On May 29th, 2022, Nick Plummer strode to the plate in the bottom of the 9th with the Mets down 4 to 3 to the Phillies. Plummer had not had a good first start in the big leagues. He had struck out twice in three appearances at the plate and mishandled a ball in the outfield. For Plummer, the trek to the big leagues had been arduous. After being drafted in the first round out of high school 2015, Plummer had struggled mightily in the low minors up until the pandemic shut the minor leagues down in 2020. By the time the Cardinals assigned him to Double-A ball in 2021, Plummer was considered a first round bust and more minor league filler than a part of the future for the Cardinals. Despite playing well that year, he was soon a free agent.
Then came the Mets, the first step on the path that led to Plummer’s trip to home plate on May 29th. No one expected much as he stepped into the batter’s box on the left side. No one thought this rookie, who appeared to be nothing more than what is dubbed a “Quardruple-A” player would do anything more than what he had done all night.
Then, in a moment, that all changed. Plummer, sitting on a fastball, turned a Corey Knebel pitch into a laser beam into the right field stands. Suddenly the Mets were tied and Plummer was a folk hero. Then came the next night, where Plummer had three hits in four at bats, including his second career home run, and knocked in four runs. Had the Mets found a diamond in the rough? What was going on? When will the other shoe drop?
Plummer may never have another hit for the Mets again. Those two days in May might be the apex of his career. Or it might be the beginning. Regardless of what his future entails, Plummer is additional proof that helps one believe this season could be a special one for the Mets.
Plummer is the most recent in a long line of players that make surprise contributions to good teams. In 1969, Al Weis, who had hit seven home runs in his career by that point in over 1600 plate appearances, hits a game tying home run in the 7th inning off of one of the best pitchers in the game at that time, Dave McNally, leading to an eventual Mets win and World Series championship. Lenny Harris, a veteran player seemingly one step away from his major league career ending at the age of 35, comes to the Mets in 2000 and is an ace pinch hitter the rest of the way, posting an astonishing 837 OPS to help the Mets on a run to the 2000 World Series. After being acquired on July 24th, 2015, from the Atlanta Braves, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, both seemingly washed up veterans long past their primes, made significant contributions down the stretch of the season and helped turn a team that was three games out of first place at the time of the trade into the team that won the division by seven games and made it to the World Series.
Why do these things seem to happen to good teams? Because good teams create scenarios where these things can happen. When a roster is built right, it allows for players like Plummer to have moments. The 2022 Mets have a well built team. They do all three things well on a baseball diamond that a team needs to succeed. The Mets score the second most runs per game in the National League and allow the second least amount of runs. The team is one of the best fielding teams in the league. When a team is playing like that, a player like Plummer, Harris, Uribe, Weiss and many others, can have their moments in the sun because the regulars and the stars of the team are taking up most of the load. But that’s also how great teams win. In a 162 game season, injuries happen. Players go into slumps. Pitchers have off days. The bad teams are the ones that when their starters go down, no one else steps up to the proverbial plate.
On May 29th and 30th, Plummer did. He did so to help replace an ailing Brandon Nimmo. He did his job and that’s what good teams need to win. Yes, the stars and starters are the most important, but the Plummer’s of the world are also necessary. Those players fill in the blanks, come out of the shadows and help win the occasional ball game that hangs in the balance when a starter has an off day. Their appearances are evidence of cohesion and unity in a clubhouse, of a player knowing his role and taking on that responsibility every time he is thrust onto a field, whether as a regular or not. When those elements align, it makes for great Baseball and is a precursor of success to come.