Taijuan Walker goes for win No. 8 on Thursday afternoon when the right-hander totes the mound as the New York Mets finish a key series against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.
Taijuan Walker has had a career season in his first stint with the New York Mets. It’s evident that the Mets got a steal in free agency when they signed Walker in the offseason.
Walker immediately made an impact when he joined the team and has become a fan favorite in the Big Apple.
For the first time in his career, Walker was selected to play in the All-Star Game:
Taijuan Walker talks about finding out he was named to the All-Star team, and is excited to "watch Pete [Alonso] win the Home Run Derby" pic.twitter.com/AWl6K8vRJK
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 10, 2021
He was added as a replacement when his teammate, Jacob DeGrom, elected not to play in the All-Star game to focus on getting some rest.
Walker’s numbers have been beyond impressive this season and he was one player that deserved his selection.
On the season, he’s made 16 starts and has a 7-3 record with a 2.50 ERA and 89 strikeouts.
Playing in an All-Star Game is something that Walker always wanted to accomplish when he entered the league.
“It’s finally starting to come and hit me now,” Walker told the New York Post when he found out he was selected to the All-Star game. “Everyone’s texting me, my family’s texting me, so it’s really cool.”
One of the best times of my life today!! Thank you for everyone supporting and cheering me on! #LGM
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) July 14, 2021
“Once I got to the big leagues, it’s always been a goal to be an All-Star, to be the best of the best and go out there and compete against the best and be around the best players in the league.”
Walker was also pleased to hear his teammate say that he deserved to play in the Midsummer Classic.
“Jake’s the best pitcher in the league right now. For him to come out and publicly say I should be an All-Star, it meant a lot to me,” he said.
Our MLBbro was the only player to represent the Mets in this year’s All-Star game.
In the sixth inning, Walker took the mound for the National League. He faced off against Cleveland Indians slugger Jose Ramirez to start the inning off and worked him to a full count and then retired him for the first out.
The next batter he faced was Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals. Walker had no issues taking care of Merrifield as he struck him out for his first-ever All-Star Game strikeout.
Then Walker had the opportunity to face his former teammate Mike Zunino. Walker and Zunino were teammates for four seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
That at-bat, Zunino got the best of Walker as he took him deep for a solo home run. That was the only run Walker allowed in his one inning of work and for our brother, he was just glad to be out there on that stage.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) July 14, 2021
He was glad to have his family come and witness his first All-Star Game experience.
“Hearing my family scream for me, and cheer for me,” Walker told the New York Daily News on what he’ll take away from the game. “I definitely heard them when I got that strikeout. I’ll definitely remember that one for a while.”
Now that the second half of the season is here, Walker will look to continue to dominate on the mound and help keep his team at the top of the National League East Division.
Millions of Americans are in a celebratory mood as the calendar transitions into a new month. But along with the Fourth of July festivities, baseball fans are familiar with another event known as Bobby Bonilla Day.
Today, and every July 1 through 2035, Bonilla can celebrate as he will amass a check for $1,193,248.20 from the New York Mets.
Happy Bobby Bonilla Day.
**Bonilla hasn’t played for the New York Mets since 1999. But, until 2035, the team still has to pay him yearly increments of $1.19 million. https://t.co/ifEHizQlxC
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) July 1, 2020
According to Celebrity Net Worth, the number is actually $1.4 million and here’s why:
“Every year between now and 2028, Bobby will earn $1.4 million every July 1st ($1.2 million +225k from the two contracts). Then from 2028 through 2035 he’ll earn $1.2 million (because the first unusual contract will have run out).”
Who is Bobby Bonilla, and why is he still receiving payments?
The former MLB star and native New Yorker went undrafted out of high school during the 1981 draft. After hard work and continuous dedication to his craft, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed him to a Minor League contract.
Injuries left the young sensation unprotected by the Bucco’s in the Rule 5 Draft, so the Chicago White Sox snagged him and placed him on the 40-man roster in 1986. But he grew frustrated with the organization and was later traded back to the Pirates, where he occupied the outfield with fellow MLB bro Barry Bonds.
