Feb 13

Outfield? What Outfield?

Here are some quotes from Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter who now know they have their work cut out for them this season.

But before that, here’s what the architect of the New York Mets outfield, Sandy Alderson, had to say. ”I’m excited to see what we have. I’m excited to see what those outfielders can provide us.”

lucas duda

Left Field – Lucas Duda

2012: .239/.329/.389, -1.4 WAR

“You want me to go yell at Sandy? That’s how it is. He’s right. There is no outfield.”

“It’s time to help the team anyway I can. That’s what I’m here for. I’ve been in the big leagues for a little bit now so I know what to expect and I think experience is a big factor. I think I’ll build on that. People can say what they want about our outfield. We’re just going to continue to work hard.

kirk nieuwenhuis

Center Field – Kirk Nieuwenhuis

2012: .252/.315/.376, 0.0 WAR

“I’ve spent this offseason dwelling mentally on what I can do better as a player and how, as an outfielder, we can become better. The way last season ended was frustrating.”

“We know what we’re capable of doing and we’re excited for the season. All that stuff that people talk about, all that stuff is just completely out of our control. For us to dwell on that and think about that would be completely detrimental to our play on the field.”

mike-baxter-mets

Right Field – Mike Baxter

2012: .263/.365/.413, 0.3 WAR

“I’d like to do a lot more with my career than just make a catch. We’ve just got a good, scrappy, hungry group of guys. Baseball’s a game you really can’t count anybody out. Knowing the group we have here, it’s just a really resilient and hungry group that is going to go out and not be too fazed by what’s going on publicly.”

“We might not have the biggest names in the outfield, but we have hungry guys out there who are excited and prepared for this opportunity.”

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Duda, Nieuwenhuis and Baxter will get the lion’s share of playing time for the Mets in 2013. Righthanded bench options include Collin Cowgill (.269/.336/.317, 0.3 WAR) and Andrew Brown (.232/.302/.429, -.01 WAR) who both will play mostly when a southpaw is on the mound and to spell Nieuwenhuis and Baxter.

If one of them should someone pull up lame or prove ineffective, the Mets could turn to Jordany Valdespin or possibly promote Matt Den Dekker. But let’s be honest here, this situation is obviously less than ideal. Not one of these players has ever had a full major league season in their career. If this was the plan all along, it wasn’t a very good one.

I’m not buying the excuse that the appeal to protect the pick would have taken as long as three weeks. If they were genuinely interested in signing a Type-A free agent, why didn’t they file the appeal three months ago, or two months ago, or one month ago? Why didn’t they raise a fuss the second they knew their pick would be unprotected?

Let’s call this what it is, a big-time fail.

It’s too bad, because I actually have great expectations for the starting pitching, the bullpen and the catching this year as readers of this site know. It sucks that we couldn’t bring in one capable everyday outfielder to compliment that. It would have been nice.

It also sucks for the rest of the team. This will put more pressure on everyone to ramp up their performances to compensate for the deficiency in the outfield and that’s totally unfair to all of them.

I know these guys will bust their behinds out there this season and give the team their best efforts. They are a terrific bunch of likable guys with great character and a burning desire to succeed. But the thing of it is, they had those same qualities last year too.

I’ll get over this by the end of the day, and you should too. We still have a lot of bright spots on the team and despite the losses of R.A. Dickey and Scott Hairston, there’s still a lot to be excited about, and it should be a fun season to watch.

Feb 02

Jordany Valdespin Throwing Away Career

The Mets are bringing Marlon Byrd, he of the PED suspension, to spring training. Byrd is 35 and hit .210 with one homer and nine RBI.

My first reaction was a yawn and my second was thinking how badly Jordany Valdespin is throwing away his career. The Mets have a huge hole in their outfield, but you never hear Valdespin’s name mentioned. And, here’s a guy with speed and came off the bench last year to hit a handful of pinch-hit homers. This is a guy with the potential to make an impact and he’s a virtual non-entity.

Valdespin began to shoot himself in the foot at the end of the season with a sour, combative attitude which included not hustling. What does it tell you when a bench player doesn’t hustle?

What does he do next?

With a chance to redeem himself to make an impression for the future, he’s suspended for insubordination.

What is wrong with this guy? He has a chance to be a major league player and be set for life financially. He has a chance to earn a starting outfield job in New York. It isn’t hard to be a popular player in this city. Hustle, play hard, be enthusiastic and demonstrate some success and the fans will love you. Just look at Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman. Neither were great players, but were productive and played hard.

Valdespin had a chance to be a player like them.

Maybe he’s not another Carl Everett or Milton Bradley, but he’s headed in that direction. Valdespin has a chance to be a major leaguer and he’s throwing it all away.

His loss, not ours.

 

Dec 09

Mets Matters: Wright Should Be Named Captain

As expected, with David Wright signed comes the inevitable talk of him being named captain. This isn’t like Santonio Holmes being made captain; this would have meaning.

WRIGHT: Future captain?

The meaning comes in Wright’s teammates already regard him in that capacity. Wright is already the team leader, whether it be telling the manager Jose Reyes isn’t healthy; or talking to a pitcher; or telling a young player, such as Jordany Valdespin he’d better hustle.

Wright, referred to as the face of the franchise, is as much a captain to his teammates as Derek Jeter was to the Yankees before George Steinbrenner made it official. When things go wrong for the Mets, as they frequently have since 2008, Wright is the voice in the clubhouse. Everybody in the media wants a Wright comment.

