It’s getaway day today (4/26) and the Mets are looking to sweep the Marlins before heading to Colorado, even as we speak. The lineup looks like this:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis – CF
Ruben Tejada – SS
Daniel Murphy – 2B
David Wright – 3B
Lucas Duda – RF
Ike Davis – 1B
Josh Thole – C
Jordany Valdespin – LF
Jonathon Niese – P

There’s a good reason if you get the feeling that this grouping has a distinct Buffalo/New Orleans/Tidewater tinge to it. This is the first time in 41 years that the Mets have fielded a completely homegrown lineup.

I mentioned earlier that I went to my first game of the year last Friday. What I failed to mention was the feeling in and around the ballpark that night. It was different than in years past. There wasn’t the feeling that good news was merely a prelude to disaster. It was a good night to be at the ballpark and while a win would be nice, it wouldn’t be a referendum on our existence if it didn’t happen (It didn’t). The clouds seemed to have parted. The glum fatalism that has engulfed the place since the gates first opened in 2009 was mysteriously, miraculously muted. I wouldn’t say it’s completely gone yet, but it was no longer the prevailing color. The atmosphere was closer to 1985 than 2010. Maybe the closer, blue walls have something to do with it. Maybe the smallish, hearty band of us pulled together and mitigated the pall – in response to the San Francisco rooters, chirpy to the brink of obnoxiousness.

My money’s on the fact that the majority of the guys on the field came up through the Mets’ system. These are players we’ve been hearing about for years. These are players we’ve been watching with cautious optimism, peering down into the bushes to do so. These are guys some of us have been pinning our hopes on since Shea shuttered at the end of ’08. They’re growing up as we are. We’re monitoring their maturity, their readiness and steadiness. We’re finally seeing some of them tested on the field of battle, with the cream of the pasture still to come – I’m looking at you Matt Harvey, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia.

Say what you might about the Omar Minaya regime – and Lord knows I have – but he stocked some nifty little players during his tenure, it turns out. Now what remains is to do is wait, watch and revel in what rewards they may provide. Or not. The good news is that Sandy Alderson suffers from no Omaresque myopia regarding other aspects of the team and he’s plain-spoken about what should come next. He harbors no illusion about his team’s position in the success cycle and is more interested in enhancing the bedrock on which any organization is built than on fighting the last war – his bullpen romance of the winter notwithstanding. It’s pretty exciting.

And for those of you wondering, that homegrown lineup that Gil Hodges ran out there on September 24, 1971 looked like this:

Ted Martinez – 2B
Bud Harrelson – SS
John Milner — LF
Ed Kranepool – 1B
Mike Jorgensen – CF
Ken Singleton – RF
Duffy Dyer – C
Tim Foli – 3B
Jerry Koosman – P

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley

12 comments on “2012 Mets: Homegrown Is Where The Heart Is

  • Brian Joura

    That 1971 lineup is pretty interesting – Jorgensen in CF and Foli at 3B must have been quite the sight. I know he played a bunch there in his career but I’m not overly fond of Milner in LF, either. But any lineup with Duffy Dyer starting is a good one!

    I would be very interested to see other franchises and how long it’s been since they fielded a totally homegrown lineup. I mean, 41 years seems like a really long time but it’s extremely hard to do nine guys you drafted/signed. Just look at the Yankees. At a quick glance, here are their homegrown guys: Cano, Jeter, Gardner, Nunez, Nova, Hughes, Rivera, Robertson, Phelps. They only have nine homegrown guys and five of them are pitchers.

  • Chris

    For some inexplicable reason, I find this just awesome. Great perspective Charlie. I live in Tennessee, so its not easy to get to games and see the feel of things in citi.

  • Doug Parker

    I’m not sure what it means (if anything) that the two other times this happened it was September, and they had been eliminated from the race. And now it is April. Half full or half empty?

