Top 10: The fastest Mets (Part 2)

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
11:45
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Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesThe two fastest Mets of all-time, side-by side, circa 2011.
This is the fourth in a series of lists we will be generating related to the history of the New York Mets. We've previously covered the Mets' most notable home runs (part 1|part 2), best pitching performances (part 1|part 2) and best defensive players (part 1|part 2).

Part 1 of this piece ran on Tuesday. Part 2 runs today. Feel free to share your thoughts on this week's piece in the comments.


Jerry Seinfeld threw down the gauntlet a few months ago, challenging me to figure out whether Jose Reyes would beat Mookie Wilson in a footrace.

My response was to expand the project and come up with a list of the fastest Mets of all-time. The "also-rans" (pardon the pun) were revealed yesterday. Today we cover those who finished in the top five among our voting panel (which included Mets play-by-play voice Gary Cohen, ESPN's Jeremy Schaap and others who have followed the franchise for a minimum of 30 years).

5. (Tie) Carlos Gomez and Lance Johnson
These are two Mets whose stints were brief, but who left long-lasting impressions. The Mets have certainly gotten a good look at what they've been missing when they traded Gomez in the Johan Santana, as his speed has come in handy both with regards to basestealing and home-run robberies. Scouts described Gomez's energy from his days as a prospect as Willie Mays-like, which may have been tabloid-fitting hyperbole, but paints a picture of what made him listworthy to our voting group.

Johnson was arguably the team's best one-season wonder (this series is worth a read), who hit .333 with a club-record 21 triples and 50 steals in 1996, then left on not-so-great terms in a trade with the Cubs that got the Mets Brian McRae and Turk Wendell. The diehard fans remember

4. Roger Cedeno
The Mets got the most out of Cedeno in the first of his two stints with the team. In one of Steve Phillips' better deals, he was able to obtain closer Armando Benitez and Cedeno in a three-way deal with the Dodgers and Orioles in which the Mets got Todd Hundley.


AP Photo/Lou RequenaRoger Cedeno's speed was responsible for a few memorable moments, like the time he scored the winning run in a five-run ninth-inning comeback against the Phillies.
Cedeno thrived with the Mets in 1999, hitting .313 with a .396 on-base percentage and a then-club record 66 stolen bases. This is the Cedeno our panelists voted onto our all-speed team (not the one whose on-base percentage dipped to .319 in his second stint spanning 2002 and 2003, though that Cedeno did record the team's first straight steal of home in more than 30 years).

Cedeno learned the tricks of the trade from his idol, Rickey Henderson, which wasn't a bad choice when it came to the subject of speed.

And he was a good pupil.

"He has exceptional speed," Bobby Valentine told the media after one game in 1999. "It doesn't matter who the pitcher is or who the catcher is. If he starts on time, it's nearly impossible to throw him out.

3. Vince Coleman
Coleman would probably top a list of the most disliked Mets of all-time, as he was one of the poster children of the "Worst Team Money Could Buy" era that spanned 1992 and 1993 (the Mets signed Coleman after losing Darryl Strawberry to the Dodgers in free agency).

"He just brings fear into the hearts of the opposition each time he gets on base," said general manager Frank Cashen at the time of the signing. This was true. But he eventually reached the point of being feared by his own fans.

The player nicknamed "Vincent Van Go" stole 99 bases with the Mets, but was a disappointing signing in so many ways. He played three seasons with the Mets and didn't make it through 100 games in any of them due to both injuries and suspension (his worst offense was throwing a firecracker into a crowd of fans in Los Angeles, for which he was sentenced to 200 hours of community service).

But our panel was able to put the dislike and poor behavior aside and concede that Coleman, for all the trouble he brought, was the fastest Met this side of Mookie Wilson and Jose Reyes.

2. Mookie Wilson
Mookie Wilson served as my introduction to the value of speed in baseball. He's the first fast player I can remember following (my first year watching the Mets avidly was 1982) and perhaps I'm biased, but I haven't seen any Mets player since then who could beat Wilson going from first base to third base.

