No player punished as a result of MLB’s latest PED dragnet is having a splendid year. Good numbers predating one’s suspension can offer only so much comfort, especially when a player has to miss at least 50 late-season games and forfeit the attendant salary. But even Alex Rodriguez, with his bum hip, and Jesus Montero, with his woeful batting line, surely look upon Mets farmhand Jordany Valdespin, who has agreed to miss 50 games, and think, “Man, that guy’s had a rough year.”
Media reports had never connected Valdespin to Biogenesis before today, when MLB suspended him. But performance-enhancing drugs were perhaps the only sort of baseball unpleasantness Valdespin hadn’t been associated with in 2013.
His season began, as all great campaigns do, when he got hit with a Justin Verlander fastball in a spring training game, on March 11. He hit the dirt and lingered there for a while. When the press asked, postgame, where the pitch had hit Valdespin, he memorably told them, “My manhood.” Except he didn’t use that word. (Here’s a magnificent photo essay of that moment, if you’re so inclined.) But Valdespin was soon back on his feet, making the team out of camp and starting two or three times a week, thanks to the Mets’ woeful outfield situation.
That’s not to say he was hitting well. He wasn’t. He entered the May 7 game against the Pirates with a .231/.275/.385 batting line. But bad offense doesn’t damn you as a baseball player, and it most assuredly does not damn you as a member of the 2013 Mets. Valdespin had to manage something more than that to become loathed, and, boy, did he ever.
In that game against the Pirates, he homered—a meaningless ninth-inning blast to cut the score from 7-1 to 7-2. But he stood and admired it nonetheless, and that made the Pirates angry. Manager Terry Collins sent him up to pinch-hit the next day, with the whole team knowing he’d get plunked. He did. And Valdespin didn’t like it. His teammates, however, kinda did. Reliever LaTroy Hawkins told USA Today, “It was a bonehead thing to do. And to do that against Jose Contreras? He’s old enough to be his father, and one of the nicest guys in the world.” Added Marlon Byrd, “The Pirates did what you were supposed to do.”
Valdespin couldn’t take his displeasure out on the veterans. So instead he went after rookie center fielder Juan Lagares. How? By refusing to give him a ride home from a game. (Naturally.)
Valdespin’s numbers only got worse as the season wore on; his OPS fell from a not-great .735 on the day he was plunked to a yeah-we’re-probably-better-off-just-letting-the-pitcher-bat .566 on July 13, the day the Mets finally demoted him to Triple-A. Did he take his minors assignment quietly? Please! Do you know anything about Jordany Valdespin? As the Post put it (with other outlets reporting tamer versions of the same thing):
According to a Mets source, the volatile utilityman, upon learning he had been demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday, got into a confrontation with Terry Collins, during which he called the manager a “—sucker.”
The source said Valdespin, in the course of his heated exchange with Collins, also tried to invent an injury and demanded to be placed on the disabled list.
That was Valdespin’s pièce de resistance, all that the Jordany Valdespin experience comprises distilled into a few minutes of action. (Collins later said the insult might have been, “cockroach.”) But two and a half months of the season remained! So he opted to perform a scaled-down encore for the minor-league fans. On July 30, while playing in Las Vegas, Valdespin homered and (again) took a long look at it. (Again) he got plunked, but this time the benches cleared. He was ejected and later suspended. Sunday—yesterday—was his first game back. (Maybe it doesn’t matter, but he had two hits.)
Now he will remain banished until the season’s final weekend, when the Mets might—might!—give him an at-bat or two. The world awaits the craziness he’ll cook up in hopes of saving his season.