A few days ago Terry Collins defended playing Ruben Tejada as his primary shortstop over Wilmer Flores with the following words:
“We’ve got to start winning. We don’t have time to develop players right at the moment, and you would like to develop players right at the moment, and you would like to for sure, but you can’t just say, ‘Hey, look, I’m going to sacrifice three or four days as we get some of these guys who haven’t been in the lineup, try to get them going offensively.’”
Now, overall, the Internet is all abuzz about Wilmer not playing every day. Not me. I agree 100% with Collins’s rationale. It is freaking June and it is freaking 2014. It is not 2011, or August. As unlikely as it is that this team is going to take off and make the playoffs, it is unlikely, not impossible. I can’t fault a manager, or a GM, for trying to win games in June.
The baseball season is 162 games and the biggest mistake fans make is forgetting how long that is. As of Sunday morning, Wilmer Flores had 81 plate appearances. In 1995, in his rookie season, Edgardo Alfonzo had 356 plate appearances. By the time the season ends, I expect Flores to exceed that total. In my opinion, Alfonzo, 21 at the time, was not ruined by the experience. Every young player is not good enough that you clear a spot for him, if a player has the goods he will kick the door in and show his stuff. The other guys become forgotten.
Now, as to the trickier point, whether Flores or Tejada provides the best chance to win right now. Can I have another choice? Like most of the free world I am on record as underwhelmed by Tejada. But I’m sorry, I can’t get my head around Flores as an everyday shortstop either.
On my visit to Citi Field on Memorial Day, I had seats in Row 33 of the Field Level, down the left field line. It gave me a great perspective of shortstop, and Flores happened to start that day. Having never seen him play the position in person, I watched him closely on every single defensive play and came away convinced his defensive comp at the position is Justin Turner. There is nothing surprising about that, he was moved off of shortstop in the minors for what must have been good reasons. And moved back this spring for a bad one — desperation. Sorry, I don’t think he’s the answer.
Where that leaves me on it all is that Terry or Sandy, or Jeff, whoever makes the lineup card out, should do what Collins said the other day. Play whoever they think can help the team win right now. If they think that is Tejada, hey, it might be.
If things totally spiral out of control, there will be plenty of time in August and September to get Flores at bats and see if he can hit enough to make up for his poor glove. I don’t think so, at least at short.
I’ve always used the line about Tejada that a team could make the playoffs with him, but it sure wouldn’t be because of him. I’m ready to say the same about Flores at short (second might be a very different story.) The answer is to get a real shortstop in here someday.
It’s been a while now.