Taking the extra base was a specialty for Wilson, who was known to advance two bases even on routine ground balls (something that won a game or two along the way).

Getty ImagesIf you followed the Mets in the 1980s, this sort of image is burned into your brain.

I've seen very few athletes of whom I would say: "That guy can fly!"

Wilson may not have been able to jump like Michael Jordan, but when he was in full gear, it definitely looked like he was walking (or in this case sprinting) on air.

One quick personal anecdote. A year after Wilson was traded to the Blue Jays, our family went to Toronto on vacation and went to a Red Sox-Blue Jays game.

With the score tied in the ninth inning, Wilson went from first to third on an errant pickoff throw. Two batters later, Kelly Gruber hit a grounder to third. We didn't even have to watch Wade Boggs' throw home to know that Wilson would score the winning run with no problem whatsoever. He made it look easy.

1. Jose Reyes
Reyes won our voting fair and square and though I disagree, I think it's a close enough call not to be bothered at all by the result.

Chances are if you're reading this, you don't need me to tell you how fast Reyes was (simple synopsis: 370 steals, 99 triples, both all-time club record).

So instead, let me close with an anecdote-- a feel-good story to remember on Reyes' speed.

In spring training, 2006, My father and I each made predictions for the upcoming season. I don't remember any of mine. But I do remember one of his (because he often repeated it): This was going to be the year that Reyes hit an inside-the-park home run.

Late that fall, my father was diagnosed with cancer and was scheduled for surgery in early September.

The night before the operation Reyes hit an inside-the-park home run.

"I thought that was an omen that everything would be alright," my father said.

It wasn't the easiest of recoveries, but everything did turn out alright. So I don't mind conceding that Reyes is the fastest Met of all-time. He's a legit honoree in every respect.

Report: Dice-K expected to return to Japan

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
2:56
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NEW YORK -- Daisuke Matsuzaka is expected to accept an offer from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to return to his native Japan, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

After completing the 2014 season with the Mets, Matsuzaka expressed a strong desire to return to full-time starting pitching.

An official announcement is expected within days.

Top 10: The fastest Mets (Part I)

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
11:15
AM ET
Getty ImagesLen Dykstra and Rickey Henderson are among those whose speed was greatly valued.

This is the fourth in a series of lists we will be generating related to the history of the New York Mets. We've previously covered the Mets' most notable home runs (part 1|part 2), best pitching performances (part 1|part 2) and best defensive players (part 1|part 2). Feel free to share your thoughts on this week's piece in the comments.

A few months ago, we were talking to noted Mets fan Jerry Seinfeld and got onto the topic of who would win a race from home plate to third base between Jose Reyes and Mookie Wilson.

"You have to do some sort of study on this," he said.

So here we are to try to end that debate. Only I wanted to broaden things a bit. So we're here to try to figure out the fastest players in Mets history.

But it's not as easy as simply pulling out a stopwatch, watching video or sorting stats.

The Mets have had a lot of fast players (as you'll learn), some of whom played for a while, others who barely had a cup of coffee. Finding footage isn't easy, let alone trying to find them running the same distance under similar parameters.

So I'm taking a "wisdom of crowds" approach. I've polled 16 people whose Mets-watching experience ranges from 30 to 50-plus years, and all of whom have a good sense of Mets history.

My experts include Mets play-by-play man Gary Cohen, ESPN's Jeremy Schaap and Steve Wulf, and noted Mets authors Matt Silverman and Greg Prince, along with friends and family.

Each voted on their top five, using a 5-4-3-2-1 point system. It was not an easy task. Cohen noted he whittled his final list down from an initial set of 35 names. Others wondered how to fit in obscure players, like some of the names below.

We'll note the top five by points tomorrow. Today, I want to give props to the other names who made people's ballots.

