From Left Field: Sloppy Defensive Fundamentals Dooming Amazin’s

An article by posted on May 22, 2014 0 Comments
Wilmer Flores (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Wilmer Flores (Photo by Jim Mancari)

I was sitting on the edge of my seat at Citi Field last night in the top of the eighth inning with one out and runners on the corners for the Dodgers.

The dangerous Hanley Ramirez was up with the Mets only down by one run. Boy did we need a double play in that spot.

Ramirez likely would have been tough to double up, except maybe if he wound up hitting a sharp comebacker right to Jeurys Familia on the mound.

To my surprise, he did. Right off the bat, I’m thinking, “Wow, what a huge double play in that spot!”

But Familia all of sudden double clutches, and I see two guys – Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores – both hovering around second base and in each other’s way.

Naturally, the Mets fail to turn the double play and allow an insurance run to score. As if the script was written prior to the game, the Mets only muster one run in the next two innings – meaning the fielder’s choice off the bat of Ramirez produced what was essentially the game-winning run.

And it’s all because the Mets have trouble with the fundamentals.

In recent memory, the Mets pretty much have been in every game they’ve played. Yet they’ve now lost three in a row and 14 of the last 19 games.

How many times is this team going to shoot itself in the foot by making mental mistakes?

A slow trickler out in front of the plate with two outs, and Anthony Recker and Carlos Torres can’t communicate to get an out at first, allowing a run to score. And that was after a wild pitch that allowed the runner to move from second to third.

Another huge double play situation the next night, and Jacob deGrom induces the dangerous Brian McCann to hit a sharp grounder. Murphy throws to David Wright covering second due to the shift, but Wright makes a weak and wide throw to first. Of course, Alfonso Soriano follows that with the only run-producing hit of the game.

We know this team is not going to score five-plus runs per game. But the starting pitching has been better than the team’s record shows.

I’ve written about it already this season that the Mets can’t rely on playing “perfect games” every single night. But what they have to do is make the plays they are supposed to make – especially in game-changing situations.

On the play last night, there’s two ways to look at it. With a right-handed hitter batting in Ramirez, maybe Murphy and Flores communicated that Murph would cover on a comebacker. But the traditional play is that the shortstop takes the throw, since his momentum is already carrying him towards first base to complete the double play. They were already positioned in double-play depth, so it’s not like Flores had far to go.

Sure, Familia should have just thrown it in the general area, and hopefully one of the middle infielders still would have had enough time to take the throw and complete the play. But still, it should have been clear who was covering the base before the play, and the other middle infielder should have then backed up the play.

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda” at this point – and sadly, this phrase has been used way too often this season.

So after another tough loss, I left Citi Field discouraged. The silver lining: deGrom has looked great through two starts.

But without offense and with routine defensive miscues, his starts – and all the pitchers’ starts – will come to naught.

About the Author ()

Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He earned a Master's degree in journalism from Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Be sure to visit http://www.jimmancari.com/