22 DUPACR: Ray Knight

There are 22 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report. Thus we honor former #22 Ray Knight.

Choosing Knight was fairly easy, since he is one of my favorite all-time Mets, for his grit, hustle, fire, and hard-nosed play. He got dirty, he was a gamer, he played with fierce passion, he hated to lose, he was unselfish, a team player, and he beat the crap out of Eric Davis. Oh, and he was a pretty decent player, too, able to play multiple positions more than adequately and providing some pop at the plate. His career numbers don’t look spectacular compared to the hitters of today, and he didn’t hit for enough power to justify being a corner infielder, but he had a few strong seasons where his average was around .300 and his OPS in the .750-.800 range. In short, he was “a ballplayer”, and enjoyable to watch — especially in 1986, when he came through with clutch hits time after time.

And the clutch thing isn’t just my romantic side remembering things the way I want to remember them. Sure, I vividly remember him scoring the winning run in Game 6 while Vin Scully screamed “gets by Buckner!”, and hitting the game-winning HR in Game 7. But that’s the way it went with Ray Knight all year. If you check the stats, you’ll see Knight hit .357 with a .827 OPS with runners in scoring position. With two outs and RISP, he hit .396 with a .899 OPS. Two outs and a man on third, he hit .381 with a .519 OBP and .899 OPS. With the bases loaded, he hit .400. With a man on second, he hit .375 with a .964 OPS. In “late and close” situations, he hit .325 with a .839 OPS. In tie ballgames, he hit .342 with .872 OPS. My eyes saw a clutch player, my memories echo what I saw, and the stats bear the proof: 1986 was a magical year for Ray Knight, as it was for all Mets fans.

Other #22s who were considered include Kevin McReynolds, Donn Clendenon, Michael “Mother” Tucker, Hank Webb, Al Leiter, Mike Jorgensen, Xavier Nady, and Dale Murray.

And by the way, the boys at AmazinAvenue have anointed Al Leiter as their #22 — not a bad choice, either.

The countdown thus far:

#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Rob January 24, 2011 at 3:13 pm
    Joe: I can’t disagree with Ray Knight as your selection. However, I had a special place in my heart for Don Clendenon, who I rooted for religiously during the 1969 through 1971 season. I was only 9 years old at the time, but I always remembered his batting stance. Right handed…feet almost together…standing tall with his bat standing slightly at an angle above his right shoulder. I don’t recall how tall he was, but he seemed to tower on tv and his MVP performance in the World Series made my Grandfather a Clendenon fan. That is…until Ed Kranepool took over in 1971 and the Mets released Clendenon at the end that season. I wasn’t old enough to follow a player’s movements after they left the Mets and I was surprised that he only played another season before retiring in 1972. I always thought he played for a longer period of time. Shows you what a kid knows. Anyway, he went on to become a lawyer, battled drug addiction and eventually died from Leukemia in 2005 at the ripe young age of just 70.

    There are parallels to Knight, in terms of his longevity with the club and his MVP World Series performance, so perhaps my affection for him is justified. Anyway, I thought I would share.

    Thanks for doing such a great job on these posts.

    All the best,

    • Joe Janish January 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm
      Rob, thanks for sharing your memories of Clendenon. I probably would have considered him more strongly if I had the chance to see him play (I was born in 1970). Also, from the little I’ve seen of him on the old highlight reels and from what I’ve read, he appears to have been “a ballplayer” and enjoyable to watch.

      Thanks again.