Looking at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting lineup, it’s easy to see how they had such a successful season. A powerful collection of bats, both young and old, feature the likes of Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and Corey Seager.
But there’s one that continues to come up big in big situations, one that is no stranger to New York City: Justin Turner.
The 32-year-old known best for his long red hair and beard seemingly burst onto the scene with the Dodgers in 2014, which was one of the most unpredictable things if you followed his career. For many New York Mets fans, they already know the story.
Turner made his MLB debut in 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles, a clean-shaven infielder that appeared in a combined 17 games with the American League East side.
He was selected off waivers in 2010 by the Mets, joining a team with its infield set with second baseman Luis Castillo, shortstop Jose Reyes and third baseman David Wright. Because of that, he only played in four games. But Castillo was gone the next season as Turner saw plenty of time at second base, playing 78 of 117 games at the position.
He was nothing more than a light-hitting option, batting .260 with four home runs and 51 RBI.
His playing time only went down from there as he appeared in 94 games in 2012 and 86 in 2013 before he was granted free agency by the Mets.
In those three seasons, he batted .265 with 8 home runs and 86 RBI, which made it seem like the Mets weren’t going to be missing anything with his departure.
Of course, they were wrong, though it’s unfair to fault management for letting him walk. The numbers simply suggested that he wasn’t going to develop into anything more than a utility man.
Turner, a Long Beach, CA native, signed with the Dodgers in 2014 and immediately took off.
After batting .280 with the Mets in 2013, Turner batted .340 in with seven home runs in 109 games the following season, showing a sign of things to come.
His eye developed out of nowhere, his swing evolved into a potent weapon as he looked more patient at the plate. With an ability to hit to all fields and adjust during an at-bat, Turner became a valued member of the Dodgers lineup.
Last season saw him hit a career-high 27 home runs while driving in 90 RBI. This year he garnered his first-ever All-Star appearance, batting .322 with 21 round trippers.
He’s been churning out big at-bats this Fall, including a walk-off, game-winning three-run home run in Game 2 of the NLDS to help unseat the defending champion Chicago Cubs.
Just this past Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series, Turner provided what proved to be another game-winning knock, a two-run home run in the sixth inning off Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel to break a 1-1 deadlock.
While he stars at third base, David Wright’s future with the team remains uncertain as he continues to battle injuries while their second-base situation is very much in the air. With Amed Rosario set to take over at shortstop, veteran Asdrubal Cabrera could make the shift to second if the team brings him back this offseason. It remains to be seen just how bad of a taste he left in management’s mouth when he requested a trade midway through the season.
Sometimes all you can do is shake your head and wonder what might have been. Only the Mets.