Tommie Agee
Tommie Agee wasn't just fast. He was bold. On July 24, 1970, with the score tied in the 10th inning in a game against the Dodgers, Agee became the only player in Mets history to record a walk-off steal of home.

Oh, and his speed helped him make a couple of pretty nifty catches, too.

Carlos Beltran
Beltran was fast, but didn't look fast, which might explain why he got only one vote in our balloting. Of note from a statistical perspective, his 86 percent stolen-base rate ranks best in Mets history.

Endy Chavez
Endy Chavez has played for seven major league teams, and best we can tell, when each team obtained him, the two things they praised in newspaper stories that day were his defense and his speed.

Chavez may be better known for the former, thanks to his all-timer of a catch in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, but his running ability was pretty good, too. The best usage of his speed as a Met (other than to hustle back to make that catch) came via a memorable squeeze play that won a game in 2007.

Gene Clines
Clines, a longtime major league coach, stole as many as 80 bases in the minor leagues.

A writer for the Hardball Times described him as having sprinter's speed. He's not remembered fondly by Mets fans (mainly because he hit only .227 in 82 games for them), but he made a good enough impression to garner one vote in our poll.

Len Dykstra
Dykstra was a bit reckless both on and off the field, but he was fast enough to swipe 116 bases for the Mets and steal at nearly an 80 percent success rate for his career.

His speed was long-lasting and significant, as he graded a solid 7 on the 2-8 scouting scale on scouting reports surveyed in 1988 and 1993.

He might not have beaten Mookie Wilson in a race, but he’d certainly have given it his best shot (and probably would have requested a rematch thereafter).

Rickey Henderson
The Mets got Henderson well past his prime years, but even at age 40, his speed had difference-making ability.

Henderson's 37 steals for the Mets in 1999 are the second-most ever by a player in his "age 40 or older" season (trailing only a 47-steal season by Davey Lopes).

Stan Jefferson and Herm Winningham
I'm putting these two together since they both were on Schaap's ballot and no one else's.

Each was what I call a "two-minute Met" who got in 14 games and was valuable as a trade chip.

Jefferson played in 14 games in 1986 before being included in the swap to the Padres the following offseason for Kevin McReynolds. He'd show off his speed the next season with 34 steals and seven triples.

Winningham's speed (he had as many as 50 stolen bases in a season in the minors) had value to the Mets well beyond the 14 games he played in 1984. Winningham was a piece in the 4-for-1 deal with the Expos that offseason that netted the Mets All-Star catcher Gary Carter.

The best display of Winningham's speed came on Aug. 15, 1990, when he hit three triples, including an extra-inning game winner for the Reds in a win over the Cardinals.

"We didn't see much of them in Mets uniforms, but I do recall the constant drumbeat from the announcer's booth marveling at their swiftness," said Schaap. "Winningham deserves acknowledgment for his role in the Carter trade, and Jefferson gets extra credit as a native New Yorker."

Cleon Jones
Jones' speed was at its peak before the Mets got good. He reportedly ran the 100-yard dash in 9.7 seconds in high school and became the first player in team history to steal 20 bases in a season when he swiped 23 in 1968. His speed is oft forgotten because he doesn't necessarily have the types of video highlights that his outfield mate, Agee, did.

Amos Otis
Better remembered as part of a disastrous trade with the Royals for third baseman Joe Foy, Otis has the fewest steals for the Mets of anyone on this list -- one in 67 games.

But he proved he was legit immediately thereafter, nabbing 85 bases in 95 attempts in his first two seasons with the Royals. He'd finish his career with 341 and leave a lot of Mets fans wishing he'd gotten them for their team.

Cohen, who was among two voters to mention Otis, recalled him as having "extraordinary speed" and noted that Otis nearly supplanted Agee in center field before being (unwisely) moved to third base. He would be dealt soon thereafter.

Juan Samuel
"He will give us a different offensive dimension," said team vice president Joe McIlvaine the day the Mets acquired Samuel for Dykstra and Roger McDowell in 1989.

