But Ty didn't have too many chances to get his hopes up, because rumors were swirling that the Mets might sign Bill Mueller, Jose Hernandez, or Tyler Houston. However, for various reasons, none of them were destined to wear the blue and orange. But before Ty got even a whiff of the idea of being the Mets' starting third baseman, the Mets signed 17-year veteran Jay Bell to a minor league contract.
Ty must have consoled himself with the fact that Jay Bell had an awful season last year, didn't have too much experience at third, and was so far out of baseball that he was taking flying lessons when he accepted the Mets offer. Then came the reports in the papers that the Mets were trying to trade for Shea Hillenbrand or Mike Lowell.
But the spring training was upon us, and Ty Wigginton outlasted all his competition like Clifford Etienne has out waited Mike Tyson's demons. Although Jay Bell had said he wanted to be the starting third baseman, he had to prove that he could play both defensively and offensively better than Wigginton. That didn't happen.
In 46 games last year, with 14 appearances at third, Wigginton hit .302 with 6 HR, 18 RBIs, and a .354 on base percentage. Jay Bell played in 32 games last year, with only 6 appearances at third, hitting only .163 with 2 HR, 11 RBIs, and a .250 on base percentage.
A lot of people were concerned with the number of strikeouts Wigginton had last year. 19 strikeouts in 116 at bats. 16.4%. In contrast, in Jay Payton's first few cups of coffee he ended up striking out 20% of time. And his .354 on base percentage certainly makes up for some of those strikeouts. Give Ty a break. After all, he's just a kid and he'll learn some patience at the plate.
Now how is Wigginton as a third baseman? He made 3 errors last year with a .900 fielding percentage, but that was only in 100 innings. And he also had to play first and second. As he gains more time in the position, without being bounced around the infield, he's sure to improve.
Is Wigginton the Mets idea of a dream third baseman? No, of course not. We'd all rather have the Fonzie of 1999 and 2000, but Ty Wigginton has shown that he's got heart, hustle, and most importantly of all, he's got some skills.