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.
But even if this is just a meaningless rough patch in February, one has to wonder.
Because three facts are undeniably clear:
- He can’t run.
- He can’t field.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.