The sweet irony of Lucas Duda

OK, let’s address the elephant in the room right away: that throw. That throw lives in Mets’ infamy along with Carlos Beltran’s take, Timo Perez’s trot, Dwight Gooden’s fastball, Luis Castillo’s drop and Yogi Berra’s pitching rotation. Yes, that throw. In game five of the 2015 World Series, with the Mets fighting for their lives – down three games to one to the Kansas City Royals – they took a 2-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning. The fans at Citi Field, of which I was one, were howling to let manager Terry Collins send Matt Harvey out to the mound to finish off his heretofore magnificent performance. The howling dimmed when Harvey walked the leadoff hitter, the swift Lorenzo Cain. On the first pitch to Eric Hosmer, the next hitter, Cain stole second. Hosmer knocked Cain home with a double over the head of left fielder Michael Conforto. After Mike Moustakas grounded out, sending Hosmer to third, Salvador Perez hit a three-hopper to third. David Wright scooped it up and made a looping throw to first baseman Lucas Duda for the second out. As Duda reached out to snare it, though, Hosmer made a mad dash for home. The surprised Duda made a hard peg to the plate with a chance to end the game. If Duda makes an accurate throw, he would nail Hosmer by three steps and the Mets would take game five. After that, back in Kansas City, who knows what could happen? A rejuvenated Jacob deGrom could have evened the Series in game six and Noah Syndergaard was built to pitch a game seven, even as a rookie. Who knows…?

Well, we know. Duda’s throw sailed wide to the right of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, Hosmer dove for the plate and scored, the game was now tied and the Royals started frolicking as if they’d already won. We Met fans pretty much knew they already had, even though the torture lasted until the twelfth inning, when Kansas City plated five insurmountable runs.

To be fair, Duda was never known for his glove. He’s a big, quiet, Li’l Abner-looking kind of guy. He came to spring training as a largely unknown in 2009, looking like so many hulking AAAA-caliber sluggers the Mets seem so adept at finding. He found himself in lineups for his home run bat and not much else. But the Mets’ brain trust saw something besides brute strength and brought him up for the proverbial cup o’ coffee in late 2010. He rode the Buffalo shuttle for 2011, playing most of his major league games at first base. Making the big club for good in 2012, he was tried in the outfield for two seasons, to mainly disastrous results. He finally found a home at first base in 2014, winning the position battle from the injury-plagued, eventually-traded Ike Davis. Here, he blossomed, becoming one of the top sluggers in the National League with 30 home runs, 92 RBI, an .830 OPS and garnering enough votes to finish 22nd in the MVP balloting. In that pennant year of 2015, he missed 27 games due to injury, but still managed 23 homers, 72 RBI, an .838 OPS and – always a streaky hitter — he was beyond clutch down the stretch of the pennant race. This shy, reluctant slugger, this quiet Californian was suddenly a New York hero.

In 2016, Duda spent most of the year on the shelf with a back injury. The Mets had to import veteran first baseman James Loney to make their successful playoff run in 2016, with Duda making rusty starts down the stretch. As the whole team fell apart last year, Duda became a trading chip. He was shipped to Tampa at the deadline for reliever Drew Smith. He never will live down that throw against the Kansas City Royals.

Yesterday, Lucas Duda signed as a free agent to play first base for the Kansas City Royals, replacing Eric Hosmer.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

13 comments for “The sweet irony of Lucas Duda

  1. b
    March 1, 2018 at 7:38 am

    sports are silly . you root and move on . 1973 seaver in game 7 discussion silly in 2018

  2. MattyMets
    March 1, 2018 at 8:36 am

    An imperfect player by an easy guy to root for. As crushing as that error was, it’s far from the main reason we lost the series. The team did not hit at all and Murphy’s glove also killed us.

    • Chris F
      March 1, 2018 at 10:21 am

      The situation was code red from the first batter: Escobar hits an inside the park HR with Ces lolly-gagging in the WS. It was over then.

      • March 1, 2018 at 12:01 pm

        Mets had the lead in the 9th that game.

        Heck, they had the lead in the 9th 4 games out of 5.

  3. jrgame
    March 1, 2018 at 8:59 am

    What never gets mentioned is how far inside the line (on the grass) Perez is running. Look at the photo- I think it affected Duda’s ability to make the play, and could have even warranted an interference call. To his credit, Duda didn’t gripe. Let’s face it, the Mets had four innings of chances after that and did nothing.

