In no particular order, here is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly...
Mets Spring Training: Positional Players
CATCHER - ....has been a problem for the Mets since MIKE PIAZZA's last game and has gone unresolved to the present. Omar has never really found a stable solution for this position. Omar brought in PAUL LoDUCA to replace Piazza and was servicable for a year and 1/2. It's been a revolving door ever since.
I would give the job outright to JOSH THOLE. It's easy to get caught up in the sparkle of a promising September call-up like he experienced in '09. Having said that, I don't think I'm getting caught up by a sparkling Sept. call-up.
The other options are OMIR SANTOS and HENRY BLANCO. Bengie MOLINA chose against signing with the Mets for less money to stay in S.F. Omar tried. I cede him that. But by no means was Molina a solution for the catching position. At best he would have been the latest through the revolving door.
Back to Santos and Blanco, they are considered the defensive specialists. Problem is they are both offensively challenged. Let's be honest. If you're going to tell me one of them is the starter while we continue to look for someone else and we're sending Thole to the farm for more seasoning.....That's fair. If I'm being forced to be pragmatic about this....that's fair. But my official stance is I would give the job to Thole. My official opinion is Omar hasn't been able to give this position stability entering the 5th year since Piazza last played here. And my sarcasm asks...Santos and Blanco? Really? Make the arguement why one of those two should start over Thole and get back to me.
I'm going to admit, all I want from my catchers is superlative defense. I'm a Jerry Grote guy if that gives you an idea what I'm talking about. Having said that....gimmie Thole.
FIRSTBASE - I made it quite clear...I wanted Carlos Delgado back under a one-year deal...Like Jane wanted Damon back! He is so close to 500 HR and 1600 RBI and I wanted him to do it as a Met. If you know me by now and how I followed the Winter Leagues, even I have to admit he was not moving well and struggled in Puerto Rican League play. I saw it for myself. Ask me and I will tell you, in better days, it was Delgado and not J.Reyes that made the Mets' line-up dangerous.
A quick digression which leads me into our other options.... When Carlos Delgado was a free agent he chose to go to Florida over us. There were rumors and speculation it was because Tony Bernazard was playing the Latino Card and it turned Delgado off. Omar traded to get Carlos Delgado anyway. He traded a kid of ours at the time, Mike Jacobs. Now we just re-signed Jacobs.
DANIEL MURPHY - This is tough for me. We need more slugging from 1B. It's just too hard to "hide" him in our line-up. I like the kid and I want to be patient with him. In 508 at-bat he only struck out 69 times and had 38 doubles, while batting .266 in his first full year. It's something to work with. He makes contact and maybe he can build upon and translate those doubles into something else. Oh yea...He's still learning how to play the position. He's still raw out there, but I won't say his glove is for self-defensive purposes only. But this is such a tough call. After you look at our options, we don't have much choice.
FERNANDO TATIS - ...again? Really? C'Mon!! I'm all for a strict platoon at firstbase. But are we doing this Tatis thing again? Not happy.
MIKE JACOBS - ...is very interesting. I was sorry to see him go in the Delgado deal. He never lived up to the promise he showed here once he left. He topped 30 HR in his career but has struggled away from "Shea". I have mixed emotions about him. I'm glad to see him back. Maybe he can pick-up where he left off here and recapture some of that swing we saw and actually win the 1B job. But Jacobs completes a cycle of sorts as he is here and Delgado is not. Omar is literally back to where the 1B situation was when he arrived here for the 2005 season.
SECOND BASE - ...Luis Castillo had a nice bounce back season. He really got a bad rap around here for the foolish contract Omar signed him to, then offering up a stinker of a season in 2008. But the truth is he's always been a .300 hitter with very solid defense. Omar was killed routinely about Luis Castillo and still is. All the talk here in NYC is Luis Castillo is the reason why we don't have Orlando Hudson playing 2B for us. The Mets won't eat Castillo's contract. I'm not drinking that HUDSON Kool-Aid. I think Castillo can give us another season like he offered last year. He was one of the few things that went right around here last year. But he still gets a bad rap. I myself don't like the contract Omar gave him, but I could be more critical of this situation than I am. Side note...There is no one worth mentioning coming up from the farm. It's Luis Castillo or bust Met fans.
SHORTSTOP - this is easy. If Jose Reyes is fully healthy, he's one of the most dynamic players in all of baseball. If Jose Reyes, who has now lost two complete seasons to leg injuries that sandwich his career, is not healthy, meaning if his legs aren't the same, he is not Jose Reyes and is no longer one of the most dynamic players in baseball. It's that simple. His legs are what make him special. If his legs are compromised, his unique skill is over. Simple.
