When the Mets signed Austin Jackson, the move was greeted with a collective rolling of the eyes from fans. The 31-year-old journeyman outfielder was signed in late July, as Matt den Dekker went hitless in 18 at-bats, and Kevin Kaczmarski went hitless in four.
Mickey Callaway, who was with Jackson last season in Cleveland, pointed to his skills on the field and clubhouse leadership to younger players when the outfielder was signed.
“I think we talked about it when we first got him, about his approach and his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field,” Callaway said. “His approach in BP is really good, it allows him to cover a lot of pitches.”
Jackson might not be in the plans for 2019 and beyond but this isn’t the same as seeing Jose Reyes in the starting lineup when Jeff McNeil was still in the minors.
The Mets don’t have much outfield depth and Jackson has been their best hitter over the last two weeks. In Wednesday’s 8-0 win over the Reds, Jackson delivered an RBI double in the second, an RBI single in the fifth, and an RBI double in the eighth.
Jackson is hitting .438 with two home runs and eight RBI since joining the Mets. “He’s done a great job for us,” Callaway said.
It’s been a well traveled road for Jackson who was drafted by the Yankees but was traded to the Tigers before reaching the majors in a deal that brought Curtis Granderson to the Bronx.
He was an exciting young player, finishing second in the 2010 Rookie of the Year voting and then leading the league in triples in 2011 and 2012. Callaway noted his ability to cover the plate, including the fastball away. “I remember seeing and noticing that when he was in Detroit when I had to gameplan against him,” Callaway said. “He really stayed through the middle of the field, he was hard to pitch to. You just had to execute pitches. It seems like he’s got that comfort level back.”
Then he bounced around. The Mariners, Cubs, White Sox, Indians, Giants, and now the Mets. Jackson played 59 games with the Giants this season before being traded to the Rangers, who subsequently released him.
Nobody could have imagined the Mets would be in this position all those months ago when the team was counting on Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares. Dom Smith even had to patrol the outfield this season. Jackson has given the team professional at-bats, even though he’s wearing number 16 which should be retired for Dwight Gooden.
By Opening Day 2019, many Mets fans might not remember Jackson even being here. But he’s making the most of his opportunity.