Archive: January 23rd, 2011

23 DUPACR: Doug Flynn

There are 23 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report to spring training. To commemorate the day, we honor Doug Flynn, who wore #23 for the Mets from 1977-1981.

Why Doug Flynn? Because, in so many ways, Flynn symbolized what the Mets were in the late 1970s and early 80s: offensively feeble, defensively steady yet unspectacular, uninspiring overall, and displaying a lack of something to look forward to.

That’s not necessarily a knock on Flynn, who had his moments and was — frighteningly — something of a bright spot during very dark days in the franchise’s history. But Flynn was a major link to the glorious past, being a key component in the Tom Seaver trade of 1977.

The Mets traded “The Franchise” for Flynn, Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry, and Dan Norman. At the time, Seaver was the best pitcher in baseball — the Roy Halladay of his time, and already considered a future HOFer. You might want to compare the package the Blue Jays received for Halladay, but it’s not quite the same as apples to apples, considering the complexity of contracts and financials of today’s game — there were only a few teams in MLB who could afford Halladay, and had both the wherewithal and desire to obtain him (and extend his contract). Back in 1977, Seaver was well-paid, and, like Halladay, would require a contract extension (which was the crux of why the Mets jettisoned him), but would have easily fit into the budgets of at least 20 teams, if not all 25 not playing in Flushing. So, when the Mets fetched a package headlined by Flynn, Zachry, and Henderson, it was, well … underwhelming. More frustrating is when you look back and realize Flynn — who never hit higher than .255 — might have been the best of the lot.

One thing Flynn could do was play defense. Originally a shortstop, he had above-average range, soft hands, a strong arm for a second baseman, and was masterful at turning the double play. He wasn’t the type who regularly made diving stops for the highlight reels, but he rarely made errors when playing 2B (he tended to make more miscues while playing SS, something he did frequently in ’77 and ’78). Flynn was our defensive whiz on a team devoid of whiz kids. With a bat in his hand, though, was another story.

Flynn did two things well as a hitter: he could lay down a sacrifice bunt and he could make quick outs. Since he batted eighth exclusively, his ability to bunt wasn’t terribly helpful. Grounding out meekly on the first or second pitch he saw, however, helped those depressing games go by more quickly — so we can thank him for that. His offensive prowess is properly communicated by his stats:

Back then, his stats looked bad. Today, now that we look at things like OBP and OPS, one wonders how he stuck around MLB for 11 years. Check out his walk totals in particular — and be sure to compare them to his intentional walks (IBB)! Even though he batted eighth, you have to wonder why opposing pitchers found it necessary to walk him in order to get to the pitcher’s spot; Mark Bomback had a higher OPS than Flynn in 1980.

As a person, Doug Flynn was hard not to like — humble, easygoing, always complimentary on the rare occasions he was quoted. He played hard, always hustled, and had good fundies. He also was a semipro country singer in the offseasons, and contributed his time and money to many community / charitable services. An underwhelming hitter, but a good guy.

Ironically, Flynn after his MLB career ended, he became a beast of a hitter in professional slo-pitch softball. That’s no joke — he played in slo-pitch softball exhibition games during the 1988 Summer Olympic Festival and was inducted into the Kentucky Softball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Other #23s up for consideration included Pat Mahomes, Bernard Gilkey, Julio Franco, Marlon Anderson, Brian Giles (another good-field, no-hit 2B), and Tim Bogar.

Bogar, by the way, is the root of the longest-running active link of Mets trades. He was traded in 1997 for Luis Lopez, who was traded in 2000 for Bill Pulsipher, who was traded for Lenny Harris, who was part of the deal for Jeromy Burntiz, who was traded for, among others, Victor Diaz, who was traded in ’07 to the Rangers for Mike Nickeas. This trivia was supplied by the book Mets By The Numbers, which was the inspiration for this series.

The countdown thus far:

#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


Mets Sign Hairston, Byrdak, and Boyer

Tim Byrdak catches two fish

Mets' big catch Byrdak poses with his own big catch

Sandy Alderson and his Fantasy Front Office began the offseason like a lamb, but is going out like a lion. After months of ho-hum-drum transactions / inaction, the Mets are really turning up the heat on the hot stove, picking up high-impact AAA players like it’s nobody’s business. If you are considering purchasing season tickets, hurry over to and reserve your package now, because this past week’s rash of acquisitions is sure to motivate fans throughout the tri-state area to buy up every last seat in Citi Field.

