Eating Raul (Ibanez)
Forgive me for being a backseat general manager, but after ever Raul Ibanez home run, do you cringe a little like me?
When I perused the market of free-agent corner this winter his name jumped out because of his consistency and veteran leadership (all reports are he is well-liked and respected by his brethren). His price tag of around $27 million did not seem cost prohibitive considering Omar Minaya sunk $24 million into an oft-injured second baseman (but we’ll leave Luis Castillo alone, for now).
The prevailing wisdom on why he was not coveted by Minaya was he hit from the left side and would make the Mets top-heavy there. So, the Phillies, who already had Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, added him. The rest they say is history, and if Raul continues to devour major league pitchers, the Mets could be too.
Well, the master plan had Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy slated to commandeer the majority at-bats as the corner outfields. Currently, the production has been paltry from the pair, and Murphy eventually has replaced Carlos Delgado, another lefty at first, as it turns out.
The twists and turns of a baseball season is as unpredictable as the next Mets injury. However, there exists one certainty: another one is coming (goodbye Ramon Hernandez, we hardly knew ya). So why not plug in a player who has averaged 157 games the last five years and will not endanger his buddy, Carlos Beltran in left-center? Because the Mets placed a lot of stock-maybe too much, in Murphy’s potential performance.
That is a lot of pressure on a kid who started the year beating the bushes up in Binghamton, New York.
By the way, the Phillies replaced their righty slugging left-fielder Pat Burrell (relief for Mets fans) with the left handed Ibanez. Burrell has been a bust for the Rays, and his replacement in Philadelphia has 19 HR, 51, RBI, is batting .340 (.333 against southpaws, with 6 home runs) and is slugging at a monstrous clip of .716, with a point shy of an impressive .400 OB%.
Not shabby, and more production than Delgado, Church, and Murphy combined.
The old bromide says some of the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Conversely, some of the best free-agent signings are the ones you do make.
Moreover, hindsight is 20/20, but that is what backseat GM’s get paid to do.
About the Author: Doug Branch
Doug has been sports writing since 1983. He first wrote about the Mets at spring training that year, and his first interviewee was surly catcher Ron Hodges. He currently writes for Mets Inside Pitch, among other magazines published by Scout Publishing-which is owned by Fox Sports. He began following the team during the Wes Westrum era, and redeemed many Borden milk coupons for free Saturday baseball. The night of Tom Seaver's imperfect game against the Cubs, he was in line to buy a ticket when the windows slammed shut and abject disappointment ensued.
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