I’m not convinced the Mets really understand their strength and potential as a baseball team. Everybody talks about the Met pitching potential and the fact our current team and our teams in the future are and will be built around pitching. I love that fact.
But, I’ve always been told that teams built around pitching need to be strong defensively, especially down the middle of the field. That’s right, draw a line straight down the middle of the diamond and make sure that at least one player who mans each position near that line excels with the leather. That’s catching, shortstop and centerfield.
I was excited about the potential for the Mets to put together an iron rod down the middle of their defense to match some solid mound work heading into the 2014 season. Juan Lagares was a lightning bolt providing perhaps the best centerfield defense in baseball in the second half of 2013. Pitchers have to love pitching with a guy like Lagares running down balls in centerfield.
Then there was Travis d’Arnaud. Many Met fans were sorely disappointed with d’Arnaud’s introduction to the major leagues late last season. Not me. The disappointments were purely based on d’Arnaud’s struggles at the plate. But, d’Arnaud was more than satisfactory calling a game, framing pitches and catching a game behind the plate. To my way of thinking, d’Arnaud showed the stuff needed to become a second notch in a Met iron defensive rod.
Then there was shortstop. We all know Daniel Murphy is average at best as a defensive second baseman. But, Murphy is a professional hitter, something we badly lack, and a guy who works doggedly on improving his defensive game. We can live with that.
Murphy’s lack of defense made it common baseball sense, logical baseball thinking, that the Mets needed a stellar defender at shortstop to complete the iron wall of defenders down the middle of the field that their pitcher’s deserve. And, Stephen Drew, a noted defensive shortstop was available.
The potential of a Drew signing was immense. Drew hits better than the other Met options at shortstop and is a valued major league defender at this critical position. All winter long I believed we were playing possum, positioning ourselves to bring in Drew at the eleventh hour to lock down a credible defensive wall through the middle of the diamond.
It never happened. And then, at the first sign of trouble, with our team struggling mightily scoring runs, the Mets lose faith in Lagares and remove him from the line-up in four of five games. Why? We were seeking offense, even when Juan Lagares had been the most productive offensive outfielder in our everyday line-up by far.
Other than driving me almost to the edge, the moves the Mets have or have not made, and the their failure to clearly understand what they have in Lagares makes me believe our management has yet to clearly understand who the Mets are, or can be, as a baseball team. It’s Baseball 101. Look at the history books. Analyze 1969. Study 1973. Figure it out.