With the 2013 minor league season not far in our rear-view mirror, we wanted to reflect on what was an overall fantastic season for New York’s farm teams. We’ve sent team-specific questions to some of our minor league expects who follow particular affiliates closely, in order to get their opinion on the 2013 season. Over the next week or two, we’ll be revealing their answers right here on Mets Minors.
Was there a certain point where you knew the B-Mets were headed for a record breaking season?
I doubt if the thought of a franchise record breaking season was on the mind of any Binghamton Met fan at the start of the 2013 baseball season. A string of losing seasons had suppressed the expectations of B-Met fans in recent years with the 2004 season the last time a B-Met team had won more games than it had lost.
The 2013 campaign started well, but by no means spectacularly. A 14-12 April and 17-13 May left B-Met fans feeling good about their Binghamton baseball product, but not anticipating a record breaking season. All that began when the calendar page of May turned to June.
The B-Mets went on a tear winning nine of their first ten games. All but two of those wins came on the road creating a mystique and heightened sense of anticipation that this summer we had something special. I’m not sure even then B-Met fans were thinking franchise record setting team, but we knew we were in the running for a possible championship run and some great summer baseball fun.
Rather than exact moments, certain events might have shaped a sense of destiny in this B-Met run for the record books. I can think of three or four such factors. The first factor may have actually taken place in the winter when B-Met manager Pedro Lopez guided the Criollos de Caguas on a championship run in his homeland of Puerto Rico. That title run was the highlight of Lopez’s baseball career, and the B-Met skipper arrived in Binghamton this spring with that championship taste still in his mouth and hungry for more.
Lopez was more than eager this spring telling anyone who would listen that his B-Mets had unfinished business to attend to in 2013; winning an Eastern League championship. Lopez declared the city and people of Binghamton deserved a baseball title and he and his team intended to go out and win one. Over and over, Lopez repeated that refrain. I believe that Lopez message had a major impact on the mental set his team brought north to start the season.
The second critical factor was a personnel decision Lopez made sometime in mid May or there about. At the start of the season the B-Met manager was attempting to utilize the blazing foot speed of center fielder Alonzo Harris in the lead-off spot of the batting order. Although Harris is a great base stealer, he struggled at the plate. As a result, the B-Met offense often sputtered.
All that was abated with the Lopez move to move second baseman Daniel Muno to the top of the order. A tough, old school baseball prospect, that shift was a lightning bolt to the B-Met offense. Muno worked long pitch counts, had a .384 OBP, hit with pop (27 2B’s) and came through in the clutch plating 67 RBIs. With Muno leading off, the B-Met fortunes headed north immediately.
Almost at the same time, Lopez readjusted his line-up to elevate Cesar Puello from the six hole to the third spot. Puello went wild with an offensive onslaught like none other since I have followed Binghamton baseball. Puello hit with power, had the team’s highest batting average, and led the team in stolen bases (24) before his suspension. A .403/.547/.950 OPS assured that Allan Dykstra, who followed Puello would see more good pitches and Dykstra thrived, also a contributing factor in a record breaking year. It was no mystery to me why Dykstra’s offensive output began to tail off some after the Puello suspension.
The final factor that sealed the deal in a record breaking season in Binghamton’ was the bullpen. From day one, Lopez had multiple arms from both the right side and left to help preserve games in the late innings. All summer long it seemed when one arm would depart another, equally compelling option would present itself. From the left side Lopez used Jack Leathersich, Adam Kolarek, Chase Hutchingson, and later in the season Perpetual Pedro Feliciano. From the right side John Church was the early season mainstay with Chasen Bradford and even Frank Francisco chipping in down the stretch. Of course, when the ninth inning rolled around, Lopez could call on the greatest closer in B-Met history and the second leading saves leader in Eastern League history to close the door.
In my opinion, it was these factors that drove the engine in Binghamton’s record breaking baseball ride this summer.