“Mets Left Fielder” Should Not Be an Entitlement Position — Let Valdespin Enter the Competition

 

The following is an actual conversation between a father and a son that I made up.

The following is an actual, father-and-son conversation that I made up.

True story:

A little boy at the ballpark tugs on his father’s arm. “Hey, Dad!” the whippersnapper says. “Out there in the grass –”

The father smiles, affectionately tussles the boy’s hair. “That’s called ‘Left Field,’ Sport.”

“Oh, okay,” the boy says, blinking. “Out there in left field, is that just a big, steaming pile of –?”

“No, Sport,” the father chuckles. “That’s Lucas Duda! He’s the Mets left fielder!”

“Really?” The lad’s eyes grow wide in wonderment.

“Yeah, they handed him the job this Spring!” laughs the father.

The boy points in the direction of right field. “That guy is really slow, and it’s funny when he tries to bend. Is he a baseball player, too?”

“Have a hot dog, kid.”

Okay, admittedly, that wasn’t a true story. But let’s face facts: Lucas is off to a rough spring so far, six strikeouts in his first seven ABs, 1-10 overall. Terry even gave him a few days off just to clear the cobwebs. More at issue, Lucas underwent wrist surgery this off-season, and may not be up to snuff.

Wrists are tricky. It’s hard to hit without ‘em.

Plus, it’s lonely when you can’t hit.

Especially if you’re sensitive.

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But even if this is just a meaningless rough patch in February, one has to wonder.

Because three facts are undeniably clear:

  1. He can’t run.
  2. He can’t field.
  3. He can’t hit LHP.

Thus, Lucas has to hit a lot to become a slight net positive. So while we’re bemoaning the state of the 2013 Mets outfield, let’s reflect that the one shoe-in guy all along has been Lucas Duda.

It’s still too early for me to say this out loud, so I’ll type it quietly: we might be wasting our time on this fellow.

On the other hand, I want to shake that worry from my skull.  Clearly, the team appears bound and determined to give him one last, clear shot. It would be nice if it worked. Truth is, I feel sorry for the big lug. When he arrived out of nowhere and raked during the second half of 2011, I asked myself, “Did we get lucky with this guy? Just this once?”

I should have known better.

Regarding his time off from the Grapefruit Games, manager Terry Collins talked about Duda’s return from wrist surgery, and how he’s now taking extra work to prepare for game situations.

Collins said — and I swear this is an exact quote, because I checked it fourteen times — “Today he just took a tremendous load on the back field.”

Which sounds relaxing.

Quick story: on a teenage dare, I once took a load . . . nevermind.

I’m just reporting the facts, folks. Read here for Terry’s comments if you don’t believe me.

Meanwhile, the Mets manager opened camp with the decree that Jordany Valdespin is an infielder, not an outfielder, and that was going to be the focus for spring training.

Okaaaaay.

But.

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I’m looking at second base, there’s Murphy, and Flores, and Havens, and Turner, and a few other chipper-looking guys. Even at AAA, how’s Jordany going to get on the field at 2B? I mean, it’s got to be Flores, right? Got to be. (I know, the organization has planned otherwise, but let’s get real.)

Maybe the reality is that management is not sold on Jordany’s own, troubled self and this is just part of the exit strategy. Maybe they want to showcase him as a second baseman?

Then I cast my gaze into the outfield. It could be that right now, this minute, Jordany Valdespin gives the Mets more than Lucas Duda — who, let’s remember, cannot run the bases or field the position, and tends to turn into Matty Alou against LHP.

And it could be that right now, this minute, Jordany gives us more than Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Better athlete, more speed, more thunder in his bat.

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Even if you conclude otherwise, that’s not my point. Because if you can truthfully answer, “Maybe, perhaps,” then that’s all the opening I seek. He might be the better option.

Of course, Jordany does not fit the approved mold. He’s not the ideal archetype. He’s a free swinger — and maybe he’s a jerk, too, though it’s hard to tell from here. But there’s no way, entering this season, that it makes sense for Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson to preemptively remove Jordany Valdespin from the outfield (cough, cough) competition.

I know we’re just a few games into this, but Brown doesn’t look like he can move, Hoffman neither. Outfield defense matters, it does. So does speed.

