It seems like each year, the New York Mets catch lightning in a bottle by finding one player whose performance goes far beyond what anyone expected.
Who will that one person be this year?
I think the answer is Justin Turner. Since he was called up on April 19, he has hit .333 with one home run and 12 RBI in 17 games.
Not too shabby, right? And those numbers are from a player who, prior to 2011, had a .114 major league batting average.
I realize that the sample size is small and there is a whole lot of season left, but thus far Turner has truly been impressive. Sure his average might taper off a bit, but I could still see him providing a solid stick off the bench.
Though minor-league success does not always mean success at the next level, Turner has proven that he can hit—on the farm, at least—as he posted a .316 batting average in 2010. And, notably, he was a Pioneer League All-Star in 2006 and a Midwest League All-Star in 2007.
Defensively, he is an asset due to his versatility. In 2010, for example, he spent only nine games in the big leagues, yet played three different positions. In the minors, he spent considerable time at second base, third base and shortstop, with a few games in the outfield to boot.
Unfortunately, prior to this year, he was unable to successfully carry over his minor league accomplishments into the big leagues. But this season, things seem to have changed.
Alas, and there is always an alas, if Turner does perform above and beyond what we expect, there is some bad news: these one or two surprises that crop up each year normally do not maintain their performance for more than a season.
Indeed, it is truly difficult for these sudden, surging studs to keep it up into the next year.
For example, in 2010, R.A. Dickey surprised baseball by posting a 2.84 ERA in 27 games for the Mets, after never posting an ERA below 4.62 in any prior season. This year, he’s back to his old ways, as he is currently 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA.
Jeff Francoeur was traded to New York in July 2009 after batting .250 for the Atlanta Braves—and all he did was finish the year by hitting .311 the rest of the way for the Mets. Then the struggles returned in 2010 and he was shipped off.
As stated, it happens with almost all those, well, one-year wonders. They are those diamonds that, upon closer inspection, frequently turn out to be cubic zirconia.
But maybe Justin Turner will be different. Perhaps, he will continue his hot hitting and slick fielding through the end of this year and beyond. Perhaps, just perhaps, he will hit well into 2012 and the Mets might catch lightning in a bottle—twice.
They could not do it with Dickey or Francoeur or Jose Valentin (remember his 2006 season?). Desi Relaford, Jae Weong Seo and Eric Valent came and went. But Turner might continue to surprise, perennially.
I don’t know. Perhaps I am being too optimistic—I am already looking years ahead into Turner’s career and he has only played 17 games this season.
Perhaps I am just looking for a glimmer of hope in a season, barely a quarter over, that has already filled some Mets fans with doom, gloom and despair.
Or maybe, maybe, the lightning has struck and been caught once more—for Justin Turner has definitely shown some flashes of brilliance.