Unfortunately, that wasn't a good dimension, as Samuel lasted only 86 games with the Mets (hitting .228 and recording 31 steals) before being traded to the Dodgers.

I think Samuel would have ranked higher had he not been part of one of the worst deals in team history. He averaged 42 steals and 10 triples over an eight-year period from 1984 to 1991.

Esix Snead
Blink and you missed Snead's 18-game major league career from 2002 to 2004 -- though based on the number of honorable mentions he received on ballots, he's well-remembered (though that may actually be for his role in a famous minor league brawl that netted him a lengthy suspension after leaving the Mets).

AP Photo/Ed BetzEsix Snead is among the fastest Mets.


Snead racked up 507 minor league stolen bases in nine seasons, including 109 in A-Ball in 2000 (Snead once opined he could have stolen 200 if he’d had a permanent green light). The problem was, he couldn't hit well enough to make keeping him on a team worthwhile (his minor league batting average was .231)

As Cardinals executive Mike Jorgensen (a former Met) told the AP in 2000: "When [Snead] was at the plate, he was a frog. But when he got to first base, he was a prince."

Darryl Strawberry
Strawberry may never have looked as fast as he actually was, as his 6-foot-6 frame may have obscured his gazelle-like speed. Strawberry's 191 steals rank tied with David Wright (who got no votes) for fourth in Mets history. He's the only player to have five straight seasons with at least 25 steals for them.

Frank Taveras
The Mets caught Taveras, a shortstop from 1979 to 1981, at the end of his career, and some of what got him on this list probably comes from his time with the Pirates, when he stole as many as 70 bases in a season.

Eric Young Jr.
I had Young higher on my ballot than anyone else (third-fastest), and perhaps there’s some bias there due to recency, but he’s the first player the Mets have had in a long time whose first-to-third speed reminded me of Mookie Wilson's.

Not only is Young fast, he gets points from me for being a smart baserunner. He's stolen bases at an 84 percent success rate in two seasons with the Mets. Over the past two seasons, he ranks fourth in Fangraphs.com's advanced baserunning metric.

Tomorrow: Mookie versus Reyes and the rest of the top 5

First look: My Hall of Fame ballot

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
8:58
AM ET
NEW YORK -- The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will announce its 2015 class of inductees on Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.

Eligible voters who have been members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for 10 years may select as many as 10 candidates on their ballots.

Those candidates appearing on 75 percent of the submitted ballots are elected.

In a new wrinkle, candidates may only remain on the ballot for as many as 10 years, provided they continue to appear on 5 percent of the ballots cast. That's down from 15 years, although Don Mattingly (15th year on ballot), Alan Trammell (14th year) and Lee Smith (13th year) are grandfathered and remain.

Here is my Hall of Fame ballot. I used all 10 slots I was allotted, and still was unable to fit Lee Smith (whom I voted for two years ago, but now do not have room to include).

First-year candidates Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz get my vote. So does Mike Piazza, the ex-Met who garnered 62.2 percent of the vote a year ago -- within striking distance of the 75-percent threshold. The others: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling.

Raines reappears on my ballot this year. Like Smith, I voted for him two years ago, but could not fit him last year, when the class included players such as now-elected Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas.

Other notable players I omitted (for now, at least), include: Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Trammell.


Mets set official report dates

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
7:13
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NEW YORK -- The Mets have set the official dates for spring-training reporting in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Pitchers and catchers report: Feb. 19

Physicals: Feb. 20

First workout: Feb. 21

Position players report: Feb. 24

Physicals: Feb. 25

First full-squad workout: Feb. 26

Hall of Fame candidates released

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
10:44
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza was close to election to the Hall of Fame a year ago. He's joined on the 2015 ballot by several ex-Mets, including Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez and Cliff Floyd.

Here's the newly released ballot for next year's Hall of Fame class:

Rich Aurilia, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Aaron Boone, Tony Clark, Roger Clemens, Delgado, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Floyd, Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Giles, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Troy Percival, Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Jason Schmidt, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, John Smoltz, Sammy Sosa, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.

