The sad side of the Dellin Betances deal for the New York Mets is one few will discuss, yet Sam Haggerty deserves the attention.
I love the Dellin Betances signing. I can’t get enough of the move.
The criticisms don’t make sense to me: the New York Mets are getting a reliever who is one of the best in baseball (when healthy) without giving up talent or prospects in return for a short-term team-friendly rate. He brings the Mets’ bullpen several steps forward, and, for the first time, provides hope that 2020 might bring something other than a third-place finish.
Signing Betances is a great deal. But it’s also a stark reminder that baseball is played by humans, and good news for a team and its fans usually equals bad news for someone else.
Here’s the first paragraph of the Mets’ press release, announcing the signing:
“The New York Mets today announced that the club has signed four-time All-Star RHP Dellin Betances to a one-year contract with a player option for 2021. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mets designated infielder Sam Haggerty for assignment.”
Betances is making millions. Mets fans are rightly ecstatic. And Sam Haggerty is probably wondering what happens next.
Remember Sam Haggerty? Some fans first heard his name when the Mets released a rather heartwarming video of Haggerty getting the news from Syracuse Mets manager Tony DeFrancesco that he would join the big-league club in September. The video came out on Sept. 3. On Sept. 4, Haggerty made his debut in the eighth inning against the Nationals as a pinch-runner. He didn’t score, but the Mets won 8-4.
Two days later, Haggerty pinch-ran again, and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning against the Phillies. In the ninth, Pete Alonso earned a walk-off walk, and the Mets won 5-4.
Haggerty still hadn’t taken his first major league at-bat. That came on Sept. 11, as emotions flowed through Citi Field and Alonso proved himself captain material.
Haggerty pinch-hit for Paul Sewald in the eighth. The Mets were already up 9-0. Haggerty worked a seven-pitch at-bat but struck out swinging. The 9-0 score held up, and though Haggerty didn’t come up with a hit, the Mets had won again.
There’s no need to rehash every appearance Haggerty made as a pinch-runner or to provide blow-by-blow commentary on his four at-bats. Two simple facts sum up his Mets career so far…
Firstly, at age 25, Haggerty appeared in 11 games for the Mets. He mostly appeared as a pinch-runner. He took four at-bats, struck out three times and never got a hit.
Secondly, in the 11 games in which Haggerty appeared, the Mets were 10-1.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean Haggerty won 10 games for the Mets, and it doesn’t mean that designating him for assignment to make room for Betances was a bad idea. What it does mean, though, is that Sam Haggerty, a few months ago, a gleeful youngster fulfilling a lifelong dream by getting his first taste of professional baseball, may now never play for the Mets again.
For Haggerty, it’s probably back to the minors. Back to long bus rides and cheap hotels, small stadiums in small towns. But I hope the memories of those few weeks in Queens will keep him going. It would be a shame for Haggerty to have missed his chance and to never have an opportunity to step back into the box and get that first hit.
All MLB careers end eventually. Some end because players decide they’ve had enough or can’t hack it at the major league level anymore. But too many end for far more frustrating reasons. A team can’t afford to hang onto its 27th-best player in a 25-man league. A sixth outfielder is one too many.
So players like Haggerty, who’ve worked hard for years or decades, just can’t find a spot. Maybe, for a few blissful weeks, they play on an MLB field in front of tens of thousands of fans — not to mention, they make a major-league salary for as long as they stay in the big leagues. But for the players on the margins, every day is a tightrope. Suddenly something happens. The team signs an all-star reliever. They need a roster spot, so someone is going to lose theirs.
It’s a necessary part of baseball, but it’s still a sad one. Fans would do well to remember the players on the wrong sides of transactions. For every all-star acquisition, someone needs to be cut. For every fan celebrating a new star, there’s a player wondering if they’ve played their last major league game.
I hope Haggerty catches on somewhere. Maybe he’ll come back to Citi Field one day in a visitor’s uniform. Maybe we’ll even get to see his first career hit. I just hope it doesn’t come off Dellin Betances.
If he’s giving up hits to Sam Haggerty, we may have a problem.
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