So when did Rod Barajas become Mike Piazza?
Or even Roger Maris?
After his two home runs tonight, including the game winner in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets catcher has 9 home runs on the season and is on pace to hit 61.
And this is coming from a guy who has a career high of 21 round trippers in a year.
But before you set your sites on the real home run record or even the Mets single season home run record of 41 held by both Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley, just heed the catcher’s warning.
“I’ve always have been streaky,” Barajas said. “I will have a week where I hit everything and then I will have two or even three weeks where I can’t catch up to something in the middle of the plate.”
Ok, so maybe the records are safe for now, but that doesn’t discount what a godsend the 34 year-old catcher has been for the New York Mets.
Barajas was an afterthought this offseason, a player the Mets signed right before Spring Training, pretty much after being left out there to rot on the market. Nobody wanted him and general manager Omar Minaya offered the paltry major league sum of $900,000 with the possibility of getting $1 million in incentives. When he first got the offer, the catcher laughed at it, but eventually came to his senses when the Long Island Ducks started to look the only other option.
And now, the Mets have a player with something to prove. Although he said he isn’t using the off-season as motivation, the sigh he gave before his answer told the whole story.
“Maybe a little bit,” Barajas answered with a sigh. “But that was more in camp and in the beginning of the season. Right now, I am trying to enjoy myself and help this team out. Just have fun. I am not trying to make a statement to anyone. I am trying to make a statement to my teammates that this is a good ballplayer and he is coming out to play every day.”
Whatever drives him, Barajas has been a player who really has helped the Mets this season. Besides the home runs, the catcher – along with Henry Blanco – has been a definite upgrade over last year’s crew of Brain Schneider, Omir Santos, and Ramon Castro. The pitchers seem very comfortable with both players behind the plate
“Both (Barajas and Blanco) try to help you all the time,” said relief pitcher Fernando Nieve. “They have been around baseball a lot. They know baseball a lot. They constantly remind you what pitch you have to throw.”
If you look at how effective the Mets staff has been this season, you can see what Nieve is talking about.
And maybe this is also a little vindication for Minaya, who was killed in the press after Bengie Molina went back to the Giants after refuting the Mets offer of $5 million to play in Queens. This is New York after all and when the off-season transactions don’t happen before Christmas, it’s like coal in a stocking. But now the Barajas move proves good thing happen to those who wait.
“He has been pounding people,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “He seems to rise to the occasion. I remember him saying to me that he likes the clutch and how he likes to handle the staff. He’s been impressive.”
Impressive enough for announced crowd of 34,681 to forget about a blown save by Francisco Rodriguez and see the steal of the off-season do his best Mike Piazza impression at Citi Field.