Mets Sunday Brunch 3/4/18: Remembering “Le Grande Orange”, Spring Training Injuries and What Happened to the Offense?

By Paul DiSclafani

REMEMBERING “LE GRANDE ORANGE”

Any Mets fan from my generation knows that Rusty Staub was “Le Grande Orange”.  He was a player that did not know the word “quit”, but is now fighting perhaps his last battle in a hospital down in Florida.  Staub’s kidneys are failing due to a staph infection.  Hopefully his condition will continue to improve.

Staub, now 73, played 23 season for five different teams, including two stints as a Met.  In his first tour of duty, from 1972-1975, he helped the Mets recover from their post 1969 World Championship fog by becoming a dynamic, yet injury plagued player and leading them back to the World Series in 1973.  Many younger Mets fans may remember Staub as one of the best pinch hitters in the game when he returned for his final tour from 1981-85.

Most of us will never forget his heroic performance in the 1973 playoffs.  In the first three games of the National League Championship series against the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds, Staub had already hit three home runs and driven in five.  In the 11th inning of Game 4, he tracked down a long fly ball from Dan Drieesen in Right Field at Shea, robbing him of an extra-base hit, making a spectacular catch and crashing into the wall, separating his right shoulder.  He missed the Pennant clinching Game 5 and sat out Game One of the World Series against Oakland.  Then, separated shoulder and all, he returned for Game 2, even though he couldn’t throw the ball overhand.  Out in Right Field, Staub had to flip the ball underhanded to a teammate when he fielded it.

How do you hit with a separated shoulder, you might ask?  Staub still managed to hit .423 against the A’s, driving in six runs and even somehow managing a home run in the World Series.  In just 10 post season games – six of them with a separated shoulder – Staub managed four home runs, 11 RBI and batted .341.

It was one of the most heroic performances I have ever seen on a baseball field, where players have to sometimes sit out a few games for a hang-nail.  Staub, who played three seasons in his first tour with the Montreal Expos, would have made a great hockey player.  Staub earned the nickname of “Le Grande Orange” for his hair color while with the Expos and was so popular, he was the first player to have a number retired by the franchise.

Later in his career, he returned to the Mets in 1981 and became a player-coach in 1982.  He was strictly a pinch hitter, but in 1983, he did tie two Major League Records; eight consecutive pinch hits and 25 RBI as a pinch hitter.  To cap off that amazing 1983 season, he hit a home run in his last AB and finished at exactly .300.

Some other Rusty Staub tidbits:

  • He is the only player to amass 500 hits for four (4) different teams and finished his career with 2,716 hits
  • He is the first Mets player to have 100 RBI in a season, finishing with 105 in 1975.  Gary Carter ted it in 1986 and Darryl Strawberry broke it in 1990 (108).
  • In his only injury free season (1974), he led the Mets in hits, RBI and AB’s
  • He was traded from the Houston Colt 45’s to Montreal prior to the 1969 season for Don Clendenon and Jesus Alou.  Clendenon threatened to retire from baseball rather than accept a trade to Houston because he didn’t get along with their new manager, Harry Walker.  Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn then ruled Clendenon could stay in Montreal and the Expos amended the deal.  Clendenon was traded to the Mets in June of that season and became a hero in our World Series run that season.
  • He played in the Major Leagues at just 19 years-old
  • With Detroit in 1978, he became the first player in baseball history to play all 162 games as a designated history and drove in 121 runs.

Of course, he became an even more beloved figure after his career with the “Rusty Staub Foundation”, founding the “New York Police and Fireman Widows’ and Children Benefit Fund”, raising more than $11 million prior to 9/11/2001 and more than $122 million after that.

SPRING TRAINING INJURIES?

Can we all just dial back our concern with Spring Training “injuries”?  Spring training is all about injuries as the players are preparing for the marathon known as the regular season.  If you are not getting soreness every day in the spring, you are not working hard enough.

Please don’t misunderstand me because I know all about the Mets history of injuries.  But if you are stressing about Cespedes having a sore shoulder in the first week of March, you are in for a long season.  If pitchers are experiencing elbow or shoulder injuries, that s a different thing.  But soreness?

How come there is no concern over Aaron Judge having just 3 AB’s (0-3) in the first nine games?  Clint Frazier has a concussion and may not be ready for opening day.  Jacoby Ellsbury has an oblique injury.  And yet Jacob deGrom missing a start dooms the season?  Oh my goodness – Cespedes has a sore shoulder, must be the new training staff!

I get it, we Mets fans are a little gun-shy regarding injuries.  But such gloom and doom on March 4th?

WHAT ABOUT THE OFFENSE?

Want to be concerned about anything, how about the offense?  A team that is geared to hit home runs hasn’t really done much of that.  Again, it is still very early, but this team can’t seem to string consecutive hits together.  You are not going to hit a lot of 3-run-homers if you can’t get on base.

The reality is the Mets have scored just 44 runs in 10 games and while on the surface, that 4.4 runs per game seems reasonable, that doesn’t always translate to wins and losses in the regular season.  Sometimes it’s not how many runs you score, it’s when you score them.  The Mets scored 29 of those 44 runs in their 3 wins (10,6 and 6) and a 7-7 tie.  That’s just 15 runs in six losses, including a shutout in a spring training game.  How do you not score a run in an exhibition game against of all teams, the Marlins?

Results in spring training are ludicrous to being with since early on pitchers are more concerned with working on mechanics and not situations and by the time you get past the sixth inning, players with numbers in the 70’s and no names on their jersey are walking up to the plate.

The Mets have played just 10 of their 33 scheduled exhibition games, so lets give it a chance shall we?  We can revisit this subject in about two weeks, I promise.

THIS AND THAT:

With all the media and fan uproar about Tim Tebow playing in exhibition games, a guy who has spent the last 18 months in the minor leagues working on baseball skills and improving them, why was there not even a ripple that Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson spent a week with the Yankees and got an AB in an exhibition game? I guess if you wear pinstripes, noting is considered a circus.  Doesn’t anyone remember “The Bronx Zoo”? … The more I see Brandon Nimmo play, the more I like him.  He’s hitting .417 with a HR and five RBI and can catch the ball … Gavin Cecchini is going to push Jose Reyes for a spot on the Opening Day roster.  He’s 5-11 at the plate (.455) with a .571 OBP and has already hit 2 HR.  Reyes is 1-11 and seems more than a step slow in the field … Syndergaard, Vargas, Harvey and Wheeler have combined for 12 innings and just 4 Earned Runs so far and 0 injuries to report.  What is the more valuable number to you?

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