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Mets Memorable September Call-ups: Mike Jacobs

The Mets, like all other teams, have had many mid-season call-ups. Some have been more memorable than others.

Mr. Call-Up, Mike Jacobs
Mr. Call-Up, Mike Jacobs
Nick Laham

While not true September call-ups, top prospects Wilmer Flores and Travis d'Arnaud are acquitting themselves to the major leagues nicely, having recently been promoted. Filling in at third base in David Wright's absence, Flores is hitting a cool .283/.328/.396 in fifteen games (53 at-bats) with 11 RBI and a neat 4:8 BB:K ratio. d'Arnaud is hitting .111/.333/.333 in seven games (18 at-bats) with 6 walks to 4 strikeouts. With September quickly approaching, a few more prospects might be called up.

Though both contending with imposed inning limits, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom are both on the cusp of prime time readiness. In his second year at Triple-A, Matt den Dekker seems to have put the struggles he first contended with facing tougher competition behind him, hitting .297/.366/.494 in 51 games. Though Jack Leathersich's performance has fallen back to earth since being promoted to Triple-A, the lefty still boasts am astounding 14.7 K/9 rate, having struck out 44 batters in 27 innings. Down in Double-A Binghamton, Jeff Walters recently tied the club record for saves (36) and is having a great season overall, posting a 2.21 ERA in 53 innings with nearly four strikeouts (57) for every walk (16).

With late season call-ups come the promise of potential realized. The team, and we fans, get to see youngsters achieve their dreams and play professional baseball for a major league club. One long and often arduous journey ends, and a brand new one begins. When it comes to the Mets and late season call-ups, there is one name that sticks out immediately to myself, and many other Mets fans.

Mike Jacobs.

Michael James Jacobs graduated from Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, California, and attended community college for one year, playing for the Grossmont Griffons. In the 1999 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, the Mets selected Jacobs in the 38th round with the 1,156th overall draft pick. He was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Mets that year, where he hit .333/.383/.497 in 44 games, splitting time between his actual position, catcher, and first base. In 2000, he was promoted to the Kingsport Mets, and he once again opened some eyes, hitting .270/.371/.485 in 59 games, again splitting time at catcher and first.

At the end of the year, he was promoted to the Capital City Bombers of the South Atlantic League, but he scuffled a bit, leading the 19-year-old to be reassigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2001. Against more age-appropriate competition, Jacobs hit .288/.364/.409 in 19 games with Brooklyn. He earned his promotion back to Capital City, where he finished his 2001 season hitting a respectable .278/.328/.383.

Jacobs spent all of 2002 with the St. Lucie Mets and, again as one of the younger players in the league, struggled. In 118 games he hit just .251/.291/.381. Despite the lackluster numbers, he was promoted to Double-A Binghamton in 2003. In 119 games, Jacobs hit .329/.376/.548. As a catcher, no less. Despite the breakout season, he failed to make Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects list for the 2004 season. In 2004, Jacobs was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk, but his season was cut short when he tore his labrum. He played only 27 games before being shut down for the year.

Going into 2005, Jacobs was moved from catcher to first base, partially because it would be easier on his body — especially in light of his recent injury — and partially because he wasn't particularly known for his defensive prowess. In 309 games as a catcher he had 41 errors, caught 22% of baserunners, and was generally seen as slow and clunky. Returning to baseball as a permanent first baseman in 2005, Jacobs excelled. Now 24, he hit .321/.376/.589 in 117 games with the last place Binghamton Mets, winning the Eastern League MVP Award.

On August 21, 2005, the New York Mets promoted Mike Jacobs to the major league club. In his very first at-bat, Jacobs hit a pinch hit three-run homer off of Washington Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Almost instantly, Jacobs took over at first base for Doug Mientkiewicz, as the latter's .240/.322/.407 batting line left a lot to be desired. The rookie wasn't a one-hit wonder, either — he kept on hitting. He hit another home run on August 23, going 2-for-3, and on August 24 he went 4-for-5 with two home runs. In the nine games he played that month, the rookie first baseman hit .310/.429/.793. The Mets won six of those nine games.

September was business as usual for Jacobs. In 21 games that month, Jacobs hit .310/.351/.676, crushing seven more home runs and driving in 14 batters. Though the Mets' season ended in failure in 2005 despite the late run and fleeting Wild Card hopes, Jacobs remained a bright spot. In his first taste of big league action, the first baseman hit .310/.375/.710 in 30 games (100 at-bats). His 11 home runs placed him seventh on the team; had he hit one more, he would have been tied with Victor Diaz for fifth most on the club, behind Cliff Floyd (34), David Wright (27), Mike Piazza (19), and Carlos Beltran (16).

There certainly were warning signs that Jacobs's success would not be sustainable. He struck out a lot in the minor leagues and didn't draw many walks. In his brief call-up in 2005, he struck out 22 times to 10 walks, a rough 2:1 ratio that was actually be an improvement from the ratios he generally put up in his minor league career. In addition, Jacobs wasn't the most graceful fielder, either.

When the 2005 season ended, most penciled in Jacobs as the Opening Day first baseman in 2006. While he had his flaws, Jacobs was a young, cost-controlled talent at a position at which the Mets needed an upgrade. On November 23, 2005, Omar Minaya made waves by trading Jacobs, along with Yusmeiro Petit and cash to the Florida Marlins for slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado.

While Omar can be criticized for many things, trading Jacobs (and Petit) for Delgado is not one of them. Though Jacobs would go on to hit a respectable .262/.325/.473 for Florida in 2006, Delgado hit .265/.361/.548 for the NL East Champions and was an MVP candidate. Over the next few years, the trade would become much more one-sided. Despite being in his mid-30s, Delgado would hit .267/.347/.488 in 324 games with the Mets in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Jacobs, on the other hand, despite being in the prime of his career, hit .247/.304/.459. While Delgado would have his career ended because of age and injury, Jacobs saw his own career derailed due merely to ineffectiveness. While he is still only 32 and theoretically has time to latch onto an MLB team in the future in some kind of role, the clock is ticking. His reputation as a one-dimensional player who was busted for using human growth hormone — the first MLB player to be suspended for that substance — certainly isn't going to help.

Mike Jacobs's career is something of a cautionary tale to us prospect watchers. A star that shines brightly right now might very well burn out tomorrow.