It would shock me if the Mets didn’t make it official in spring training. What’s really surprising is this hasn’t been done sooner.

VALDESPIN SHOWS PUNK SIDE: Valdespin had attitude issues last season, and things haven’t changed.

Valdespin was suspended for two games by his winter ball team for failing to run out a ball, and then the following day had a fit when he was pinch-hit for.

His latest example was when he tweeted a photo of himself wearing a Miami Marlins hat. Hell, if he wants to be a Marlin so bad, let him go.

With the Mets are trying to establish a new culture, the last thing they need is a punk attitude. Valdespin is damn lucky to be a major league ballplayer. He should take his $500-thousand minimum salary and be grateful.

NOTHING NEW WITH DICKEY: CEO Jeff Wilpon reiterated R.A. Dickey could not be traded and could play out this season with his $5 million option and negotiations could continue next winter as the knuckleballer doesn’t want to talk during the season.

Enhancing the chances Dickey stays with the Mets will be if the Dodgers sign Zack Greinke. The Rangers and Dodgers are the two key players to get the former Royals ace.

I would like this thing to just get done and have the Mets going into the season without this hanging over their heads.

HAMILTON ON YANKEES’ RADAR: Despite their talk of wanting to cut payroll, you knew eventually the Yankees would be paired to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

Instead of establishing the bar, the Yankees seem content to let this play out and have Hamilton come to them. Hamilton still might stay with Texas, but most everybody knew the Yankees would factor in this somehow.

 

Nov 09

2012 Mets Player Review: The Bench

KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, OF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Our player review series concludes today with a look at the bench, which wasn’t without questions. With Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda starting, that thinned the bench. Mike Nickeas was behind the plate; Justin Turner a capable reserve in the infield; and Scott Hairston and Mike Baxter were in the outfield. Kirk Nieuwenhuis opened the season in the minor leagues. The Mets liked Jordany Valdespin’s speed and ability to make things happen on the bases. In Nickeas, the Mets had a capable receiver, but not much offense; Turner had success as a pinch-hitter;  and Hairston and Baxter showed occasional power. Of the two, Baxter is the better defensive player.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Hairston proved capable – perhaps too capable – in the outfield as he ended up starting when Duda was optioned and Jason Bay alternatively struggled and was hurt and hit 20 homers. Baxter saved Johan Santana’s no-hitter with a spectacular catch in left field and also provided some pop. Nieuwenhuis got an early opportunity when Andres Torres pulled up lame (calf) the first week of the season and played very well for about two months before major league pitching caught up with him (you’ll keep getting breaking balls off the plate until you prove you can hit them). Kelly Shoppach was brought in late in the season to back-up Josh Thole and hit for sporadic power. Speaking of power, Valdespin provided a long-ball spark as a pinch-hitter.

LOOKING AT 2013:  Hairston was so good he’ll command a multi-year deal in the free-agent market, something the Mets don’t want to do. Say good-bye, although with what they have returning in the outfield they should think twice. With Bay gone and Torres not expected to be tendered, Nieuwenhuis will get a chance to earn a spot during spring training. He can handle the job defensively, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts and increase his on-base percentage considering he’s not expected to hit for power. Valdespin played some second base in the fall league, which should enhance his value. Valdespin could also benefit by Bay’s departure. Turner could be brought back, and if not, there will be plenty of alternatives on the market. Shoppach had his moments, but the Mets won’t pay over $1 million for a back-up when the starter makes half that amount. GM Sandy Alderson said there won’t be any big-ticket free agents, but inexpensive reserve outfielders and a catcher could be found.

Nov 04

2012 Mets Player Review: Daniel Murphy

 

 

DANIEL MURPHY, 2B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: It was more a matter of hope than it was solid expectations for second baseman Daniel Murphy. After all, this is a player who has had trouble staying healthy, and was frequently in danger of hurting himself in the field.  At the plate, the Mets expected little power production, but a high batting average and decent on-base percentage. Defensively, an original third baseman, Murphy failed to make it in left field, has been erratic at second and was moved off of first by Ike Davis. Murphy has been the subject of trade rumors to American League teams where he could have most of his at-bats as a designated hitter. That concept never gained any speed because of his limited power output of only 26 career homers in 469 career games.   

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Murphy gave the Mets a career-high 156 games and 612 at-bats, but only hit six homers and had 49 extra-base hits. He also had a dropoff of 29 points in batting average (.320 in 2011 to .291 last year) and drops in on-base percentage (.362 to .332), slugging percentage (.448 to .403) and OPS (.809 to .735). These drops happened despite playing in 45 more games and 41 more hits. Murphy hit throughout the batting order, but when he started at least ten games at a position, had more success hitting second (.309 in 73 games) than anywhere else. Overall, Murphy did not hit to his expectations, but showed a dramatic improvement in the field. Make no mistake, he still has work to do, but Murphy was far from a butcher in the field. Murphy will never have great range, but he made most of the plays and was better at making the double-play pivot.

LOOKING AT 2013: Murphy’s improvement would preclude the need for shopping for a new second baseman. The Mets are trying Jordany Valdespin at second in winter ball, and if he makes it would add speed. There’s always the trade market, but expectations are Murphy will keep his position next season. Because the Mets have so many holes in the bullpen, the outfield and perhaps the back end of the rotation, they will stick with someone who, if he stays healthy, should give them a decent average, but not a lot of run production. It was hoped with the more he plays and gets to know the pitchers he would hit with more power. As he plays more he should become more adept defensively.

NEXT: Ruben Tejada