Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Battling (A Microcosm)

Posted by JD on April 8, 2010

Full disclosure: I spent most of the night watching the Rangers beat the Maple Leafs, keeping their playoff hopes alive. But I did get to watch the end of the game and I felt that both Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews Jr. had at bats in the bottom of the ninth that very neatly summarize both players’ potential this season. That’s what I choose to focus on tonight.

I have (along with several others) maligned the Mets for their decision to include both hitters on the active roster. That’s a moot point now: they’re on the team and they have to make the best of it. Jacobs came to the plate with one out and David Wright on first, courtesy of an unintentional/intentional walk by Leo Nunez. Jacobs quickly got into an 0-2 hole but hung around and worked the count full. I was amazed that he got that far but unsurprised by what followed: a weak pop up for the second out. Jason Bay came to the plate and was promptly (and properly, in my mind) walked after Wright stole* second. GMJ then battled Nunez into a full count before grounding out to Henley Ramirez, ending the inning. Again, I was not unsurprised by the outcome.

My point is this: though Jacobs and Matthews showed exceptional fortitude by hanging in there against Nunez, it was entirely unfair to expect them to deliver. Historically, they simply do not get on base enough to represent a real threat. Given the Mets’ current depleted state, I’m hard pressed to identify who might have succeeded there (wait, no I’m not: Angel Pagan***). But, if a manager’s job is to maximize the skills of his available players, this is a damning example of failing to do so. Sandwiching Bay with Jacobs and Matthews provides an easy opportunity for the opposing team to neutralize the Mets’ most dangerous bats. Sure, they could have delivered, but why rest the outcome of the game on such a tenuous “could have”?

Jacobs and Matthews failed to deliver the killing blow. That’s understandable. What I don’t understand is why they were placed in such a position. Yes, it’s just two at-bats in one game. But it’s a glaring example of what we can look forward to until Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran return, and possibly beyond.

*Equally egregious: WHY was Wright stealing in that situation? At best, Wright’s steal all but guaranteed that Bay would be walked (worst case: he’s called out and there’s no one on base for Bay to drive in). I estimate that it took Freddy Gonzalez all of 0.2 seconds to signal in the free pass after Wright was called safe (it’s possible he was HOPING he was called safe). Either Wright displayed a fundamental¬† lack of understanding by running on his own, or the coaching staff did by instructing him to steal. He doesn’t even have the excuse of trying to prevent a double play: there were two outs**. That was a shameful display of baserunning.

**And even if the double play was in order, I’d rather take my chances with Bay than GMJ. Just befuddling.

***And yes, I know Pagan pinch hit earlier and was unavailable. But why not start Pagan and use Matthews as the pinch hitter?

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