Around the Horn – Center Field
February 16, 2010
How many of you felt that the opening day depth chart in center field would look the way it does right now? Come on now. Well, if you were like me, I would have bet the house on it looking somewhat similar to the way it does today. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s break it down in an organized way.
Angel Pagan – Angel has some skill. I truly believe that. Sometimes you just have to trust your eyes in what they see to be reality. He can run. He can field. He can hit with some real skill. His hand-eye coordination is quite good. So what is the problem? We know that there is no power in that bat, and at Citifield, that makes that point relatively moot. That is not the problem. So what is? Well, he is not a star for one. He doesn’t do anything extremely well, whether that be because of he is not in fact star caliber, or because he lacks the mind-set to pull it off. His largest flaw is sporadic mental lapses on the field. That is the major obstacle that has kept him from being considered a starter in this league. I believe he has the skills to be a tremendous base runner and defensive outfielder. He has not shown this with any regularity simply because he shuts down mentally at key moments. There were many moments where you wished you cold smack him in the head and say, “Hey, stay focused out there. This game is important to you and the team.”
His mental flaws withstanding, he is the right kind of player to play on a team that calls Citifield home. One-dimensional power guys are not. Citifield calls for speed, line drive hitting, and good defense. It is too bad the Mets do not have more players of his ilk.
Gary Matthews, Jr. – It pains me to place this guy even second on the depth chart, but alas I have no choice in the matter. He had one good season, 2006 with the Texas Rangers. I was fortunate to have him on my fantasy team that year. However, this is not fantasy baseball circa 2006. Recently, it was uncovered that he was on steroids for that season, and has been nothing like it since. Not much more to mention here. Just a terrible trade by the Mets and Omar Minaya in this instance. I liked Brian Stokes a good deal, and I believe the Mets will miss his presence in the bullpen this year. Depth is one thing, but sometimes you just have to be smart and stand pat to prevent a silly move.
Carlos Beltran – Now we come to one of the key issues with the Mets. Nearing the end of last season’s debacle, I was happy that Beltran came back from his injury. I was rooting for him to succeed, just not for the reasons of most Met fans. Do not get me wrong, I like Beltran. I love to watch him play. However, I was hoping that he would produce in order to prove that he was healthy. The Mets would then be able to shop him for something, anything, of real value. I know this will be the most controversial topic that I will cover here in my blogs, and I am ready for the scrutiny if it should follow.
Let me explain. Carlos Beltran is known around the league to be one of, if not the best, center fielders in the league. I for one can not argue that point…when he plays. I understand that he may be perceived as soft by some, and a warrior by others because he tries to play through pain. I do not care which category he falls under. I only know that he falls under the category of the oft-injured. To me, I want someone to contribute to the team that will play 150 plus games in the field, or that will make 30 plus starts on the mound. Even if that player should fall short of superstar caliber, I say the Mets should have traded Beltran for someone else. Perhaps they should have tried to trade Beltran for a true number two starting pitcher. I say number two as opposed to number one because I am a realist. I know no GM is going to trade a staff ace for a guy who gets hurt as often as Beltran does. However, if another team felt that they were getting the better end of the deal on talent alone, perhaps they make that move. This was my hope, although I knew that there was about zero percent chance of this being entertained by the Mets. This is just another philosophical difference that I have with those making the decisions for the Mets, and it is something that I have to painfully swallow as a fan.
The reality is this. So much of the Mets’ success is predicated on this guy playing and producing. With such a high percentage chance that he will miss large chunks of time due to injury, shouldn’t the Mets have hitched their star to someone more reliable? I think so. Well, now we are stuck waiting for him to get “healthy” once again, with no realistic timetable for his return. Sounds like a broken record to me.
To conclude, how would you answer the question I posed to you at the beginning of this article? If you thought differently, then you just have not been following the Mets very closely for the past few years.