THIRD BASE - David Wright. He waited till his 5th full year in the league to have his Sophomore Jinx. What happened to him last year? Ya can't blame his lack of HRs on CitiField. He was equally futile on the road. His strike outs went through the roof. Now it could have been because everyone dropped like flies around him in the line-up and it was just easier not to give David Wright a good pitch to hit. Why would anyone have done that last year? Maybe getting beaned in the head shook his batter's-box confidence a little. That's just speculation on my part. I expect David to bounce back and get back to what he's done between '05-'08. But he needs a healthy Carlos Beltran in the line-up also.
****INFIELDERS - ALEX CORA, can play 1B, 2B, 3B and SS. Another one of the few bright spots for the Mets last year with his ability to step in for injured players and actually improve the defense in the absense of the starter. His attitude and leadership were heralded throughout the clubhouse. He is rehabbed from thumb surgeries and ready for the season.
LEFT FIELD - JASON BAY. I can't knock this signing. As a matter of fact it's about time. LF has been another of Omar's revolving door postions. One of Omar's fetishes is trying to capture lightning in a bottle from older players at the end of their careers and injury comebacks. Omar, not once but twice, mistakenly signed Moises Alou for this position. First time shame on me....second time shame on OMAR! At least now with Jason Bay the position is settled for a few years. There are some health concerns that scared the Red Sox away and a few other teams felt likewise. The fact that I wouldn't trust the Met's Med Staff to put on a band-aid at current, has to leave a small fraction of uncertainty in Met Minds.
CENTER FIELD - CARLOS BELTRAN....out till June. Surgery-Gate. Who knew...Who didn't...who gave the OK?.....NON-SENSE!! Front office buffoonery. We just have to bide our time and wait, and that hopefully he comes back healthy and ready to contribute. Carlos Beltran is a player who asked the Yankees to sign him for less money the Mets offered him. He wound up here. His first year here was a rough start especially with the fans. The fans really got on his case his first year here. I'd admit it, but I was not one of them. Met fans can not get the image of him watching a curveball fall in for strike three to end the 2006 NLCS out of their minds. And now because of this surgery snafu, I fear the Mets and Beltran are headed towards an ugly divorce. That's just me. I am a Beltran fan. He is one of the few players, as they go, who signed for the big money then performed and delivered above his career averages after signing. Usually teams fall into the trap of paying for past performance. Beltran had his career years here. Yet he gets critisized at every opportunity. The rumor is he told Bengie Molina not to sign here.
Until he gets back there's ANGEL PAGAN and FERNANDO MARTINEZ
ANGEL PAGAN is someone I've liked since he played with the Brooklyn Cyclones (A) in 2001. In spring training of 2008 he was winning the day and himself a LF job. Injury ended that. Last year was another season waisted to injury also. He's not a kid anymore however much Met fans thinks he still is. But when he was on the field he always seamed in the mix, part of a rally and doing good things. Beltran's injury is probably Pagan's last chance to show his worth here but he has to stay healthy. If he can manage that he can be a good player for us. I am pulling for him.
FERNANDO MARTINEZ, a product from the farm I claim doesn't exist anymore. He was MVP of the Caribbean Series for his Dominican Republic team this winter. He is still only 21 and seems to be our only "blue chipper". That remains to be seen. But I like this kid and want to see him get substantial time in CF in Beltran's absence.
RIGHT FIELD - ...anyone the Braves don't want anymore I am skeptical of. JEFF FRANCOEUR gives me the willies. Another postion Omar has never straightened out is RF. Remember Shawn Greene? Remember all the other shleps we threw out there? I bet you don't. That's my point. If the Braves gave up on him and accepted Ryan Church in return, whom they themselves did not retain, what does Omar see in Francoeur that John Schuerholz didn't? If Schuerholz doesn't want him, I want everyone who reads this to ask themselves, why would I want him? I know he did well in the short time he was here last year. Maybe a change of scenery will do him good. Maybe we'll get the Francoeur of 2006-07. Bottom Line > Jeff Francoeur is a roll of the dice. I'm hoping we don't roll craps.
That about covers the impotant stuff about the Mets positional players. The Mets offense will be living a precarious existence this season if ANYTHING goes wrong. There is just no room for error on this team and I don't see this team washing out the taste from our mouths in reference to the way the last 3 seasons have gone. I'm trying folks....I'm trying to be optimistic.
Let's Go Mets !!