Former home-run champ José Bautista made his debut for the Mets in left field last night, a string of words that becomes far less impressive once you realize that he was only available because he’d just been released by the Atlanta Braves after he hit a dismal .143 for them in twelve games as a nominal third baseman. It’s a testament to how hard it’s been to find anyone in Flushing who can bat right-handed and play the outfield: Incumbent slugger Yoenis Cespedes is in the midst of one of his annual disabled-list stints, and Juan Lagares interrupted his surprise bounceback season (.339 batting average, to go with his usual Gold Glove–caliber fielding) by kicking an outfield wall and tearing a ligament in his big toe, putting him out for the rest of the year. Under those conditions, Bautista looks, if you squint, maybe, like an almost-reasonable option.
And so the man called Joey Bats joins a long string of players — current Mets first baseman Adrián González, a forty-year-old Gary Sheffield in 2009, a 36-but-he-hit-like-he-was-much-older-year-old Michael Cuddyer in 2015 — to enjoy a transition into senescence in blue and orange. Baseball Twitter, as will probably not surprise you, has already taken notice:
There is so much competition for this title but the Mets' long-running organizational dedication to serving as a sort of hospice for veteran players—a quiet, sort-of-dignified place to get the last 150 at-bats of your career—is up there.
— David Roth (@david_j_roth) May 22, 2018
"Look I got you a Batista, you like Batista, right?"
"Pfft, like 5 years ago, dad"
"Alright fine, where's your mother keep the beer in this place?"
— Matthew Callan (@scratchbomb) May 22, 2018
OK, so it’s fun to poke fun at the Mets, as one does. But this being 2018, I figured there must be some way to actually quantify this observation: Are the Mets truly unique in providing solace to aging sluggers in their twilight days? So I came up with a simple metric to look at recently retired players with more than 300 career homers, and rank them by the percentage of lifetime homers struck for their final team, or Marginal Efficiency of Taters Smashed by Last Observed Landing:
Player: HR with final team/total HR, team, final year, METSLOL
Manny Ramirez: 0/555, Rays, 2011, 0.00%
Juan González: 0/434, Indians, 2005, 0.00%
Gary Gaetti: 0/360, Red Sox, 2000, 0.00%
Rubén Sierra: 0/306, Twins, 2006, 0.00%
Richie Sexson, 1/306, Yankees, 2008, 0.33%
Steve Finley: 1/304, Rockies, 2007, 0.33%
Adam Dunn: 2/462, A’s, 2014, 0.43%
Jim Thome: 3/612, Orioles, 2012, 0.49%
Jim Edmonds: 3/393, Reds, 2010, 0.76%
Greg Vaughn: 3/355, Rockies, 2003, 0.85%
Miguel Tejada: 3/307, Royals, 2013, 0.98%
Carlos Lee: 4/358, Marlins, 2012, 1.12%
Lance Berkman: 6/366, Rangers, 2013, 1.64%
Mike Piazza: 8/427, A’s, 2007, 1.87%
Iván Rodríguez: 6/311, Nationals, 2011, 1.93%
Gary Sheffield: 10/509, Mets, 2009, 1.96%
Derrek Lee: 7/331, Pirates, 2011, 2.11%
Luis Gonzalez: 8/354, Marlins, 2008, 2.26%
Jason Giambi: 11/440, Indians, 2014, 2.50%
Vladimir Guerrero: 13/449, Orioles, 2011, 2.90%
José Canseco: 16/462, White Sox, 2001, 3.46%
David Justice: 11/305, A’s, 2002, 3.61%
Moisés Alou, 13/332, Mets, 2008, 3.92%
Reggie Sanders, 13/305, Royals, 2007, 4.26%
Shawn Green, 14/328, Mets, 2007, 4.27%
One note: This chart excludes players who finished up their careers by returning to their old teams for a victory lap, or else we’d be muddying the waters with the likes of Harold Baines (one home run with the White Sox in 2001, 0.26 percent) and Ken Griffey Jr. (nineteen dingers for the Mariners in 2010, 3.02 percent). Only players signed because their new employers were under the delusion they can actually still play need apply.
While the Mets show up three times, for notable tail-enders Gary Sheffield, Moisés Alou, and Shawn Green, you’ll note they’re by no means the all-time champeens of old-age home-dom: The forever bargain-hunting Oakland A’s beat them out on this list for their own aged troika of Adam Dunn, Mike Piazza, and David Justice.
All that could change, though, depending on how the 2018 season goes for the Mets and their current crop of graybeards. González, acquired in the offseason to see if he could regain his 2015 All-Star form, has answered with a resounding “not really,” contributing five homers so far (1.58 percent) but not much else. And Bautista has yet to go yard in his one game in royal-blue pinstripes, so if he keeps up this non-pace and retires from baseball as a Met, he’d slot in right at the top of this list. Adding those two would give the Mets three of the top twenty players of this century in METSLOL, and four of the top 25, cementing their place as the old-age home of choice for not-quite-retired longball artists. Just one more reason for Mets fans to hope that Bautista enjoys a pleasant retirement — and soon.