Jay Payton: 2000 N.L. Champion Mets Center Fielder (1998-2002)

Jason Lee Payton was born on November 22, 1972, in Zanesville, Ohio. His parents are named James Sr. & Beth Payton, he has one brother.  The five-foot right hand hitting outfielder was a star player in high school at Ohio.

He attended Georgia Tech. University where he was teammates with future Red Sox players; Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek.

Payton was rated as an outfielder with a strong arm & good speed, In 1994 he was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round (the 29th pick overall).

In 1995 he hit .345 at AA Binghamton, getting promoted to AAA Norfolk by the mid-season. 

In 1996 he played with the Gulf Port Mets, St Lucie Mets, Binghamton Mets & the Norfolk Tides batting .307 overall.

He missed all of the 1997 season due to injuries. Payton would have three elbow surgeries while in the minor leagues, including two Tommy John surgeries.

In 1998 he went from St. Lucie to AAA Norfolk batting .261 & getting a September call up to the Mets. 

Mets Career: Payton debuted on September 1st, 1998, coming the game to replace Tony Phillips in left field in a 9-8 loss to the Padres. Payton got two hits in his first two official at bats. 

In mid-September he had a modest five game hit streak, that month he impressed batting .318 (7-22) with a walk & a double.

1999 NL Wild Card Season: Payton started the year at A ball St. Lucie for seven games before getting promoted to AAA Norfolk. There he hit .389 with 8 HRs in 38 games. He had another September call up appearing in 13 games, often as a pinch hitter. He hit 250 (2-8) not making the post season roster.  

2000 NL Pennant Season: With Brian McRae, Rickey Henderson & Rodger Cedeno all gone going into the 2000 season, Payton took over the vacated center field job. Payton was a rookie with a lot of New York expectations put on him for team also expected to win.

Unfortunately for Payton, the New York fans would always want more from him but looking back Payton had a pretty good rookie year.

As the season opened up in Japan with a series against the Chicago Cubs, Payton came in the Opening Day game in the 10th inning & went 1-2 in the Mets loss.

On April 8th he hit his first career HR coming off the Dodgers Kevin Brown in a 6-5 Mets loss. He then hit another HR in his next game as well. He struggled at first, batting just .213 at the end of May with 11 RBIs thru the first 44 games.

Payton had a great June, hitting safely in 20 of 23 games, batting .407 in the month, raising his average to over .300. In the first ten games of the month, he hit four HRs. 

On June 8th, Payton hit an 8th inning HR off the Orioles Mike Trombley breaking a 6-6 tie. Armando Benitez blew the lead, but the Mets went on to win it on Kurt Abbott's walk off hit. Rayton had three RBIs in the game. Payton added a 12-gamehit streak during the month reaching base in 17 straight games. 

On June 22nd, he homered off the Phillies Cliff Politte breaking a 6th inning tie in a 5-4 Mets win. In the month he hit six HRs & drove in 16 runs raising his average over the .300 mark. 

In July he had a ten-game hit streak & drove in six runs toward the end of the month. 

On August 6th, he had a four hit game as he drove in a run in a Mets loss at Arizona. By the middle of the month, he was flirting with .300 batting .299. On August 25th he had three RBIs with a two run double & RBI single in a 13-3 win over the Diamondbacks at Shea. He hit .310 for the month.

In September he drove in 18 runs while hitting five HRs. Staring on September 12th he drove in eight runs, with three multi RBI games in a three-game span.

Walk Off HR:
On September 13th he collected three hits against the Brewers at Shea Stadium. In the bottom of the 10th inning Jay hit a 
three-run walk off HR off Juan Acevedo to beat Milwaukee 4-1.

Grand Slam HR: On September 29th, Jay hit his first career grand slam, it came off Montreal's Mike Thurman leading the Mets in a 11-2 win over the Expos at home. The four RBIs were his season high.

In the Mets 2000 NL Championship season, Payton came in third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He hit .291 with 142 hits 23 doubles, a triple, 17 HRs 62 RBIs & a .331 on base % with .778 OPS playing in 149 games. In the outfield he made seven assists with a .981 fielding %.  

2000 Post Season-NLDS: In Game #1 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, Payton drove in the only Mets run with a sac fly off Livan Hernandez in the 5-1 loss.

