March 14, 2011

Dreary Monday, No Mets, 2nd Base Competition: Really?

As I sit here in “snowy, sleety, sh….. St. Louis on a cold dreary Monday my thoughts turn to Spring Training baseball and my/our Mets.

Oops no Mets baseball least no game to watch or listen to…I heard there's some basketball thing coming up soon... Nah not today....guess I’ll check out some other baseball to tide me over til tomorrow or maybe I’ll think about the Mets so far..ahhhh

Halfway home!? It’s like starting over as the Mets hit the only scheduled “Off Day” of Spring Training 2011 with a 9-9-1 record. Or is it?

Other than the continuing saga of the “Mets Madoff Mess”, there has been no shortage of intriguing stories, stretching of truths and variances in roster competition battles.

Carlos Beltran (the unselfish former center field superstar free agent to be) has yet to play his new position for 2011. Hmmm... Hey, Scott Hairston hit 2 homers yesterday. Who’s excited?

As of this morning there continue to be confirmed/unconfirmed reports regarding the progress or lack thereof of lefty Johan Santana’s rehab from November surgery. If we believe Dan “John Maine’s a Liar” Warthan, Johan’s “on schedule” and feels “normal soreness” and “I hung out with him last night”. I’m more inclined to side with real medical folks who seem to feel it would be an achievement if Santana were to pitch at all this season, with a September time frame being a more aggressive if unrealistic forecast.

That said, Pelfrey, Dickey, Niese, Young and Capuano will be “shouldering the load” as long as those collective shoulders, elbows, fingers, legs, obliques, hamstrings, tendons and other assorted body parts hold out. I suppose a salutation of “Good Luck with THAT” is in order. In addition a quick, accelerated learning/experience curve for Dillon Gee and Jenrry Mejia would also seem to be in the clubs best interests. There’s always Kevin Millwood or a number of other “washed up” free agents that Alderson and crew could turn to. Let’s hope this is the road not traveled.

The pitching scenario can be and is bantered about elsewhere for pages; I choose to avoid that redundancy.

Yes there seems to be an expansion of the “battle” for the second base job in Mets camp. What started out as an announced competition between incumbent and fan unfavorite, Luis Castillo, the fans’ pet Daniel Murphy, rule 5 draftee Brad Emaus with Ruben Tejada and you know Hu thrown in has been expanded recently as manager Terry Collins has pronounced Luis Hernandez and Justin Turner as candidates. Wow, now that’s competition. Or is it?

The Mets front office added J.P. Ricciardi the former GM of the Toronto Blue Jays in the off season. Ricciardi, widely respected in baseball circles as a talent evaluator (Didn’t we have a guy named Minaya who came with similar billing?), strongly recommended the selection of Emaus from the Toronto organization as a diamond in the rough prospect who would be a good choice for the Mets to make in the Rule 5 draft. As a rule 5 draftee, Emaus must spend the entire season on the Mets big league roster or be offered back to the Blue Jays for $25,000. With recent comments from Alderson regarding roster flexibility and options, it would seem that Emaus would have to show some above average skills in camp in order to remain a Met. To this point, I, as an untrained observer have yet to witness such exploits. The fact that Ricciardi’s opinion is so highly valued may make my point of view moot and I can see Emaus being on the opening day Mets roster.

As for the player formerly known as “left fielder Daniel Murphy”, the hard working, hard luck kid with some pop in his bat has indeed done his due diligence in attempting to acquire the skills necessary to become a competent major league second baseman. While largely untested this spring Murphy has done little to completely embarrass himself nor has he performed brilliantly in the field or at the plate. It is Murphy’s work ethic and versatility in being able to adequately fill in at third base, first base and now, second base in addition to his willingness to do just about anything to be a major leaguer that will ultimately result in his being on the roster as a bench/utility player (Can he be a 3rd or 4th catcher?).

The Japanese veteran Hu, while purportedly in the second base competition is actually better as a slick fielding shortstop that is an able if not competent hitter who should make this club as the middle infield back up especially to rest Jose Reyes.

So that makes 3 players of the competition pool who should or will make the roster.

That leaves Tejada, Hernandez, Turner and Castillo.

It would seem that since Turner is a young player who can indeed fill in at third base and play an adequate second base will be sent back to the minor league complex as he still has options. The play of Ruben Tejada last year earned him the opportunity to “compete’ for a roster spot this season, but while an above average fielder who also can play short, Tejada’s weak bat will result in his meeting with Turner at the clubs minor camp prior to playing at Buffalo or being moved to another club this season. Hernandez’ fate will also revolve around the minor league complex within the next week or so.

Luis Castillo, Luis Castillo. He of the infamous dropped A Rod pop up. Luis the 6.25 million dollar incumbent second baseman returns for the final year of his contracted obligation. Hated by fans since the infamous error, Castillo is a professional baseball player by all standards. The fact that Omar Minaya and crew felt he was worthy of a guaranteed 4 year $25MM contract after the 2007 season is beyond the realm of any reasonable person’s fathom ability. With the financial situation of the team in “question” it would seem that releasing Castillo and having to pay him is out of the question. In reality, the fact that Castillo has lost a step in fielding range and running speed doesn’t refute the fact that he is still a capable defender and can still be fairly competent with the bat which will more than likely result in “Slappy” being the opening day second baseman for the fourth consecutive season in 2011. His recent production has done nothing but reinforce this notion.

Beltran. Oh Carlos…please get to 100% this season..

So the Johan Santana saga continues and at second base…the possibility that 4 “contenders” for the spot upon their arrival in Port St. Lucie about 3 weeks ago could and may well be part of what shapes up to be a weak Mets opening day roster.

There is more…A lot more...but that’s for another day

I wonder how Kyle Lohse will do against the Braves today…

Hoping for a better than .500 second half (of Spring Training) and some semblance of hope starting in just 18 days against Josh Johnson and the Florida Marlins.


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