Posted by Thomas Brennan at 10:30 AM
Batting champs. Not easy to be one - unless you're Ty Cobb.
No Met (other than once and future Met Jose Reyes who secured his batting title on the last day of the season a few years back) has won a batting title while playing as a Met. In 55 years. Ugh. How hard for a Metsie? Just ask two former Mets who got close - Cleon Jones and John Olerud.
Cleon (now 74) had it all going in 1969. He looked like a batting champ-to-be at the end of August, when he was hitting an amazing .351. Then an injury-filled September in which he hit just 10 for 44, dropping him to .340 in a batting race he lost to the great Pete Rose.
As a cautionary tale on multi year contracts, Cleon did this at the young age of 26. At 28, he hit an almost equally impressive .319 in 1971. However, after 1971 he only accumulated another 1200 or so at bats, hitting a little over .250, and only had 90 at bats past the age of 31. "My talent hath deserted me," he surely must've said.
My other memory of Mr. Jones (besides being called by the name of the Cubs' Cleo James by Ralph Kiner on many a Kiners Corner) was in 1968, where he hit .297. He was hitting around .200 in mid May, and soared to nearly .300 by season's end in the Year of the Pitcher. So I was not surprised by his breakout year in 1969.
The Mets' second valiant try at a batting title was when the Great John Olerud had a spectacular 1998 for them, in which he hit .354, with around a .450 on base % and a .550 slug %.
He was edged out by Colorado's Larry Walker that year. Put them both at sea level and Olerud wins out, though.
However in the Mets minors this year, we had 3 batting title winners. And one guy that just missed tying for one of those titles. In AAA, the mighty TJ Rivera surged late to hit .353, edging out Brandon Nimmo by 1 point. If they were tied and needed a tie breaker, it would have gone to Rivera in my books, for outhitting Nimmo after both were called up by the Mets.
Of course, if those 2 had faltered in AAA, 3rd place finisher Gavin Cecchini would have won the PCL AAA title at .325.
In AA, the floundering Phil Evans got promoted to AA very in early 2016 due to an injury to Jeff McNeil. Like Lou Gehrig, Evans took full advantage by hitting .335 in AA, thereby putting himself back on the radar screen for a future major league call up.
In A ball, Tomas Nido was neither fazed nor fried by the Florida summer heat while catching, and hit .321, well ahead of the second place Florida State League finisher. Hopefully we will see him in Queens in September 2017 or in 2018.
One thing that makes winning batting titles in the minors tough is having a sufficient number of at bats in that particular league due to the best hitters often getting promoted during the season. Amed Rosario got promoted mid year from A to AA, leaving him with insufficient at bats to qualify for either league's title.
He actually hit higher than Evans in AA (.341), but in only 54 games, and hit .324 for the entire season. I expect a AAA batting title from him in 2017....no pressure, Amed.
As a final "almost won" footnote, 17 year old Andres Giminez in the DSL came in 2nd in hitting with a stellar .350 average. No doubt he's coming stateside in 2017.
As a final footnote, when the Mets signed Neil Walker for 2017, the likely 2017 National League batting title winner, TJ Rivera, got screwed again. Hyperbole. Greatly unlikely that he'd have won the title playing everyday in Queens, but the guy hits everywhere, so who knows?
If you got to the end of this article, you win the reading title.