Jordany Valdespin gained a minor cult like following after he had some success during the 2012 season. I got to see Valdespin for a couple spring trainings before he made his MLB debut. I also watched him play a couple seasons in AA Binghamton. A line drive hitter with some speed, he never seemed like he could play SS at the MLB level. But he could hit.
If you have followed Jordany Valdespin over the past couple of seasons, you know there have been several up and downs. Mostly downs. The guy does have talent, but not enough of it has shown through for him to establish himself as a big league player. And of course, the clubhouse and personality issues have drawn more attention than his play on the baseball field. Valdespin’s performance over the past season made it easy for the Mets to cut bait with him.
In addition to his issues with the Mets authority and manager Terry Collins, Valdespin also rubbed his teammates the wrong way. He was not liked in the clubhouse. Two major times stand out. When he hit a walk-off grand slam, he was nearly punched out during his postgame interview with a pie from then Mets catcher John Buck. And of course, we all know about the time he admired a home run against the Pirates while the game was out of reach. When Pirates RHP Bryan Morris drilled him the next day, the team did nothing to either retaliate or back him up. When he was removed from the team’s 40 man roster last month, it rid the team from a player they no longer wanted. But it also released Valdespin from a place he no longer wanted to be. Valdespin signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins, one that does not include a major league camp invite. Personally I wish him well and hope he eventually enjoys some big league success.
During the 1988 season, the Mets were well on their way to another NL East title. Many say, including myself, that the 1988 Mets team was the best team they ever assembled, top to bottom. On August 28, 1988, the Mets brought up a 20 year old infielder named Gregg Jefferies, who would start 29 of the team’s 32 games to finish the season hitting .321 in 109 ABs. Jefferies would play all 7 games of the Mets/ Dodgers NLCS at 3B, moving starting 3B Howard Johnson to SS in a bold move. Jefferies managed to hit .333 that series (9-27) batting second in the team’s lineup all series.
The one similarity Jefferies and Valdespin had was the fact they both rubbed their teammates the wrong way. There are no other similarities, as Jefferies was extremely talented and would become a staple in the Mets lineup until he was traded to Kansas City after the 1991 season. But, before Jefferies was finally moved out of town, he may have singlehandedly taken down the team which was on a serious run when he joined it. The team chose to trade RHP Roger McDowell, whom Jefferies had never gotten along with, along with Lenny Dykstra to the Phillies for Juan Samuel in 1989. Dykstra, years later, accused Jefferies as being the player who destroyed the team, adding that he felt the Mets cho6se him over the rest of that team.
Lets say Valdespin was the real deal. At this moment, he is not, but many believed he could have become a regular on this team last season. What if that happened? Lets say Jordany became the Mets everyday CF. (Lets also assume he couldn’t play SS on a regular basis at the MLB level.) What if he had a 1988 Jefferies like run? Maybe got 400 ABs and hit something like .300, .325, 450. (Remember Valdespin is not a real OBP guy.) Lets assume he hit 30 2B, 9 3B, 15 HR and drove in 60 runs, scoring 60 more.
At this point, fans would be going nuts, especially with little else to root for. It would be a cult following, but the same issues would exist in the clubhouse. Is there a weird scenario where the Mets of now would choose to build a team around a player like that? Because they made that decision with Jefferies from 1989-1991. An easy decision to make now, especially with hindsight telling us that Valdespin can’t cut it at the MLB level and his 50 game suspension for his involvement with biogenesis. But what if he was as good as Jefferies was?