Happy February 29, everyone!
Terrence Long, according to a Baseball-Reference search, is the only Mets player to have a birthday on February 29, being born on that day in 1976. Long, a speedy outfielder, was drafted #20 overall by the Mets out of high school in Albama with one of the Mets’ three first round in the 1994 draft. (The Mets took Paul Wilson [#1] and Jay Payton [#29] with the other two picks.) Playing for the Capitol City Bombers in 1996 — the Mets’ Single-A affiliate at that time in the South Atlantic League — Long hit .288 and stole 32 bases, and Baseball America rated Long as the #63 prospect in baseball going into the next season.
Long’s stock fell a bit the next two seasons, and he ended up playing just three games for the Mets. He made his debut on April 14 of 1999, pinch hitting in the seventh inning. He struck out. He pinch hit in the sixth inning the next day and struck out again. Pinch hitting again on May 11, Long’s third and final plate appearance as a Met, he grounded into a double play.
The Mets then traded Long, along with minor league pitcher Leo Vasquez, to the Oakland Athletics for starting pitcher Kenny Rogers in July. Long became the starting center fielder for the Moneyball A’s in the early part of the 2000s, and received a handful of mentions in Michael Lewis’ book, including the following paragraph:
In the Oakland fourth, center fielder Terrence Long hits a grounder back to the pitcher, and runs hard down the first-base line. This is new. Heretofore, when Terrence Long has grounded out, he has trotted down the line with supreme indifference to public opinion. Too young to know that you are what you pretend to be, Terrence Long has nearly perfected the art of seeming not to care. As it happens, a few days ago, Terrence walked out into the players’ parking lot and discovered that someone had egged his car. Hearing of the incident, Billy [Beane] stopped by Terence’s locker and told him that he’d had an e-mail from the culprit, an A’s fan, who said he was furious that he’d paid money to watch Terrence Long jog the bases. The effect on Terrence Long was immediate. He went from jogging to first on a routine ground out to running as fast as he can until the first moment he can stop without pissing off Billy Beane. As he sprints down the line, Billy says that Terrence’s real problem is “his own self-doubt, exacerbated by the media. That’s one of the mistakes that young players make — they actually read the papers.”
– Michael Lewis, Moneyball
Long left the A’s after 2003. He played a season for the Padres, the Royals, and ended his career back in New York, playing 12 games for the Yankees in 2006.
And thus ends our Feb. 29 Mets-related coverage.
Speaking . . . er, writing of Moneyball, ESPN the Magazine has an interesting piece on A’s pitcher and amateur sabermagician, Brandon McCarthy:
During his injury-plagued seasons, McCarthy stumbled upon a humor blog run by some Harvard kids who used sabermetrics to lampoon traditional baseball thinking. The site was called FireJoeMorgan.com, a reference to the Hall of Fame second baseman and then-ESPN analyst who famously denounced advanced metrics. The website’s message immediately struck a chord. “To this day,” says McCarthy, “I still think it’s the greatest thing that’s ever been put on the Internet.”
– Eddie Matz, “Saviormetrics”
That’s right, apparently Fire Joe Morgan saved Brandon McCarthy’s career. McCarthy found FJM, started studying up on sabermetrics, and reinvented himself as a home-run-limiting, groundball machine who just led the American League in FIP last season. Cool piece from The Magazine. (Do people actually call “ESPN the Magazine” that?)
One last link, to one of my favorite pieces each spring. Faith and Fear in Flushing‘s goodbye blurbs to all the Mets who have left us this past year:
Luis Castillo? Until Friday night, not the Mets’ biggest problem. But he’s bearing the brunt now. Luis Castillo did not help the Mets win a very big ballgame. In fact, he lost it for them not because he isn’t good enough but because he didn’t play well enough. There’s a difference. If you’re not helping us win baseball games, you’re hurting us. If you’re hurting us, you shouldn’t be here. I don’t know why anyone would run a baseball team any other way.
– Faith and Fear in Flushing, “The Artists Formerly Known as Mets“
I’d say this, Toby Hyde’s prospect countdown, and Amazin’ Avenue’s Make-the-Mets-o-meter mark springtime for me. Those things, and the start of actual Spring Training. Enjoy your extra day of the year.