April 26, 2016

DENSON | Journeymen are the Unrecognized Heroes in Sports

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Can April be Neil Walker month in New York? In a season that started with a dose of offensive uncertainty for the Mets, Neil Walker has performed well above expectations- so far. Mets faithfuls will never forget Daniel Murphy and his historic postseason power surge, but with newcomer Walker everything seems to be okay for the moment. Seen as two extremely similar second basemen, Walker was “Plan B” this offseason behind All-Star, and ultra-utility player Ben Zobrist. The gaping hole Murphy left in the middle infield has been filled, or so we hope.

Besides joyfully jumping in jubilation and relief for Walker’s performance and the Mets’ success, I’m beyond thrilled that a journeyman is succeeding. Nothing makes me happier than a competent athlete who has strived for fame his or her whole career but couldn’t quite get there — always on the cusp of the recognition he or she deserves, striving for that feeling — that “the money is great but I want people to know me” kinda feeling — who makes it. Believe me Mr. Walker, New York knows you now.

In all sports the list of journeymen goes on and on, as most players in each league are journeymen — team players that are able to perform but never really achieve the individual fame that stars do. So when a journeyman does succeed — think Marreese Speights of the Warriors or Mike Carp of the 2013 Boston Red Sox — it’s our responsibility as devoted fans to recognize and cherish them.

Pitcher R.A. Dickey and goaltender Tim Thomas are a class unto themselves, as both were journeymen who found enormous success late in their careers. I think part of the excitement with all journeymen is seeing the ordinary become extraordinary. We see a player like R.A. Dickey who has struggled so much, worked so hard, and finally — after years of disappointment — joins sports immortality with the Cy-Young award. It’s a pseudo rag to riches story and it reminds us that anything is possible. Once in awhile we’re lucky enough to see a team made up of all journeymen (or at least no superstars) succeed — like the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

As the New York Mets’ season rolls on, we’re reminded of how lucky we are to see stars and journeymen mesh to find success. And we realize that it’s the unexpected success of these journeymen that give us the most fulfillment. So let’s bank on the success of Lucas Duda, Alejandro de Aza, and Bartolo Colon. All those journeymen who are lost — wanderers without a home — come to New York and help us win. And just like that we see the unexpected become expected.