Last winter, as the Mets began the process of trying to sign Chris Young, manager Terry Collins called the outfielder to sell him on playing in New York.
Nine months later, Collins has finally seen Young flourish, albeit with the Yankees.
"I'm excited for him, very excited for him," Collins said Friday, when Young homered for the third straight game. "He's a tremendous guy. You root for guys like him. I'm glad he's got another chance and he's made the most of it. It's cool to see."
Young, 31, came to epitomize the Mets' struggles. Signed to a one-year, $7.25-million deal after an awful year with the A's, the Mets hoped for a bounce-back season from the former All-Star. The Mets envisioned an outfielder with home run power and the ability to play centerfield, a concern because of doubts surrounding Juan Lagares' ability to hit.
Instead, Young never returned to form, hitting just .205 with eight homers. He became a frequent target for frustrated fans before the Mets designated him for assignment last month.
By then, his playing time had diminished, with Lagares establishing himself in center and Matt den Dekker and Eric Campbell getting time in left.
"He came and we were hoping [for] the best and he just had a rough go here," Collins said. "But as I told somebody here, he hit big homers here for us too, big ones. He just didn't [hit] enough."
Young quickly signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees and has since gone on a well-timed tear.
Collins wondered whether Young benefited from escaping Citi Field's pitcher-friendly dimensions.
"I think it's a fair park," Collins said. "I think you've got to hit them here. Sometimes, there's nights when you hit them and they don't go anywhere due to the wind, humidity, whatever it is, sometimes balls don't carry. We see it every single day that it's a tough place to hit."
With the Mets, Young slugged six of his eight homers at Citi Field, though he hit just .181 with a .266 on-base percentage. Still, Collins said it's possible that Young struggled with the psychological toll of coming away with little reward, even after hitting the ball well. "It affected Jason Bay immensely," Collins said. "It's affected David [Wright] some, [Curtis Granderson] some. So it's going to affect Chris Young."
The Yankees, just like the Mets, face exceedingly slim odds of making the postseason. Nevertheless, Collins said he hopes Young's hot streak continues. "I hope he makes a contribution over there," Collins said. "He's a great guy."