As if the signings of Chris Young, Willie Harris, and Taylor Tankersley weren’t enough to bowl you over, the Mets have followed up that trio with another triumphant triumvirate: Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, and Blaine Boyer.

Hairston is the younger, taller, less-skilled, non-enhanced brother of Jerry Hairston, Jr. He plays the outfield and second base with equal adequacy, and hits the ball infrequently. When he does make contact, he occasionally sends the ball over a fence — he blasted 10 homers in only 295 at-bats last year, while posting a .210 average and .295 OBP. He had a career year in 2009, with 17 homeruns, .265 AVG, .305 OBP in 116 games and 464 plate appearances. With too many offensive-minded outfielders already on the roster, the Padres had no room for the soon-to-be 31-year-old slugger, and the Mets are the beneficiary of their surplus. Yet another brilliant, under-the-radar move by those very smart and efficient people in the front office. This strategy of exploiting market inefficiencies is so exciting!

Byrdak is a similarly smart move — I know this because the Mets made it, and everyone keeps telling us how smart they are now. Byrdak is one of those little old ladies lefties who everyone undervalues just because he has underwhelming stuff, walks too many people, gives up too many hits, and allows too many homeruns. What people forget is that in his 9-year MLB career, he twice averaged more than one strikeout per inning, and he limits lefthanded hitters to minuscule batting averages (righties rake him, but as long as he doesn’t face any, everything will be fine).

Boyer might be more interesting if his first name was Ken or Clete, instead of plain Blaine, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Interestingly, Boyer is basically the mirror image of Byrdak, in that he is murderous on righthanded batters, but gets killed by lefthanded batters. I’m wondering if the Mets can teach both of them to play first base, and then in the late innings, switch them back and forth between 1B and the mound depending on the batter’s handedness? If not, I suppose Terry Collins can politely request that the opposing manager not use pinch-hitters.

Strangely, neither Boyer nor Byrdak have had serious arm surgery within the past two years — which seems to be inconsistent with another market inefficiency being exploited by Alderson. However, if you look back far enough into their histories, you’ll learn that Byrdak did undergo Tommy John surgery in 2001, and Boyer had shoulder surgery in 2006 … so there you go.

All sarcasm aside, Boyer and Byrdak are perfectly fine, low-risk, mild-reward signings that could turn out quite well. Byrdak, in particular, has been something of a late bloomer, re-making himself into a crafty and efficient LOOGY in his mid-30s — kind of like the one-batter version of Jamie Moyer. He throws a four-seam fastball that rides in the 88-89 range and occasionally breaks 90; a running, sinking, two-seamer that’s a few MPH slower; a slider; and a forkball that he uses to change speeds. His varied repertoire has the potential to keep batters off balance, but because he doesn’t have great velocity on his heater nor great bite on his slider, his effectiveness is dependent on keeping the ball away from the plate and hoping batters extend their strike zone; therefore, he tends to walk too many batters.

As for Boyer, he was a top prospect in the Braves’ organization until the shoulder problems and eventual surgery briefly detoured his career. It took about 2-3 years for him to regain his velocity, which can get up into the 95-96 MPH range on occasion. He mixes in pretty good overhand curve and a hard slider, and was a workhorse for Bobby Cox in 2008, appearing in 76 games. However, he tends to get hit hard, as his fastball is pretty straight and control inconsistent — a combination that leads to frequent meatballs. He kind of reminds me of Brian Bruney.

Regarding Hairston, I don’t get it. Like Willie Harris, he can play both 2B and CF in a pinch, but probably best suited to left field, and isn’t going to offer much on offense. Harris hits from the left side and Hairston from the right, so I suppose they complement each other. But it would’ve been more efficient to get switch-hitting Delwyn Young to do the same thing, no? (Young was signed by the Phillies earlier this month.)

I know that neither Hairston nor Harris are going to be difference-makers, and their purpose is to provide depth, but my concern is they will be taking reps away from Nick Evans, who is out of options and will need to really wow Terry Collins in order to make the team.

In related news, the Mets DFA’d outfielder Jason Pridie and pitcher Tobi Stoner to make room for Hairston and Chris Young. Not a huge deal; I was actually surprised that Pridie and Stoner were on the 40-man roster in the first place.