In Game #2 the Mets entered the top of the 9th inning with a 4-1 lead. But Armondo Benitez blew the lead, serving up a three run HR to J.T. Snow sending the game to extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, Mets pinch hitter Daryl Hamilton doubled to center field. Payton then singled off Felix Rodriguez scoring Hamilton with what would be the games winning run. 

Payton collected hits in each of the next two games as well. Overall, in the NLDS he went 3-18 (.176) with two RBIs.  

2000 NLCS: In the Game #1 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Payton hit a two run HR off Mike James in the 9th inning giving the Mets a 6-0 lead at Busch Stadium. They went on to a 6-2 win taking the first game. 

In Game #2 the Mets took an 8th  inning lead on RBI hits from Edgardo Alfonzo & Todd Zeile. But John Franco & Turk Wendell couldn't hold the lead. With the score tied in the 9th inning, Payton was the Mets hero, as he singled to center off Mike Timlin. 

The ball rolled off centerfielder Jim Edmonds glove, allowing Joe McEwing, who was pinch running for Robin Ventura, to score from second base. Payton had his second 2000 post season game winning hit.

As the series moved to New York tied at one game each Jay would go hitless in games Three & Four. The Mets won both of those game to go up three games to one..

Hit By Pitch Drama: In Game #5, he was in the middle of some big drama as Cardinal Pitcher Dave Veres hit him with a fastball near his left eye.

The pitch knocked him down to the ground, but he shot back up immediately & charged the mound. Both benches cleared. Payton was restrained by manager Bobby Valentine & teammate Benny Agbayani, as order was soon restored.

The Shea Stadium crowd
(in which centerfieldmaz was in attendance) went even wilder than they had been thru out the game. The upper deck was literally shaking with the Mets already ahead 7-0 & only three outs away from the World Series. It was bedlam as Shea Stadium was a madhouse.

John Franco played peacemaker trying to calm the Shea Faithful down. They answered by singing “Na Na Say Goodbye” & booing the Cardinals off the field.  The Mets won the game & the NL pennant.

2000 World Series: The 2000 World Series was New Yorks first subway series since 1956 & there was a lot of hype & build up to the Fall Classic.

In Game #1, Payton singled in the 7th inning then scored on Bubba Trammels two run double tying up the game. The Mets went ahead but Armando Benitez blew the lead as the Mets lost the game in 12 innings.

World Series HR: In Game #2 highlighted by Roger Clemens tossing a broken bat in the direction of Mike Piazza, the Mets were down 6-0 in the 9th inning. Mike Piazza hit a two run HR off Jeff Nelson, then Robin Ventura & Benny Agbayani both got on with base hits. Payton then brought the Mets within a run, as he hit a three run HR off Mariano Rivera. But Kurt Abbott then struck out to end the game.

In the Game #3 Mets win at Shea Stadium, Payton singled in the two run Mets 8th inning. In Game #4 he collected two hits to keep his hit streak going to five post season games.

In Game #5 he singled in the 2nd inning & then scored when Al Leiter reached on an error. Payton hit safely in six straight post season games, including all five World Series games.

In the 2000 Subway World Series Payton did well, hitting .333 (7-21).

Overall, in the 2000 post season he batted .228 going 13-57 with 2 HRs & 8 RBIs.

After the Pennant: After a successful rookie campaign, even more was expected from Payton the
next year. He had a slow start until he drove in runs in four straight games in
mid-AprilIt took him until April 30th to hit his first HR, coming in a 8-1 win over the Astros.  He hit .264 & drove in just nine runs in the first month. 

He began May hitting HRs in back-to-back games but then suffered an injury which cost him to go on the DL for the next six weeks returning in late June. 

On June 26th in his return, he doubled at Wrigley Field in a 4-2 Mets loss. It took him until July 21st, almost another month to hit another HR. His average fell to .240 by the start of August. The Mets were struggling too, finding themselves eight games under .500 in fourth place.

Post 911: After the 911 attacks, baseball halted play for a week, then play resumed in Pittsburgh on September 19th. The Mets went to the 9th inning in a1-1 tie. Payton drew a two out walk & would score on Mark Johnson's pinch hit double. The Mets went on to a 4-1 win.

