Why We Watch: Mike Baxter, Intangible Man

Mike Baxter is not, at least relative to his big league peers, all that great a baseball player. So why does he make Mets fans feel so good?
Share |

On a pleasant Friday afternoon last April, Mike Baxter misplayed a fly ball. The Mets were on their way to a 4-0 loss to the Phillies, playing the halfhearted and thunderously mediocre baseball that has been their trademark in 2013, when the fly came Baxter’s way. It was a long run, and could have been highlight-reel worthy had he successfully slid to catch it, but Baxter broke late, arriving just in time for the ball to roll towards his shoes. From right field came the shout: “You’re a piece of shit, Baxter!”

The heckler wore a Yankee hat, but even without that, it would have been obvious he wasn’t there to cheer on the Mets. Met fans love Mike Baxter, with the dull, unconditional affection usually reserved for pets, or a favorite, fading t-shirt with stains and a few expanding holes. It’s a love too rare in stadiums. The Yankee fan, after an inning or two cursing the hangdog right fielder, disappeared to watch the Knick game. But the Met fans did not turn away. In the seventh inning, when it was clear the Mets had no interest in winning that night, two young women serenaded Baxter, hollering, “Hey Mike! You’re gorgeous! We love you, Mike!”

As it happens, Mike Baxter is not gorgeous. He’s pale, with jug ears and a smile that makes you want to pat him on the head. He looks like Fievel, or less Disney-ishly a frail young contest winner who got to dress up in a big league uniform for the day and, through some ill-advised condition of said contest, half-misplay balls in the outfield. Mike Baxter does not, when he steps into the batter box, look like a man who can catch up to a big league fastball. This is what makes it so wonderful when he does, but also what makes it sort of wonderful when he doesn’t.


Since 2011, Baxter has distinguished himself, to the extent he has managed to do so, by being ever-so-slightly above average. Over three part-time seasons with the Mets, he has contributed nearly one WAR—one little win spread across parts of three forgettable seasons. On August 4, 2012, he walked five times—setting a franchise record for walks in a nine-inning game, a Baxtery accomplishment if there ever was one. He is a very good pinch-hitter and one of the best outfielders on the team, a distinction as impressive as being the world’s third-fastest turtle. There’s no quantifiable reason that, when fans see his name in the lineup, they should feel moved to say, “Ah, good. Baxter’s in today. We’ve got a shot.” And yet there is that impulse, because Mike Baxter is Mike Baxter.

It’s like he was designed by the gods of baseball narrative to become a fan favorite. A Whitestone native, Baxter was born within walking distance of Shea Stadium, and was raised—we’re imagining, here, although it’s not all that difficult—with posters of the 1995 Mets on his wall. He was already liked by fans on the morning of June 1, 2012, but placed a permanent hold on their affection that night—when he hurled himself into a W.B. Mason sign to catch a Yadier Molina fly ball and preserve Johan Santana’s too-good-to-be-true-but-actually-true-anyway no-hitter, the first in the franchise’s history. Baxter dislocated his shoulder on that play, injuring himself to save a meaningless event that nevertheless meant quite a lot to a beaten-down fan base. He spent two months on the disabled list, recovering—one imagines, again—with posters of the 1995 Mets on his wall.

That’s all beautiful stuff, the kind that keeps me warm on cold winter nights and Mets days-off, but Mike from Whitestone is more than a local kid who made a famous catch, a lot more. Well, maybe not a lot more—but more, inescapably and in multiple ways. For one thing, there’s that vaunted pinch-hitting ability. Earlier this month, Baxter had two walk-off pinch hits in a week, and beat writers got all foamy about his lifetime pinch-hitting average, which is something like double the league’s. That’s a meaningless stat, of course, a small sample size mirage if there ever was one, but man, what a nice looking mirage.

The timing helps, but Baxter’s occasional game-winners are all the more exciting because he does not necessarily look strong enough to swing a bat. Baxter is not a David Eckstein type, inspiring old school meatheads to clamor about his will to win. He will never win a Gold Glove; he will never play in an all star game; he will never make the cover of Sports Illustrated. His appeal is strictly intangible, and even if no one can quite name it, everyone knows it. That’s not a new thing in the sport, and that’s okay.

Is it enough to reduce the guy to some happy tautology, to say we love Mike Baxter because we love Mike Baxter? Fans of bad teams become attached to fringe players, because their supposed stars have either left or turned to coal. But players who spend most of the season on the bench can never be a disappointment, and for a franchise that has been disappointing for a long time, that’s a valuable thing. Though I adore David Wright, I can’t relate to him. Just look at his arms—he’s a goddamned superhero! But Baxter isn’t Superman; he isn’t James Bond. He’s Arthur Dent, and Arthur Dent is the best most Met fans—most humans—can aspire to be. Mike Baxter is an average player who occasionally succeeds despite himself, and if he can do that—we think, we hope, we beg the gods of narrative—maybe this supremely average team can do the same.

In a game against the Reds last week, Ike Davis struck out for the nine millionth time in 2013, and retreated to the dugout to slam his helmet and bemoan his vicious slump. Looking angry, he complained to Baxter, who responded with a bland smile and an uncomprehending blink. He meant well, clearly, but trouble doesn’t touch him. Davis, a onetime first round draft pick, is struggling royalty. Baxter is a happy squire. It’s enough.

