Jacobs provides lefty power for Mets
Infielder happy to be back where he started his career
Mike Jacobs hit his first Major League home run with the Mets and thinks it will be cool to hit No. 100 for them, too.
"I just took the long way around," said Jacobs, who returned to the Mets this season after three productive seasons in Florida and a disappointing one in Kansas City.
The Mets, looking for help anywhere they could find it, signed Jacobs to a Minor League contract in February. After he spent Spring Training on the roster bubble, he found himself batting cleanup in the Opening Day lineup.
"It's nice to be back," he said. "And batting cleanup on Opening Day -- that's not bad at all."
The Mets like Jacobs' long-ball potential. He hit 32 home runs for the Marlins just two years ago. That's 20 more than any Mets player managed last season when New York was the only team in the Majors to hit fewer than 100 home runs. So manager Jerry Manuel was happy to have him on board.
"Jacobs is a power guy," the manager said. "We missed a little power last year. He's a nice presence in the lineup."
Only against right-handers, though. Fernando Tatis will share first-base duties with Jacobs in a straight lefty-righty platoon until regular Daniel Murphy returns from a knee injury that sent him to the disabled list for two to six weeks.
Jacobs sees this as an opportunity to stake his claim permanently on this team. "I can bring an important element to this team," he said. "Look at the lineup. There's no real left-handed power without me. I can be a difference-maker."
He's right about that. The Mets' main long-ball threats are David Wright and Jason Bay, both right-handed hitters.
"It will play itself out," Jacobs said. "This is an opportunity to get started over."
Jacobs' first time around in New York started with a bang in August 2005. Drafted in the 38th round in 1999, Jacobs' early training was as a catcher. With Mike Piazza reaching the end of his run with the Mets, the team was looking for a replacement. But, Jacobs had already switched to first base. After his callup from the Minors, he hit a three-run home run in his first Major League at-bat as a pinch hitter and had four homers in his first four games, setting a Major League record. With 11 homers in 30 games, he seemed like the next big thing.
But the Mets decided to ship him to Florida that winter in a deal that delivered first baseman Carlos Delgado to New York. Jacobs flourished with the Marlins, flashing the kind of power that made him a hot prospect in the first place. He had 69 homers in three seasons with Florida before being traded to the Royals.
It was the wrong place at the wrong time for him.
"Just a bad year," Jacobs said. "It was a new league for me. You hear people say baseball is baseball, but when you switch leagues, you have to learn new pitchers. The pitching is different. You have to make a quick adjustment."
Jacobs never did. He batted just .228 but hit 19 home runs. His eight game-winning RBIs led the Royals, but there were 132 strikeouts in 434 at-bats. That led to a ticket out of town and a chance to return to his old home in the NL East.
The Mets were happy to bring him back, especially because his baggage included catching gear -- just in case of an emergency -- and 99 career homers.
"It would be nice to hit my 100th in a Mets uniform," he said.
The power-starved Mets thought so, too.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York City.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.