Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Chin-lung Hu’

Double Comeback! What Does It Mean! (Something Nice, 4/27/11)

Posted by JD on April 27, 2011

I have to apologize in advance for this post. This series was never meant to be a recap: it was meant to highlight the reasons why watching Mets baseball was enjoyable even when they didn’t walk away with a win. Games like this were not what I had in mind when I came up with this re-occurring bit.

Why am I apologizing? Because the “Something Nice” tonight was the top of the eighth and ninth innings. Is that a cop out? Yes. But it was one thing after the other: Jose Reyes getting jobbed at third, Dan Murphy tying it with a “Blue Collar Blast” (copyright Amazin’ Avenue), Jason Bay reaching on an infield single, Willie Harris benefiting beating out a bunt due to some ugly defense, Chin-lung Hu’s first RBI as a member of the Mets, Josh Thole’s fielders choice RBI, Murphy’s two-run double, and Francisco Rodriguez closing the door. I guess if I had to pick one player I’d go with Murph, but everybody deserves credit for the win (especially the Nationals).

I tried to tweet my feelings about this win immediately after the game ended. I’m not sure I said it right, so I’ll try again here. I fully understand that it’s April and this was a game between two teams that have lost more games than they’ve won. I know this game does not represent a “turning point” in the same way that I know it’s not an indication that the Mets have “figured it out” or that they displayed a willingness to “do whatever it takes to win.” This win symbolizes nothing: it’s just 0.62% of the schedule. I get all that, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that this game was freaking awesome. “Double comeback! What does it mean!”

Not all that much, but boy was it fun to watch. If you watched (or listened) to this game and didn’t get at least a little caught up in it, well, I’m sorry: I’m not sure what to say to you. But if you did? If you cheered wildly when Murph went yard, died a little when Wilson Ramos gave the Nats the lead again, perked up a bit when Hu drove in the tying run, cheered wildly when Thole got the winning “ribeye steak”, and totally lost your shit when Murph doubled in some insurance runs*? Hang on to that. Soak every second of it in. Set your DVR to record the replay and watch it as much as you want: it’s in the books.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole, Mets, Something Nice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nick Evans, And The Battle for Bench Spots

Posted by JD on February 27, 2011

Jack DiLaurio had a decent debut season with the 1969 Mets, a less-successful second season with the Astros, and was out of the majors (never to return) before his third season started. Reading his SABR Bio Project entry I was struck by his approach to his situation. I don’t know if “fatalistic” is accurate, but DiLaurio knew that his path to the majors was blocked in the Detroit organization by better pitchers. He realized that, at age 26, he was running out of time to realize his dream of making the majors and consigned himself to retiring if he didn’t make the team in 1969. Fate intervened (in the form of then farm director Whitey Herzog pushing to first trade for, then promote, him) and DiLaurio made some useful contributions to the Miracle Mets, but his struggle to make the majors really stuck with me.

In terms of the current roster, I can’t help wondering if Nick Evans feels that same desperation (again, not sure if that’s exactly the right word, but it feels close) DiLaurio felt. The Mets’ treatment of Evans has been puzzling at best. Originally an injury replacement for the concussed Ryan Church, Evans made the jump from AA on May 28, 2008 and it was impressive: 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He was sent down on June 4th after hitting just .174/.208/.304 in nine games, but came back on July 10th and steadily improved. His final line: .257/.303/.404 in 119 plate appearances. Not great, but not bad either (he was only 22 at the time).

Evans didn’t make the club out of spring training (Gary Sheffield took his spot at the last second) and split the season between AA Binghamton, AAA Buffalo, and the Mets. 2010 wasn’t much different: he opened the season in Binghamton, was promoted to Buffalo, and spent September with the Mets. What’s more, he spent most of his time in the minors even though it was apparent that Ike Davis was solidifying his claim as the first baseman of the future.

To this fan, it appeared as if the organization was neglecting his development. Yet, there was reason for him to be optimistic about his chances: not only did a new management team take over with a mandate to limit off-season spending, but Fernando Tatis was allowed to depart as a free agent. Tatis filled the role most suited for Evans: right handed hitter off the bench who had some power and could fill in adequately as a corner infielder and outfielder. With Terry Collins elevated from farm coordinator to major league manager, it seemed as if Evans had a clear path to the majors.