Share |


We are tied directly into the sate’s renewal database which allows us to process your request almost instantly. taco time

If your looking for Online Illinois license plate sticker renewals then you have need to come to the right place.We offer the fastest Illinois license plate sticker renewals in the state. la salsa

It's late finding this act. At least, it's a thing to be familiar with that there are such events exist. I agree with your Blog and I will be back to inspect it more in the future so please keep up your act. 발기부전

This post is very simple to read and appreciate without leaving any details out. Great work! 사설토토

I curious more interest in some of them hope you will give more information on this topics in your next articles. 안전공원

I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. 소액결제현금화

Great to end up going to your weblog once more, it has been a long time for me. Pleasantly this article i've been sat tight for so long. I will require this post to add up to my task in the school, and it has identical subject together with your review. Much obliged, great offer. bellevue plumber

Great to end up going to your weblog once more, it has been a long time for me. Pleasantly this article i've been sat tight for so long. I will require this post to add up to my task in the school, and it has identical subject together with your review. Much obliged, great offer. water mitigation overland park

d’Vine Wine Tours is a new and exciting tour company that was launched in Winter 2013. Ewen and Breana Lawrie are the proud team behind the opening of this fresh, youthful and crisp take on the wine tourism industry. Both born and bred in Perth, they fell in love with Western Australia’s lush South West region swan valley

There are a considerable measure of extraordinary thoughts in this post. I trust you keep this quality level up so we can appreciate significantly more incredible substance from your side. rencontre gratuite

I will really appreciate the writer's choice for choosing this excellent article appropriate to my matter.Here is deep description about the article matter which helped me more. gutter cleaners

You re in point of fact a just right webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you're doing any distinctive trick. Moreover, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a fantastic activity on this subject! 다음드

I found Hubwit as a transparent s ite, a social hub which is a conglomerate of Buyers and Sellers who are ready to offer online digital consultancy at decent cost. 토토사이트

Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more. 메이저놀이터

Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I've been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing. 토토사이트

I expect you to thank for your time of this phenomenal read!!! I definately welcome each and every piece of it and I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff of your blog a specific essential read blog! site de rencontre

I have bookmarked your website because this site contains valuable information in it. I am really happy with articles quality and presentation. Thanks a lot for keeping great stuff. I am very much thankful for this site. house clearance London

This web site has sports lottery contents that are run in Korea. It predicts the results of the game as well as accurate analysis of various popular sport games. It mainly provides information about popular sports games such as basketball, baseball, and soccer 토토사이트와 안전놀이터

On the off chance that you a fledgling, you can undoubtedly utilize the twitter devotees for business advancement and development. get free followers | clash of clans gratis juwelen

I want to say many more thanks for providing instructive and qualitative stuff here.
best custom writing service

I want to say many more thanks for providing instructive and qualitative stuff here.
best custom writing service

Fine method of telling, and enjoyable article to acquire factual statements.mobimatic reviews

This will be astoundingly useful for me when I get a chance to start my online diary. We are really thankful for your web journal passage. read more

I know this is quality based blogs along with other stuff.push button influence coupon

This site is genuinely a walk around for most by far of the data you required about this and didn't know who to ask. www.klusgekte.nl

I will prefer this blog because it has much more informative stuff.Inbox Blueprint 2.0 Bonuses

I require this article to finish my endeavor in the school, and it has same subject with your article. laser hair removal Houston

I was definitely chasing down. Thankful for such post and please keep it up Great data. I like all your post.Choisir Machine a Expresso et Cappuccino

They are going to give any home an old style truly feel, on the other hand they have all the earmarks of being accessible day at the vague time. dimagrire velocemente 10 kg

The people are very lucky to have this blog because it has better knowledge.custom club flyers

Nice to read this article will be very helpful in the future, share more info with us. Good job!life onsura ce

It’s a classic great for me to go to this blog site, it offers helpful suggestionsva payday loans

צלוליט הלגה רקנאטי מומחית לטיפול פנים, פיתחה את שיטת Helga לטיפול בבעיות עור כגון: חטטים, כתמים בפנים, צלקות בפנים, פצעי אקנה (חצקונים). במכון ניתנים טיפולי בוטוקס, מתיחת בטן והצרת היקפים.

I am interested in such topics so I will address page where it is cool described. svaromål

On my website you'll see similar texts, write what you think. putlockers movies

On this subject internet page, you'll see my best information, be sure to look over this level of detail. f movies

Cool you write, the information is very good and interesting, I'll give you a link to my site. dua lipa boyfriend

Can nicely write on similar topics! Welcome to here you'll find out how it should look. medtech

In this particular article, you will see a summary, satisfy browse this post. BISE Gujranwala

I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people. movie123

Thanks for writing such a good article, I stumbled onto your blog and read a few post. I like your style of writing... Chat

Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have. locksmith Seattle

Within this webpage, you'll see the page, you need to understand this data. Cypress garage door repair

I read this article. I think You put a lot of effort to create this article. I appreciate your work. online class expert reviews

I wrote about a similar issue, I give you the link to my site. Tron Price