I’ve been a Met fan for as long as I can remember. I could say since 1967, but I was two-years-old and don’t really remember much. I could have been swayed to the Yankees at the time, since when people would ask me who my favorite baseball player was and I would reflexively answer “Mickey Mantle”: he was the only player whose name I knew. But my Dad was a Met fan, so he and 1969 made sure that didn’t take. I’m eternally grateful for that, but that’s one of the great “What ifs?” of my life. In any case, I was for sure a Met fan by the time I got to my first game in 1973.
That’s kind of a long way to go just to say that I’ve seen a lot of men wear the orange-and-blue (and sometimes black). With that in mind, I’m starting a new – at least occasional — series here at the ol’ 360, “Mets Then & Now.” I’ll be looking back at Met teams of yesteryear – the great and the horrid – and comparing and contrasting individuals (mostly) or entire squads (sometimes) with the modern day counterpart, if not equivalent. To me, it’s not always a matter of hard statistics, but also of perception. This is where the fan in me will come out – player A of today reminds me a lot of player B from 1962-2010. This may or may not be backed up by fWAR or OPS+.
Which brings us to the two mentioned in the title.
A quick glimpse of Baseball-Reference.com tells me that these two players are nothing alike statistically. Steve Henderson would hit you more than a few home runs and steal you a couple of bases a year. Angel Pagan will steal you more than a few bases and hit you a couple of home runs a year. Henderson was a so-so defensive left fielder and Pagan is an occasionally brilliant centerfielder. Henderson finished second to future Hall-Of-Famer Andre Dawson for the 1977 Rookie Of The Year award; Pagan appeared on nobody’s ballot his first year.
They look and play an awful lot alike to this untrained eye. The will both get a big hit when it’s needed – in Henderson’s case, a legendary one – and they can both make the surprising defensive play. They both have shown a disturbing propensity to lose their respective “baseball instincts” in the field and on the bases at the wrong time, but their overall games could both be considered exciting and entertaining. And, they both represent something to the franchise: the trying present and the promising future. Both players are fine as starters for a team going nowhere and could be valuable spare parts for a contender.
After four years, Henderson was dispatched to Chicago in exchange for the less-than-triumphant return of Dave Kingman, and while that was ultimately unsuccessful in result, the process was a good one. That trade was the first major splash of the Frank Cashen era – the first attempt to win back fans who had defected after the Midnight Massacre, ironically enough the night Steve Henderson arrived.
One can’t help but wonder if Angel Pagan will face a similar end to his Met days as Sandy Alderson upgrades the current squadron with a sensible process as well.