Mike Hessman, the Mets Bad-Ass Buffalo Bison SluggerBy: Sean Pidgeon
Today’s an off-day for the Mets, but SNY is not devoid of baseball. This afternoon SNY aired a Triple-A game between the Buffalo Bisons, New York’s AAA affiliate, and the Syracuse Chiefs, Stephen Strasburg’s practice buddies.
Strasburg pitched his final tune-up before his highly anticipated Major League debut for the Nationals sometime next week. Strasburg was dominant as usual, pitching 5 scoreless innings and striking out 5 with only 1 walk and 3 hits allowed. But this is the fifth dominant start I’ve seen Strasburg pitch on TV at the AAA level and it’s become ho-hum. Don’t get me wrong, I’m petrified at how badly he is going to dominant the Mets Varsity over the next four months. But the nice thing about watching this game was getting to see some familiar faces, like the young Ruben Tejada, who helped out at shortstop the first week of the season while Reyes recovered, and the useless Mike Jacobs, exiled to the minors (hopefully for life). Young Ruben even managed a single in his second at-bat against Strasburg.
But the man who caught my attention was the Bison third baseman, cleanup hitter Mike Hessman (Jacobs bats third). Hessman is the latest Crash Davis. Hessman, a 15th round draft pick of the Braves in 1996, has hit 329 career minor league home runs, including 219 at Triple-A. He spent nine years in the Braves organization, followed by five with the Tigers. In 2007, he was the International League MVP for Toledo, where he hit 31 HR and 101 RBI in 117 games. In 2008, he hit 34 home runs and played for the bronze medal winning U.S. Olympic Baseball team, where he was a teammate of Strasburg, the only (at the time) college player on the roster. He’s had four short call-ups over the years, and has hit 13 home runs at the Major League level in 168 at-bats.
This offseason, he signed as a minor league free agent with the Mets. He’s capable of playing first and third, though the Bison have put him at third, since Ike Davis (you may have heard of him) manned first at the beginning of the season and Mike Jacobs is spending his exile there now. Hessman played some outfield and shortstop in his younger days, but at 32 years old, first and third seem to be enough right now.
No, I’m not about to argue that the Mets should call Hessman up. He’s a non-prospect. His career slash line at the minor league level is a mediocre .232/.314/.461. But…he’s having another MVP caliber season. He’s by far the Bison’s best player (not best prospect). In 52 games (not counting today’s game), he has 18 home runs and 55 RBI. RBI is a flawed statistic, but averaging more than an RBI per game is damn good. His slash stats are .296/.376/.648. He has a steroid-Bondsian OPS of 1.024. And if I recall correctly, the Mets have given at-bats this season to duds like Catalanotto, Cora, GMJ, and of course Mike Jacobs, who batted friggin cleanup almost the whole first week.
Hessman is not on the 40 man roster, so someone would have to be DFA’d (maybe Ollie!!!) or DL’d to make room. And there are probably better options, like a soon-to-be healthy Daniel Murphy. But Hessman is a better hitter right now than the entirety of the Mets bench (Tatis included), and if the Mets do bring up someone not on the 40 man roster, I wouldn’t mind seeing Hessman get another shot at Major League pitching (but I swear I’ll gouge my eyes out if they bring up Mike !@#$%ing Jacobs again).