As we watch the Mets struggle with injuries and put secondary players into the everyday lineup, the never-ending talk of leadership reared it's ugly head yesterday when David Wright responded to a comment made by former Mets closer and hometown son, John Franco.
In a rather gentle way—which is the (W)right way—David basically told John that he does not know what goes on in the Mets clubhouse, so he really isn't qualified to make that kind of statement.
Rather than adding fuel to that debate, I thought we should look back at Mets in the past that were gritty players and defined leadership to the Nth degree.
My earliest memory of such a player was the first tough, gritty, no-nonsense type of player who Mets fans immediately identified as a player they could call their own.
That player: Ron Hunt.
He was born on Feb. 23, 1941 in St Louis, MO. He broke into the major leagues as the second baseman for the New York Mets in 1963 and played there through the 1966 season.
Ron's speciality was to get hit by the pitch. In 1963, the Mets needed base runners, and Casey Stengel didn't care how that happened.
Ron has told reporters that they even had a signal that Casey would flash from the dugout to the third base coach which actually called for Hunt to be hit by the pitch.
Ouch, very big ouch.
This became his signature trademark and contribution to the game.
Ron has attributed this to be his motto: "Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball.”
During his years with the Mets, Ron was hit 45 times. From 1968 through 1974 he led the league in this painful category with a total of 192 HBP. In 1971 he was hit a ridiculous 50 times, falling one HBP short of the major league record.
In 12 (what had to be very sore) seasons, Ron had some very respectable statistics.
He played in 1487 games. In 5235 at bats, he collected 1429 hits with 223 doubles, 23 triples, and 39 HRs.
He drove in 370 runs with 65 stolen bases, 555 walks, and 382 strike outs. Striking out seven times out of every 100 at bats is a huge statistic.
Add 243 HBP and you'll find that Ron Hunt was not an easy out.
Overall, his lifetime BA .273 with a .368 OBP and .715 OPS. Those are very respectable career numbers.
The following is copied from Ron Hunt's Instructional Baseball Program.
Since 1986 Ron Hunt has been teaching the fundamentals of baseball at his facility in Missouri. He is now offering group and one-on-one instruction either at his facility or he will travel to your hometown.
Dedicated players and coaches of all ages are taught all aspects of the game 'personally' from Ron Hunt, 12-year major league veteran.
Over the years Ron Hunt's players and coaches have had one thing constant…discipline!
He teaches the mental aspects of the game as well as the physical regimen. Ron's students may not always have the most ability on the field, but they do have the most heart, desire, and dedication towards the game.
His credo: executing basic fundamentals on routine plays, not committing mental errors, and maintaining a never give up attitude.
What are the benefits of his program?
Ron Hunt teaches the game of baseball personally to each and every player and coach and will provide exposure to college and professional scouts if warranted.
Along with the fundamentals of baseball, there are many other principles of life that are part of the learning experience in his program. These include self-discipline, getting along with others, taking responsibility upon oneself, being a team player, and equality.
Since 1986, 95 percent of Ron's summer program players have received college scholarships (20 of which did not play high school baseball) and 11 have been drafted.
Nineteen players from other organizations have received scholarships through association with the Ron Hunt Eagles Baseball Association, and nine have been drafted.
Ron Hunt was the right player for the right team at the right time. Maybe, just maybe, when one of these 10 million dollar a year players get into a rut at the plate and can't hit himself out of a paper bag, he will let the pitch take a chunk out of his hide and I bet that slump ends the very next at bat.
Ron Hunt. Now there was a leader.