    B, I agree… it is silly. It is almost 45 years and Yogi, probably unfairly, took the brunt of the loss. But truth be told, Reggie and Campy were too much, and even HOF Seaver would have had a hard time stopping them.

    Charlie did a great job tying these moments together and reminding us of the irony of Duda replacing Hosmer only a few years later.

  4. TexasGusCC
    March 1, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Charlie, you’re right to cut straight to the chase with the most lasting memory of Lucas Duda, but I don’t choose to sentence him on that one play. Firstly, Wright cut in front of the shortstop, and Wright’s stray from the third base position allowed Hosmer to stray from third base. Secondly, Wright made a crappy soft toss to first which didn’t help matters. But, since then, we have seen Duda make that same exact throw in a regular season game: a sidearm peg to the plate. It was last year, and he threw it wide to the backstop then too.

    But, my beef with Duda was his penchant for the late game homerun when the game was out of reach either way, that made his OPS shiny nice, but made his clutch factor and “fan factor” stink. When the ducks were on the pond and the game was in the balance, Duda loved that “clutch walk” as Keith Hernandez calls it. Olden players that were RBI guys would talk about the need to expand the hit zone in order to get a runner home, and I believe in that also. Runs win games, and if you fancy yourself a run producer, you don’t keep taking pitches until you get so deep in the count that a walk or a strikeout are the likeliest results. But, that was Duda.

    Further, he has admitted to being able to focus more on his batting average, but that would lead to less homeruns (I don’t think it would be too much less, but…). T h i s is the reason he can’t get a real offer. I expecting Duda to have a big year. When people spoke about benching him against lefties, he came out and hit .287 for the year against them by putting in work all winter. However, he gets too comfortable and stops working. He has been embarrassed and if this doesn’t motivate him to wake up and focus better, he never will. He would have never improved if the Mets resigned him.

  5. Eraff
    March 1, 2018 at 11:55 am

    It’s become a tough world for “Good-not-great Hitting” one position LH 1st basement. If you’re not a 150 game 900 pound Gorilla and you can’t field another position, you’re probably the last guy to be added to a 1b platoon or a 4 man bench. Z

    Linde, Matt Adams, Duda… not sure if LOMO can still play outfield….. teams need more versatility if you’re not a Leading Man

  6. March 1, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    In hindsight, Lucus would have been better off signing the extension the Mets offered him two years ago.

  7. TJ
    March 1, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I wish the Dude well. It is unfair to just a career on one moment, even though that throw home was one of the worst plays in Met history, regardless of what Wright or anyone else did on that play…a high school level throw home had Hosmer dead, but the Dude stressed and made a crappy throw. It happens. Lastly, I can’t feel two sorry for a guy decades younger than me who will early perhaps double of my lifetime earnings this summer playing a kid’s game; he’ll be fine.

  8. Pete In Iowa
    March 1, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    The WS was lost when Familia decided to quick pitch Gordon in the ninth inning of Game 1 with a one run lead. Pooof. Set the tone for the entire series….

  9. Hobie
    March 1, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Since we’re replaying what cannot: Game 1 Yo in CF, Conforto in LF and K.Johnson as DH instead of Legares in CF & Conforto DH. Lagares eventually bumps Conforto & gets 2 hits.

    So it goes.

    • Mike Walczak
      March 1, 2018 at 9:17 pm

      Thats why we love baseball. It us unpredictable. Duda is one dimensional. Cant blame him for the loss. The Mets had plenty of chances.

      I loved that 73 team. They beat a much better Reds team to get to the WS and took the mighty A’s to 7 games. All of that from a .500 team.

      Who knows what 2018 will bring. I think this year there is much more volatility on the predictions on their record.

  10. Larry Smith
    March 4, 2018 at 7:31 am

    It’s not breaking news to say that the baseball salary structure is crazy. Looking at the stats for Eric Hosmer vs Lucas Duda you see that Hosmer has a career OPS of 781 (and a Marcel projection of 825 OPS for this coming season). Meanwhile Duda has a career OPS of 796 (Marcel projection 803).
    Hosmer will be paid $21 million per year through 2022 and then $13 million per year for the following three seasons. Meanwhile Duda gets $3.5 mill for this coming season.
    If you want to argue that Hosmer is a better play you’d have a case. But which team is going to get more value for its dollar is a no-brainer in favor of KC.

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