Time For A Change

An article by posted on May 12, 2013
Terry Collins

We have the teamwork, to make the dream work?

Jordany Valdespin has his flaws and it has nothing to do with his race. He could be Caucasian, African American, Pacific Islander, doesn’t matter … he’s had trouble with insubordination in virtually every stop on his way to the majors. He picked a fight with Ike Davis and Justin Turner for a prank they had absolutely nothing to do with, he took a silly picture wearing a Marlins cap and put it up on twitter, he is ridiculously full of himself and the fact of the matter is that in no baseball universe is it acceptable to celebrate the way he did when your team is six runs down in the ninth. It just looks bad and makes your teammates look bad.

That Jordany is universally disliked is a given. Word is Teufel can’t stand him and Collins isn’t far behind … Valdespin is stubborn and difficult and he’s been suspended numerous times for his belligerence, most recently in the winter leagues where he ran afoul of his coaching staff …

So lets stop acting like this is some sort of racially motivated conspiracy against a Latino player, or that this somehow reflects a lack of tolerance for his ethnic or cultural predilections. Lagares, Tejada and Familia seem to be doing just fine, as did Reyes who in many ways was far more animated … But Reyes was likeable, and his intent was to have fun and fire up his team. Jose never celebrated a homerun when his team was down a half dozen runs.

Yes Valdespin has a ton of talent, yes he’s probably the best outfield option on the team, yes he’s probably come a long way from his days of getting suspended in the minors, and no this isn’t about his ethnicity or his culture. This is all about Valdespin being Valdespin, a guy who in all likelihood would have a hard time fitting into any major league clubhouse.

As I write this, Valdespin comes up with the Mets down by nine runs and promptly gets plunked … not entirely surprising, still I felt bad for the kid. What was surprising was the reaction on the Mets bench. No support, not even a raised eyebrow. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that. Most teams have one or two players who are disliked, the 86 Mets had a few, every team has them … but I can’t imagine anyone on the 86 team getting plunked without someone on the Met bench going ballistic. Could still happen here with Valdespin, but I doubt it.

Apparently Valdespin is so disliked that his own teammates don’t seem to mind when the opposing team hits him. As Gary Cohen pointed out, what does that do for team chemistry?

Greg Jeffries had enemies on the Mets but I can’t imagine him getting plunked without some response from the Met bench. I’ll say this, if I were on a team where one of my teammates got hit and there wasn’t so much as a whimper from my dugout I wouldn’t like it. I’d trust my teammates a little bit less for not coming to Valdespin’s support regardless of how unsavory a character he might be. I might even wonder if these same teammates would come to my support.

When I began this piece I intended to conclude on a hopeful note by pointing out that Valdespin has too much talent, that he might benefit from some sort of structured intervention to help him adjust, that he’s still a Met and I hope he can succeed.

People fail to adjust for any number of reasons, anything from difficulty with social pragmatics to personality disorders to actual adjustment issues, but when a single person is so polarizing that an entire team turns it’s back when that person is assaulted — by the opposition no less — you know it’s time to make a change. No one wants to be on a team that betrays it’s own, a team that turns a blind eye when its players are plunked. As much as I may understand how difficult Valdespin might be, I question the entire team a little bit more after today’s pathetic showing.

Maybe Collins needs to go, maybe Valdespin needs to be traded … but there is no way you can have this sort of atmosphere bubbling under the surface of a clubhouse and expect to have teammates who can work together, lift each other up, and help each other succeed.

Personally I think the Pirates wouldn’t have even cared if Collins and the New York Media hadn’t brought the whole thing up the night before … but in the end Valdespin gets plunked and the Mets end up looking like a bunch of cold-hearted pansies who either hate each other so much they don’t care, or don’t care enough to defend their own. Either way it’s bad, really bad.

If I’m Sandy I’m on the phone after this game and I’m seriously evaluating my managerial and coaching alternatives.

The fact that Collins went crying to the press after Friday’s game was shameful. Tackle the problem face to face with the player and today you tell your pitcher to drill the next Pirate batter who comes to the plate.

You don’t admit your player acted poorly and allow your guys to be assaulted and potentially injured because of a bat flip, and because you’re glad it wasn’t David Wright, that’s just stupid. And, if there’s a guy in your clubhouse that inspires that much hatred? Well maybe it’s time to trade him or demote him, or better yet put a manager in place who can actually manage the personalities on his team.

Following the game, “They threw at him. I knew they might.” – TC

And you did nothing Terry? You let your kid get hit, because, he deserved it? That’s some leadership right there.

“I would have been bothered had it been somewhere up in the neck area,” manager Terry Collins said. “If nothing else, he grew by it, and that’s the most beneficial thing that could happen.” – TC.

Yes! Please throw at our players because we don’t have the temerity to teach them how to play the game ourselves … just not at the neck if you don’t mind. See, what’s really important here is that we not show up the other team … we don’t want to upset them while they’re clobbering us and we understand that if we get out of line they’re just doing us a favor when they bean us … it teaches us a lesson … we “grow by it.” So, thank you Pirates.

Unbelievable.

Terry quite probably precipitated the events on Saturday afternoon by bringing attention to the bat flip in the first place, then he did nothing after the kid got drilled in the forearm, didn’t even send a trainer out … mind blowing really. I don’t see anyone on this team running through any walls for this manager any time soon and today’s events certainly won’t help.

The lesson here is somewhere in the fact that this article started out as a critique of Valdespin and was originally going to end with a call for some sort of intervention (because the kid is talented) … then Jordany got drilled and the article turned into something far worse, an indictment of a team that will do nothing when one of it’s young players gets hit.

The problem is that in spite of all of Jordany’s flaws no one deserves to get plunked for flipping a bat — no matter what the player’s shortcomings might be. He’s still a team member, he wears the same colors and you come to his support if the opposition goes after him, I’ve known that since the third grade. So there is something far worse going on here, something missing in the character and resolve and cohesion of this team, something possibly irreparable without some dramatic changes.

About the Author ()

I’ve been a Met fan since August 1969 when a fire resulted in the Red Cross placing my family on the 6th floor of a building in Willets Point. I could see Shea from our balcony and I knew something big was going on. I followed them through the dark years and the resurgence of the 80’s only (sadly) to miss the fall of 86 because I was in Boot Camp. I've been serving penance ever since in Minnesota where I'm an SLP. I've written a lot about the Mets in an effort to share with my kids (and anyone else who might listen), a sporting tradition that made much of my childhood worthwhile. Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewBalasis

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