Losing Bengie is a Lucky Break

An article by posted on January 20, 2010

The knee-jerk reaction among the unenlightened on New York sports talk radio (can someone please shut WFAN’s Chris Carton up for crissakes!) and in the blogosphere today is that the Mets blew another one when catcher Bengie Molina decided to spun the club’s offer and sign for less money to return to San Francisco. But the real fans (like the ones on this site) knew a potential dud deal when they heard one.

Omar Minaya and company have absorbed a lot of deserved criticism for their questionable personal decisions and signings the last couple of years, but on this one they were right to stand firm and resist giving Molina the two-to-three year contract he wanted. Unfortunately for Bengie, he suffered the fallout from two of the worst signings in recent years–the misguided four-year, $24 million deal the Mets gave  Luis Castillo in 2008 and last year’s disastrous signing of Oliver Perez for three years at $12 million per.

It’s clear (not only on this move but in the signing of Jason Bay) that Omar learned his lesson regarding overpaying and bidding against himself. He was also wise not to overreact and regard Molina as some kind of compensation for losing Carlos Beltran’s home runs and the public relations hit they took for the communication fiasco regarding Beltran’s sudden knee operation. Molina would have been a good signing for one year as a stopgap while the Mets wait for Josh Thole to be major-league ready or scour the market for a new catcher next year. But committing two years or more to a catcher who will turn 36 in mid-season would have been a major mistake.

It is common knowledge around baseball that catchers start breaking down at around 35, and those are the ones who are in shape. Molina looks like he’s ready to be a contestant in “The Biggest Loser.” Watching highlight footage of him running around the bases, his beer belly bouncing around like jello, was cringe-inducing. The Mets need athletes, not out-of-shape guys a couple of years from retirement looking for one more good payday. Molina is an injury waiting to happen and that’s the last thing the Mets would need after last season when practically half the roster was on the disabled list.

On top of that, Molina has never met a pitch he didn’t like. While his strikeout totals aren’t terrible, he hardly ever takes a walk and that would not be a good fit on a club with high strikeout guys like Bay, Jeff Francoeur and David Wright. While Molina belted 20 homers for the Giants last year, that number would likely decrease in spacious CitiField, especially if he started succumbing to the age breakdown.

Would an experienced handler of pitchers like Molina have helped the Mets staff? No doubt. The team was obviously willing to have Bengie serve as a bridge while they developed or traded for a new catcher. But giving into this guy’s demands would have just been throwing good money after bad. Give this round to Omar and regard Molina’s decision to go back to San Francisco as a lucky break.

About the Author ()

Stephen Hanks (Tom Terrific) is a magazine editor and writer based in Brooklyn, NY, who has been the publisher and editorial director of publications ranging in subjects from sports to health to archaeology. He began his career at the late, great SPORT Magazine in 1977 and in 1983, he co-founded NEW YORK SPORTS Magazine (which ceased publication in 1985). He has written and edited coffee table books on baseball history, penned unauthorized biographies of Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretzky, and in 1990 authored "The Game That Changed Pro Football," an oral history of the 1969 New York Jets Super Bowl Season. Even though he grew up near Yankee Stadium, he loathes the team from the Bronx and has been a die-hard Mets fan since attending his first game at the Polo Grounds in 1963.

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