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Duda is our guy, automatically. Valdespin is not, also automatically. Why?

I’m not sure that’s the smartest way to address the worst outfield in baseball.

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10 comments

  1. Loved that imaginary conversation, especially the part about looking funny when he tries to bend. Man, this situation is worse than I thought. How does a team in one of the largest markets in America end up with a worse outfield than the Houston Astros?

  2. Craig says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Who is Duda and what has he proved to be
    handed a spot? TC is very narrow minded and should have the players compete
    for several spots like closer why name Parnell instead of letting other pitchers
    compete too for the closers spot? Frankie will be the closer when he’s ready
    but he can’t stay healthy anyway and rightfield too let Flores try to win the job!
    They say he’s to slow to play the outfield but what is Duda a speedster? If Flores
    is not allowed to compete for RF or LF then let him play 2b everyday until Murphy
    is ready to enhance his trade value! I have never been a TC fan and I can’t wait
    for Wally B to manage the mets next year!

    • Craig, thanks for making your first “2 Guys” comment. Now we consider you as part of our family, which means that we’ll expect gifts next holiday season. I favor Irish Whiskey and warm scarves. You made a lot of points. Personally, I’d like to see Flores get a lot of time at 2B right now. Every moment Justin Turner stands out there my skin crawls. Scouts seem to overwhelmingly agree that Flores is too slow for the outfield. I believe Parnell can close, and there would be tremendous value in FINDING OUT in 2013. Developing our own closer would be millions of dollars better than trying to buy a guy via free agency. While I have issues with Collins from time to time, I think most of what happens comes from the Mets GM. Duda in LF was the plan going into spring, practically set in stone. Lastly, I’d be shocked if Sandy Alderson ever hired a guy like Wally Backman. They just don’t seem like a match. But I’ve been wrong before — plenty of times!

      – JP

  3. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of Greg Burke so far. Yesterday in his second inning, he served up a DP ball that Quintanilla stayed back on so it only resulted in a force. Later, somebody hit a high fly in the gap to right — it stayed up there forever — so there was plenty of time to watch Andrew Brown, as if running through water — with a piano on his back — move ever-so-painfully in the direction of said baseball. It fell, of course, for a double. More runs scored. Defense matters. I mean, we know these guys can’t hit. But are we seriously looking at players who can’t hit or field? While we build around pitching?

  4. Eric says:

    Being NAMED a Starter is not the same as BEING a Starter. ….or Closer. These guys, Duda and Parnell have been handed “PUT UP OR SHUT UP”….. Do or Go!…..that’s my read.

  5. I don’t think Duda and Parnell should be in the same sentence. One guy, we don’t know if he’s a major leaguer; he might be Butch Huskey. He can’t run, field, and seems very fragile. The other guy, Parnell, we don’t know if he’s a closer, but we know he has the tools to remain an outstanding asset in the pen. One guy you could trade in a heartbeat — teams would line up for Parnell. The other guy, it’s just the sad state of the current outfield and that he’s ours. Lucas might hit like Manny and prove me wrong, but he’s going to have to hit like Manny first.

    • Eric says:

      I have long been a proponent of trading Parnell at the next moment teams “line up” to get him.

      He’s a Hot Arm…..beginning and end of Story. If you don’t move their feet or their eyes, and you don’t disrupt their timing, Major League Hitters will kill you. Parnell cannot pitch to Quality hitters

      • You might be right. To my eyes, he seemed to improve last season. He’s now an extreme groundball pitcher (63%, which is quite high) who only gave up 4 homers last season. I’ll you what? And this goes back to that concept of INVESTMENT in players. If Parnell gets 15-20 saves by July — and leaps into the “proven closer” category — his stock will double. Let Francisco be the 8th-inning guy, screw what he wants. Let’s see what we can squeeze out of Parnell. Down the road there will be a choice: commit to him or, if the offer is there, trade him in July. I commented to Mike the other day, referencing the J.J. Putz deal, GMs tend to overpay when they get desperate for relief help.

        All that said: I like him.

        • Michael Geus says:

          In this case though you could turn that argument around. If Francisco is healthy (big if) and can pitch well until July, and you let him close, his stock increases. He could then be flipped. And if it is all about 2014 and on he has little other use to the franchise. If they can both pitch I would go with Francisco.

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