Time To Step Up – Part 2, Infielders

Last week I wrote how it was time for the pitchers on this team to step up to plate for the upcoming 2010 season.  This week I’ll be looking at how the infield needs to step up and make 2010 a successful season.

Rod Barajas: With the signing of Rod Barajas we finally (hopefully) are done signing catchers and unless something drastic happens this spring Barajas is going to be the Mets starting catcher come opening day.  Now obviously Barajas wasn’t part of the dreadful 2009 season, but he is still going to need to step up to help this team for 2010.  Barajas with the exception of Johan Santana is going to have to take control of this pitching staff and get them to throw a good game every five days.  We all know Ollie Perez, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey are head-cases, he is going to have his work cut out for him this season, but a good catcher can make all the difference.  Barajas does call a good a game and to me that is more important than what he is going to do offensively.  I want him to have good at bats and produce offensively the way he has done over his career, but I want his head focused on getting the most out of our pitchers. Of course he can’t be the everyday catcher hitting below the Mendoza line but if he stays true to form he can hit some homerun’s and help our offense score some runs.

Daniel Murphy: Last year was a hard year for Murph, there is no doubt about that.  He had to learn two unfamiliar positions last year. Murphy is a workhorse and is always ready to play and I like that about him.  Murph now has some experience playing first base, he has been getting schooled by Keith Hernandez who is one of the best defensive first baseman to have ever played the game so it’s time to step up and improve your defense.  Now I understand he won’t have the instincts of a natural  first baseman that has played the position so well for so many years, that comes with time and experience, but he still needs to play solid defense with good fundamentals.  He showed flashes of that last season, but there were also mental mistakes that he cannot make this season.  He also needs to improve on his offense.  When Murphy came up in 2008 and Mets fans fell in love with him he was a very patient hitter, he worked counts and didn’t swing at bad pitches. But in 2009 he strayed from that approach. Hopefully this season he will go back to the way he approached hitting in 2008 and help this team win.

Luis Castillo: Castillo stepped up last year and improved his game a lot from 2008. Castillo came to Spring Training early and in shape ready to prove that 2008 was a fluke.  We all remember the dropped fly ball against the Yankees and at the time it was bad but Castillo stood up and took all the abuse from the fans and faced the media for days after that and still had a good season. In fact he improved his game after that error.  His defense remains a problem because of his decreasing range and to be honest I don’t know how you can improve that aspect of your game when father time is getting on you.  The one thing Castillo needs to do is use his veteran experience to help this Mets team win.  Keith Hernandez did an interview with SNY a couple of weeks ago about his tutoring Daniel Murphy and one thing he said caught my interest.  Keith said that when he first arrived to the majors, his second baseman helped him out, gave him signals when to move closer to the line or go off the bag based on what the next pitch was going to be. Keith asked Murph if Castillo did anything like that with him last season and Murph told him no.  Keith told Murphy to go and talk to Castillo and get on the same page defensively. Castillo is a veteran and needs to help the younger players like Murphy if he can.  This is a team sport and you help other guys on your team improve so that your team can win games.

Jose Reyes: Perhaps after Johan Santana, Jose Reyes is the most important player on the Mets. Whether he is our leadoff hitter or batting third to start the season, Reyes must stay healthy and must grow up this year.  I’m not talking about the handshakes or celebrations, I like those and I hope Jose brings the celebrations back in 2010.  What I don’t want to see from Jose Reyes is the sulking, pouting player we see at times when things are not going the way he wants them to go.  In the last game Reyes played at Citi Field he thought he hit a home-run, but it went off the wall and instead of running hard for a triple he did a home-run trot that only resulted in a double.  Jose at times has also not run out ground balls as hard as he could have and that cannot happen in 2010.  He’s got major league experience and he’s a veteran on this team, and he needs to act like one. I think Jose has started his maturation process as evident by his willingness to bat third if Jerry Manuel wants him to.  I remember last year Reyes did not seem very receptive to the idea and he let the media know about it, but this time he has no problem with not leading off, he just wants to win.

David Wright: David’s the first to admit that last year was not a good one for him and he hopes to rebound in a big way in 2010.  There’s not a lot to criticize about David, he plays the game the right way and he always tries to improve his performance.  If I had to find a fault it’s in his leadership ability.  Now I’m not saying David is not a leader, he cares about this team more than any other player and he talks to the media day in and day out win or lose. He says the right things to the media but I’m tired of his “they played better baseball than us” reasoning. It’s time for David to step up and become the leader we know he can be.  David seems at times to be hesitant about becoming the leader on this team. We saw glimpses of his leadership ability last year when he got in Pelfrey’s face to try to help the big man, it was a good sign and I was hoping to see more of that last year but that didn’t happen.  For years David has been called the leader by the fans and most of the press, it’s time for him to accept it and lead this team to victory.

Next week I’ll talk about how the outfielders need to step up to the plate for 2010, have a good week, baseball season is getting close and closer.