What a perfect example we saw last night (Thursday) of the value of Independent leagues to major league teams.
The New York Mets would not be tied for the National League wild-card and only one game behind Philadelphia for the NL East title without the feats of Robinson Cancel.
Cancel has gone to Independent Baseball on three separate occasions when his catching career stalled in affiliated leagues. He spent all of 2003 in the Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ for 69 games and the traveling Road Warriors for 19). He returned to Somerset for a brief time the next year, then was in the United League (Edinburg, TX) for all of 2006 before he found a new home with the Mets organization.
Now, fast forward to last night when the struggling Mets had to replace regular catcher Brian Schneider (sore back) only 90 minutes before the crucial game against the Cubs, who had dealt them a crushing 9-6, 10-inning defeat a day earlier. Enter Cancel, generally considered the No. 3 backstop.
With New York suddenly facing a 6-3 deficit in the bottom of the seventh, the 32-year-old Cancel, who only had 15 games of major league experience prior to this season, led off with a line double to left-center, and came around to score.
Still down by two in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets rallied to make it 6-5. It is the stocky Cancel's turn again, and this time he delivers a line single to right on a 1-2 pitch to tie the game. The Mets won in the bottom of the ninth, 7-6.
"Yesterday's loss was a big loss," Cancel told The Associated Press. "But today we tried to regroup." He played a major role, which might well pay off again if the Mets make the postseason and they find room on their 25-man roster for this guy with all of the Indy experience.
Another Indy grad, Minnesota lefty Craig Breslow (New Jersey Jackals, Little Falls), continued to show his worth last night, as well. He needed only 13 pitches to set down the rival Chicago White Sox in the eighth inning, keeping the Twins only two runs behind. Minnesota got those runs back in the bottom of the eighth, won in the 10th and now sit one-half game atop the American League Central standings.
Breslow now sports a nifty 1.93 earned run average.