How does Wright get back into top 10 at 3B?

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
10:00
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AP Photo/John MinchilloThere could still be better days ahead for David Wright.
On Sunday, Buster Olney ranked the top 10 third basemen in baseball. Mets third baseman David Wright did not make the list.

It won’t be easy for Wright to get a spot either. Nine of the 10 third basemen on Buster’s list are younger than Wright (the exception being Adrian Beltre), and just about all of them are in the prime of their careers.

We wrote about the challenges Wright will face moving forward last month, making the comparison to Scott Rolen’s post-prime years.

It’s certainly not impossible for Wright to return to top-10 status. What would it take?

Health
First and foremost, the key for Wright will be good health. From 2005 to 2010, Wright averaged 156 games a year. From 2011 to 2014, he averaged 126.

Wright’s shoulder rehab sounds like it is going well. But it’s entirely possible that something else crops up.

An offensive boost
Amazingly, two of the projection systems that we like and trust have virtually identical numbers for Wright in 2015.

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS (used on ESPN.com) tag Wright for a .275/.346/.422 slashline, with 13 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 128 games.

Steamer, one of the projections systems on Fangraphs.com, pegs Wright for a .275/.347/.432 slashline, with 16 home runs and nine steals in 130 games.

Neither of these take into account the moving of the fences in right-center field to make Citi Field more hitter friendly.

If we tack three more doubles and two more home runs onto Wright’s Steamer projection (which doesn’t seem that unreasonable, given the ballpark’s change in dimensions), the batting average jumps to .285 and the slugging percentage rises to .461.

Only three players whose main position was third base hit that batting average/slugging percentage combo while playing at least 130 games in 2014 -- Anthony Rendon, Beltre and Josh Harrison. Each was in Buster’s top 10.

Good defense
One of the things that Wright has going for him heading into 2015 is his glove.

With the help of Tim Teufel, Wright has gotten back to being one of the game’s top defensive third basemen.

His 34 Defensive Runs Saved over the past three seasons rank fifth at the position. Even in 2014, when Wright’s shoulder injury likely affected his offense, he ranked highly.

Wright doesn’t have the cannon arm of some at the position, but he still moves well laterally and covers a good amount of ground. How much ground he’ll have to cover next season, however, will depend on whom the Mets choose to play shortstop. A good shortstop would likely be beneficial to Wright’s overall defensive value.

Better baserunning
It will be tough for Wright to overcome the hurdles of age and aging hamstrings with regard to his baserunning.

He is going to have to be smart in a couple of respects. This may mean picking his spots better on his steal attempts. Wright needs to follow Daniel Murphy in that regard and avoid the eight steal/five caught stealing ratio he had in 2014.

At the plate, Wright's approach with men on base may change such that he avoids hitting into as many double plays as he did last season, when he had a career-high 22. Wright hit ground balls in 47 percent of his plate appearances in double-play situations.

His overall ground ball rate for the season was 41 percent (same as his ground ball rate in double-play situations from 2011 to 2013), which suggests either a run of bad luck or that Wright played into what pitchers were trying to do.

Winning ways
Both Steamer and ZiPS give Wright a WAR projection of 3.8 for 2015. That would represent a nice rebound for Wright, who was worth 1.9 WAR by Fangraphs’ measure and 2.8 per Baseball-Reference in 2014.

It puts him right on the cusp of the top 10. Steamer has him tied with Chase Headley for ninth (ZiPS hasn’t published its full projections yet).

That might get him back into the top 10, but there is one other thing that would help: for the Mets to get back to being a winning team.

Ike joins A's, displacing ex-Met Brown

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
5:41
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NEW YORK -- Ike Davis wasn't unemployed for long.

After being designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Davis was traded to the Oakland Athletics for international signing money on Sunday.

Davis' arrival in Oakland had a negative effect for another ex-Met, though. Andrew Brown, who was claimed by Oakland from the Mets earlier this offseason, has been designated for assignment by the A's.

