Charles Johnson is 41. Johnson was the linchpin in the three-way trade that brought Roger Cedeno and Armando Benitez to New York during the 1998 offseason. The deal came just seven months after the Marlins included the All-Star catcher in the passel of players they sent to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza. Fun fact: Of the seven people in that exchange, Jim Eisenreich was the only one who never wound up in the Mets organization. Funner fact: Johnson is the cousin of Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff, which makes him, according to both animal and nickname taxonomy, the Crime Dingo.
Game of Note
If you think this year’s LOLpen is bad (and it is), take solace in the fact that it’s at least better than the 2003 edition. That collection of arms compiled a staggeringly bad 9-30 win-loss record, primarily by turning in performances like the one I am about to relate. Gruesome details to follow for those who can stomach it.
On July 20, 2003 at Turner Field (where else?), Al Leiter did his typical late-career thing, allowing three hits and four walks in five innings, but pitching well enough to limit the Braves scoring chances. Yeomanlike work from Graeme Lloyd and Edwin Almonte in the sixth and seventh kept the game close and some timely hits in the top of the eighth gave the Amazins an 8-3 lead. At this point, the Mets’ probability of winning stood at a robust 98%. Even after Almonte gave up three straight two-strike singles to start the bottom half of the frame, the Mets still had a healthy 87% chance of going home with a W.
Enter Mike Stanton to face pinch-hitter Javy Lopez. Exit baseball. 8-7, Mets.
Undeterred, Battlin’ Art Howe let Stanton battle his way through the rest of the inning. The rubber-armed reliever rewarded his manager’s faith by permitting an additional four runs to cross the plate. Final score: Braves 11, Mets 8. Win probability: 0%.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Guitarist Carlos Santana celebrates his 65th birthday today. His song, "Smooth", plays over the Citi Field PA system prior to the first pitch of Johan Santana’s starts, though "Evil Ways" would be more appropriate given the way he’s pitched lately ("This can’t go on / Lord knows you’ve got to change...baby"). Carlos’s 2010 single, "Photograph", featured vocals by Chris Daughtry, who will be performing after tonight’s game as part of the Mets Concert Series. This event will surely be covered in a future This Date installment.