And then the Mets signed Scott Hairston. A second baseman who can play all three outfield positions capably, Hairston is a right-handed hitter who has good power, especially to pull. He doesn’t play first or third, but when you consider that both Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy play third and Murphy was an above-average first baseman for the Mets in 2009, Hairston’s versatility in the outfield suddenly loomed as a major road block for Evans.

I see the bench competition unfolding like this: Ronny Paulino (Mike Nickeas until Paulino’s PED suspension runs out) as back-up catcher, Chin-lung Hu as back-up middle infielder, the loser of the Emaus/Murphy second base competition, Willie Harris as back-up outfielder/lefty pinch hitter/pinch runner, and Evans or Hairston.

In my eyes, Harris’ presence negates the advantage that Evans has over Hairston, and vice versa. Evans advantage? Corner infield. Willie Harris has played 28 games at third. Hairston’s advantage? Center field. Harris has played 230 games in center. Evans is out of options, but Hairston was signed to a major league deal.

It will come down to who performs better in Spring Training, which is how it should be. The competition should bring the best out of both players and will strengthen the Mets’ bench. I just can’t help but wonder what Evans’ frame of mind is. He’s 25, which is young in real-life terms but dangerously middle aged for a baseball player who hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. Does he doubt himself at all? Is he hoping to be traded or released or claimed on waivers, to get a fresh start somewhere else? Is he feeling emotions similar to what DiLaurio felt? It’s not the biggest story in camp this year, not by a long shot. But it’s intriguing enough to merit watching.

I don’t know (can’t know, really) who will help the Mets more this season. Hairston has a longer track record and is more athletic, so it seems to me that he has to be the favorite. But I feel for Nick Evans, and hope he has an excellent spring training. And, I hope that he’ll be given a fair shot to win a job on the bench. If he gets a shot and fails, so be it. But given his performance and how well he’s handled being bounced around over the past two years, he’s earned a fair chance to win a spot.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets, Offseason Moves, Spring Training, Terry Collins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Quality Moves, Done Stealthily

Posted by JD on January 4, 2011

As you know, the Mets added Chris Capuano and Taylor Buchholz (for details on the signings, see here, here and here). These are nice, solid moves. Neither pitcher will change the competitive balance in the NL East, but they represent smart gambles. Their injury histories are not insignificant (two Tommy John surgeries for Capuano, one for Buchholz), but as a result, neither are their salaries (roughly $2.1 million combined). They’re not sure things, but there’s a reasonable chance that they can contribute positively and only a minimal financial commitment if they don’t. These are exactly the types of moves a team with budget constraints should be making.

Come to think of it, all of the Mets’ acquisitions have fit this mold. Whether it be solid complimentary pieces (D.J. Carrasco and Ronny Paulino), cheap young talent (Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato), or other reasonable gambles (Chin-lung Hu, Boof Bonser, Dusty Ryan), Sandy Alderson and Co. have maximized their available resources to bolster the existing roster. You can complain about the lack of big names or the long periods of inactivity, but the fact is that the Mets are acting with severe restrictions. They will no longer wantonly toss around their money in pursuit of the next quick fix.

Considering that framework, I think the Mets are doing an excellent job of maximizing their available resources. We don’t know for sure if this group of players will be better than the supporting cast from last season, but we do know that they’re track records indicate they will be (and their price tags limit their downsides if they aren’t). That’s good enough for me.

On a related note, I can’t help but be impressed by Alderson & Co.’s stealthiness. There was minimal warning time before the Carrasco and Paulino signings and no indication that Emaus and Beato were targets in the Rule 5 draft, but the Capuano and Buchholz signings came out of nowhere. I’ll grant that the pursuit of Chris Young has been somewhat more public, but even that has been largely without fanfare. What a breath of fresh air when compared to the near-constant flow of leaks from the previous organization. If nothing else, I think we can all agree that Alderson & Co. have done their best to maintain their bargaining position by controlling the flow of information coming from their own staff. For that, they deserve kudos.

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves, Sandy Alderson | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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