Buster Olney: Wright not a top-10 3B

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
12:04
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NEW YORK -- ESPN Insiders can read Buster Olney's list of the top 10 third basemen in the majors, which is headlined by Oakland's Josh Donaldson.

One player not on the list, though?

The Mets' David Wright.

Olney writes that Wright "would normally be in this group, but is coming off a tough season."

Wright, who will turn 32 next month, finished the 2014 season inactive because of instability in his non-throwing shoulder. He had a career-low eight homers.

Backman hired for Dominican managing gig

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
12:06
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Adam RubinWally Backman will complete his winter managing in the Dominican Republic.


NEW YORK -- Wally Backman has been named manager for Licey in the Dominican Republic, replacing the winter-league club's fired manager, Jose Offerman.

Licey general manager Manny Acta announced the move Saturday. The Tigers opened the season 10-17.

Licey's roster includes Dilson Herrera and Hansel Robles.

Backman remains poised to manage Las Vegas again in 2015, although there has been no announcement.

Josh Satin signs with Reds

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
9:08
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Josh Satin has signed a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

The 29-year-old Satin had become a minor-league free agent after being outrighted off the 40-man roster on Oct. 31.

Satin made his first Opening Day roster in 2014, but ultimately was supplanted by Eric Campbell as a righty-hitting backup corner infielder. Satin was 3-for-35 at the major league level this season. He has a .243 average (61-for-251) in 116 career games.

A September call-up from Triple-A Las Vegas, Satin finished this year with a fracture in his right hand.

Satin originally was drafted in the sixth round in 2008 out of Cal.

• Right-hander Miguel Socolovich, who pitched for Vegas this past season, has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. ... Right-hander Ryan Reid, also with the 51s in 2014, has signed with the Miami Marlins. ... First baseman Allan Dykstra signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Mets nemesis LaRoche is outta here!

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
9:54
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NEW YORK -- Adam LaRoche is no longer the Mets' headache.

LaRoche, formerly of the Washington Nationals, has signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent.

LaRoche hit .321 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 53 at-bats and had a .471 on-base percentage against the Mets this past season.

Podcast: Michael Cuddyer

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
4:41
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On Friday, Mets RF Michael Cuddyer joined Lupica on ESPN New York 98.7 FM to talk about his expectations for his first season in New York.

Play Download

Single-game tickets now on sale

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
9:45
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From the Mets ...

Single-game tickets for the Mets’ 2015 season will go on sale today, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m. at mets.com/tickets and 718-507-TIXX. Tickets start at $11.

The Mets open their home schedule, Monday, April 13 vs. Philadelphia. The seven-game opening homestand also features four with the Marlins and runs through April 19. The Yankees make their annual visit to Citi Field Sept. 18-20.

The Mets’ promo schedule features 13 Free Shirt Fridays, 13 Family Sundays and three postgame concerts. Three fireworks nights are also planned.

Some giveaways include a Jacob deGrom Garden Gnome on May 2 vs. Washington, a David Wright replica jersey on June 13 vs. Atlanta and a National League Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares bobblehead on July 13 vs. Arizona. There will also be a 1986 World Championship bobblehead featuring Jesse Orosco on August 29 vs. Boston.

Pirates designate Ike Davis

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
8:34
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NEW YORK -- Former Mets first baseman Ike Davis has been designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Davis hit .235 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 336 at-bats with Pittsburgh after the April 18 trade for minor league right-hander Zack Thornton as well as left-hander Blake Taylor, who subsequently arrived as the player to be named.

Davis was a probable non-tender anyway by the Dec. 2 deadline, since he earned $3.5 million in 2014.

Pedro Alvarez will serve as Pittsburgh's first baseman. He also bats left-handed and primarily played third base this past season.

"It comes down to spots," Davis told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "There's only one first baseman on a team. When you have three, there's going to be an odd man out. It was me."

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