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.
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
About the Author
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.