Bobby Bonilla turns 52 today. Here are some awesome pictures of him and Barry Bonds: pic.twitter.com/Lv7t3ZzhC3
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) February 23, 2015
He returned home to New York in 1991 after inking a five-year, 29-million-dollar deal with the Mets, making him the highest-paid player in the National League. He made two All-Star game appearances in the Big Apple but later got traded to the Baltimore Orioles over disagreements with the franchise.
Bonilla signed a free-agent deal with the Florida Marlins, who won the 1997 World Series and later got traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1998 season.
The disgruntled outfielder got sent back to the Mets during the 1999 season, where he only played 60 games before his eventual release for altercations with manager Bobby Valentine.
He later joined the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals in his final seasons in the big leagues before retiring ahead of the 2001 season.
At the end of his career, Bonilla amassed 2,010 hits, 1,173 RBI, 287 home runs, six All-Star game appearances, and a championship.
Again, Bonilla last played baseball in 2001.
At the turn of the new decade, the Mets still owed Bonilla $5.9 million, but the front office didn’t want to pay him up front. So his agent worked with the organization, and both sides struck a deal by agreeing to deferred payments of $1.2 million for over 25 years that would start July 1, 2011, which includes an eight percent interest.
Why would the Mets agree to such a lucrative deal?
The Mets ownership had unsatisfied accounts with Bernie Madoff, the financier who ran one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history that promised double-digit returns for the organization who took a drastic hit financially. So, the Mets were kind of strapped for cash.
Bonilla according to reports has an estimated net worth of $20 million, but thanks in part to the lucrative contract, he and his family are set for life as the 58-year-old will collect payments until his 72nd birthday.
Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!!!
After tumbling out the gates to start the 2021 season, Dominic Smith’s recent hot streak has been a key reason the New York Mets have charged to the top of the National League East.
Smith is 7-for-17 in his last six games played (.411 BA) and slugging around 600. to raise his season average near .260. He’s beginning to look like the player who many believed had finally arrived during the 2020 Covid-shortened season.
Dominic Smith went nearly two full months between this homer and his last one on 4/13. Had to feel good in general, but it had to feel a little extra good because that baby wasn’t a cheap one. #Mets #LGM (via @Mets) pic.twitter.com/5Y2tox4mBd
— Matt Musico (@mmusico8) June 2, 2021
And while hitting is what gets him paid, Smith’s improvements on defense should have Mets fans extremely excited about the future.
A first baseman by trade, Smith has been forced to learn a new position with the emergence of slugging first basemen Pete Alonso (The 2019 NL Rookie of the Year). And for a while, things looked bleak for Smith in the outfield.
Coming into this season, Smith had played 470 1/3 innings in left field, and the results during that time left much to be desired.
There’s a plethora of metrics — that would take most folks hours to understand — that’s used to determine how good a particular player is defensively.
The two important metrics to look at here are Outs Above Average and Defensive Run Saved.
Outs Above Average is a ranged base metric of skill that shows how many outs a player has saved, while Defensive runs saved quantifies a player’s entire defensive performance by attempting to measure how many runs a defender saved. It takes into account errors, range, outfield arm and double-play ability.
Last season, the universal DH allowed the Mets to hide Smith’s inadequacies in the outfield by splitting his time with Alonso between DH & First Base. With the universal DH no longer an option, Smith has put in the work to be an everyday outfielder.
Although this is a small sample size, in 319 2/3 in left this season Smith has done a complete 180. He’s produced a 2 DRS, 0.8 RngR while being top 10 in each of the previously mentioned statistical categories.
But what can cause such a drastic shift in a player’s defensive rating?
According to Thomas Hall of metsmerizedonline.com, it’s as simple as adjusting his pre-pitch positioning.
“Well, a major component of his progression has been where the team has positioned him before the start of each play,” Hall writes. “Since the Junipero Serra HS standout has historically struggled with his range in the outfield, the coaching staff has decided to move him closer to the foul line, which has made it much easier for him to track down balls when ranging to his right.”
Smith has also stepped up as a mentor for younger players like MLBbro rookie Khalil Lee.
Last season, the Mets were one of the worst defensive teams in Major League Baseball. But now, as the game evolves and defensive versatility is considered a huge plus, the emergence of Smith as not only a dangerous hitter, but a reliable defender and leader will help the Mets remain in the pennant race.
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