Chris Young may have had one of his worst games as a Met today, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and failing to hustle on a line drive into the outfield that got by him.
Young saw his batting average drop to .196 with a .283 on-base percentage. The fans at Citi Field let him have it, booing and jeering Young after each long walk from home plate to the dugout.
“You’re out there busting your butt. You’re trying to do your best,” Young said. “As a player, that’s all you can do. You can’t control anything else. There’s a lot of negative energy coming my way.”
“You have to be a professional and continue to keep pushing and playing hard for this team. And you hope that some of it can turn that negative energy into positive energy to support us and help us fight through this.”
The situation with Young continues to deteriorate and the losses that are mounting for the Mets only make his constant presence in the lineup more glaring.
June 8 – The Chris Young Conundrum
As the baseball season moves into its third month, we have received a fairly representative sample of what to expect from the Mets’ offense going forward. While most of what we’ve seen has largely been disappointing, there have been some encouraging signs that have emerged since the firing of Dave Hudgens – a move that appeared largely symbolic of the overall frustration with the moribund Met lineups that have failed time and again to produce anything resembling a consistent level of run production. With the presence of Wilmer Flores to spur him on, Reuben Tejada, while still hardly a terror at the plate, nevertheless appears to be playing like a man on a mission and has shed the strangely apathetic approach of last season and actually swung the bat with a measure of consistency. In the past few weeks, Lucas Duda has started to look something like the run producer that team management has been waiting for and Curtis Granderson appears to be getting closer to a more typical level of production than what his anemic first month in a Met uniform seemed to portend.
The veteran sticks of Wright and Murphy seem to be well within their expected ranges of offensive output (albeit with a bit less power than one might expect from Wright), and while Travis d’Arnaud’s failure to hit much of anything to this point is problematic, it is important to remember that the young backstop is still a rookie, and one that comes with enough of a hitting pedigree that perhaps a greater degree of patience than one would prefer to exhibit is called for. Until he was sidelined by injury, Juan Lagares was holding up his end at the plate satisfactorily as well.
So all this leaves Left Field up for consideration, a position which by its very nature has developed as an “offensive” placement. While whatever fielding prowess brought by those who draw the assignment there is certainly appreciated, weak throwing arms and lumbering gaits are largely tolerated in exchange for a hoped-for degree of sock. During the off-season, Met fans clamored for a signing or trade that would fill this very real need, and the success (to this point) of available free agents Nelson Cruz and Michael Morse with the teams that chose to sign them makes the team’s decision to go with Chris Young look like a gamble gone wrong.
Yes, we can understand the thinking, to a degree. Cruz was originally seeking a much larger contract than what he eventually settled for with Baltimore, and neither he nor Morse could be considered a viable candidate to fill in as an occasional center fielder, a professed consideration in the signing of Young. And yes, we get that this represented an attempt to repeat the “lightning in a bottle” scenario that was the unexpectedly positive result of installing Marlon Byrd in right field last year. But at this point, with the season as far along as it is, it is becoming increasingly apparent that what the Mets have in Chris Young is very likely the same as the A’s had last year: a low-average hitter with a bit of speed and a bit of power but not enough of either to justify his receiving the majority of at-bats from among the available candidates.
Of course, there is no certainty that given the opportunity, either Andrew Brown or Eric Campbell would bolster the lineup to a greater degree than Young, but wouldn’t you like to at least see one or the other get an extended look? The problem of course, is Mr. Young’s contract and management’s apparent need to justify it. Terry Collins continues to talk about getting Young “going,” but barring a sudden and unexpected turnaround, this would appear to be nothing more than dutiful, yet hollow words of support. Young looks to be exactly what he is, and not much more. Another rookie flash who faded after a promising debut a la Joe Charboneau.
So, burdened with one of the one of the least productive lineups in baseball, will the Mets continue to run Chris Young out, albeit with occasional but increasingly more frequent benchings in favor of the much older but much more productive Bobby Abreu or the AAAA-labeled but potentially productive Brown/Campbell tandem? My guess is yes, at least until the amount remaining on his $7.25 million contract has eroded enough that releasing him has becoming palatable to the Wilpon/Alderson brain trust. While I bear Young no ill will, as a fan I find myself in that strange position of craving team offense but dreading any minor hot streak on his part contributing to it as it will have the effect of, to paraphrase Bill James with respect to an aging Gary Gaetti, keeping his useless carcass in the lineup.
With no consistent source of power and almost uncanny ability to waste scoring opportunities, this Met lineup cannot afford to keep slotting a player of Young’s abilities into the left field position. The question is, at what point will team management acknowledge this and move on? I, for one, hope it is sooner rather than later.