Mets Return to NY Post 911: In the first game played back in New York after the 911 attacks, Payton was on deck when Liza Minelli sang an emotional version of New York New York. After she finished, she walked over to Payton giving him a hug & a kiss.

Quotes- Jay Payton: "It's one of those goosebump moments, t's a little bit bigger than life itself just
with everything going on".

Jay's mom sent Liza a picture of that moment & had her sign it. Payton has those memorabilia for himself.

went 0-3 in the game where Mike Piazza hit his famous 8th inning game winning HR over the Atlanta Braves. 

Quotes- Jay Payton (in 2020): "I know it was a baseball game, but it was New York, it was where it happened. Him hitting that HR, I think it was just kind of like a Hey this is NY & we're going to be all right kind of feeling. I think it was the start of healing for a lot of people & for a lot of us".

The Mets made a slight run for a wild card spot late in the year but ended up with a third-place finish. 

On the year he played in 104 games, batting .255 with just 8 HRs 16 doubles & 34 RBIs. As the team struggled, the fans let every Met who was not producing have it & the boo birds got to Payton.   

2002: After a slow April, he batted .301 in May & after 84 games he had already matched his previous years totals. 

Multi HR Game: On May 3rd, he had his first multi-HR game, hitting a pair of HRs at Houston in an 11-3 Mets victory.

On May 15th he drove in one f the wo Mets runs in Jeff D'Amico's two hit shutout of the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Walk off Walk: On May 24th, Payton came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning in a 4-4 tie with the Marlins. He drew a bases loaded walk from Vic Darensboug bringing in the game winning run.

Five RBI Game: On July 7th, Payton had three hits & a career high five RBI game in a 9-3 win
over the Marlins. He hit a three run HR off Armando Almanza & had a two run double as well.

At the end of July he was batting .284 with 8 HRs & 31 RBIs, as the organization had given up on him. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies for John Thomson & Mark Little. Nothing came of it for the Mets.

Mets Career Stats: In his five-year Mets career Payton played in 368 games with 321 hits 47 doubles 5 triples 33 HRs &128 RBIs. He scored 143 runs, struck out 152 times drew 70 walks posting a .322 on base & & .735 OPS. Jay played 330 games in centerfield for the Mets, eighth most all time.

Post Mets Career:  The fresh start was great for Payton as he hit .335 in 47 games with the Rockies, hitting 8 HRs with 28 RBIs. In 2003 Payton would have his best season in the thin air of Colorado batting .302 with career highs in HRs (28) doubles (32) hits (181) & RBIs (89).

The next year he signed with the San Diego Padres and found the Southern California air wasn’t as friendly to his hitting. He batted .260 with just 8 HRs & 55 RBIs in 143 games. Defensively he led all NL centerfielders with 11 assists.

In 2005 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox where he hit .263 in 55 games. He was then dealt, to the Oakland A’s mid-way through the season for Chad Bradford. In 69 games he hit 13 HRs & drove in 42 runs. That season Payton led all AL centerfielders in fielding.

Payton played in 142 games in a utility outfielders' role with the first place A's who won 93 games in 2006. He batted .296 with 10 HRs & 59 RBIs with a .743 OPS getting to his second post season. 

2006 ALCS: In the ALCS loss to the Detroit Tigers he batted .286 with a HR, two doubles & two RBIs. In the final Game #4 loss he homered off Jeremy Bonderman in the 4th inning.

Payton signed a two-year deal with the Orioles, spending the next two seasons in Baltimore where hit het seven HRs each season batting  .256 with 58 RBIs in the 2007 season.  

In March of 2009 he injured his shoulder while lifting weights causing him to miss the entire year. 

In 2010 he signed with the Rockies again, getting into just 20 games at the big-league level batting .343, but was released at the end of the year.  

Career Stats: In his 12-year career, he batted .279 with 1157 hits 119 HRs 193 doubles 30 triples 561 runs scored & 522 RBIs. He struck out 503 times in 1157 at bats, drew 255 walks, posting a .323 on base % & .748 OPS.

As an outfielder he posted a .987 fielding % in 1185 games.

Honors: Payton was inducted to the Connie Mack World Series Hall of Fame in his native Ohio, outside Cincinnati.


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