  • AJ

    I’ve heard mentioned a couple of times now something noted in this article, how Omar Minaya was the one to sign most of these current home-grown Metsies. The old regime deserves some credit for this, but here’s what I’d like to know – how many of these young players would have been dealt away to sign big name, big contract players who’s best days were behind them? The really great thing about the all home-grown team that took the field today is that they represent the great change in the organization’s philosophy. For the time being at least, the Mets have quit trying to play Yankee ball.

    One of the pleasures of watching the season so far has been observing how the players on this team interact. These fellas all know each other, having played together at various levels in the farm system for years, and they seem to have a well developed sense of camaraderie. They seem to enjoy playing together. I still don’t think they’ll be more than a .500 team this year, but that’s still an improvement over the last few seasons. Most importantly, being a Met fan is actually fun again.

    • Dan Stack

      Agree 100 %, there is great feeling of pride when a team like the one assembled for this year trots out there.

    • Brian Joura

      Minaya did acquire veterans but for the most part they were free agent pickups. He made three big trades for veterans where he traded prospects/youngsters. Two of those he got Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado. The third was when he got Paul Lo Duca.

      Phil Humber might have been the biggest piece that he dealt away. And Humber just had success last year for the first time, on his fourth organization.

      Minaya traded overrated prospects from the previous administration. If anything, he was too hesitant to trade top prospects to get much-needed help for the 2007 and 2008 teams.

      • AJ

        Point well taken, Brian. I’ll rephrase what I said: How many of these young players on the Mets’ current mostly home-grown team would have had the chance they have today, and how many would have been used as trade bait or been still playing in Buffalo because the starting big league roster was taken up by big name, big contract guys who’s best years were behind them? Even now, we’re getting to see what Valdespin can do only because Jason Bay, the last of the Minaya big name signings, is on the disabled list.

        That’s the point I wanted to make. And maybe it’s wrong to blame Minaya – maybe he just did things the way he did because that’s what the Wilpons wanted him to do, to try and out-Yankee the Yankees. And maybe this current mode of operation, the building from within, is just a passing phase and the team will revert back to buying the biggest names out there as soon as the money starts flowing again. I don’t know. I hope not, because I like it a lot better the way it is now.

        • Metsense

          It is fun to watch this group, but admittedly 2006 was alot more fun. This is a transition year where the Mets can evaluate this group with very little fan expectations. The evaluation will determine who is the “core”. Minaya did sign this group but is there a Reyes or Wright in this group? I agree with AJ that these young players would have been held back due to signings of big names. It is still happening when Bay was being trotted out everyday. In 2012 leftfield is going to cost the Mets 16.5M. That is 16M for Bay and .5M for his backup. If the backup is better than Bay, he should play or platoon, and the production for the 16.5M spent will bring better value. Players need to be held accountable for their production and management needs to have the fortitude to reduce their playing time when they underachieve.

        • Brian Joura

          Minaya came in and the team on the field was terrible (71-91) and the minor league system was not much (if any) better. He upgraded both. The results in the majors were quicker and easier to see. But he did a good job in building up depth and his hand were somewhat tied in acquiring star quality for the minors because of the forfeiture of top draft picks to sign free agents.

          Minaya had many faults – over reliance on veterans who performed for him, poor structuring of contracts, allowing Tony Bernazard to remain in a position of power, questionable managerial hirings, poor bench construction – but as a talent evaluator he was good.

          One of the criticisms of the 2007-08 Mets was that they had top shelf talent but very few complementary pieces. Minaya deserves some blame for that but, in my opinion, an equal or greater share of the blame lies with the Phillips/Duquette GM years where the farm system produced very little. Minaya left Sandy Alderson with Thole, Davis, Murphy, Tejada, Nieuwenhuis, Duda, Niese, Pelfrey and Gee. What did Phillips/Duquette leave for Minaya? Look at that 2005 Mets team, the first under Minaya and see how little came from the farm system.

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  • Chris F

    Well, I still feel it was cool. It sent me the message that we have enough MLB talent in the farm to think it is going the right direction. I have a ball from that game pitched by Niese to Thole.

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