by Taryn “The Coop” Cooper
When Rey Ordonez and his lifetime .246 BA (.289 OBP and .310 SLG in case you were interested) was batting 8th in the Mets line up, people would argue that “Well, his defense saves more runs,” somehow making up for the fact that he was pretty much an automatic out in the lineup. But hey…He saved those phantom runs in the field!
Jeff Francoeur and his marginally better .249/.300/.383 in 2010 were defended because he had a good arm in the outfield. Keep Francoeur around, they say. His arm saves more runs for the ones he is not driving in, they say. So why were people later up in arms when he’d hit into a double play or strike out when the Mets desperately needed a run?
Perhaps it was because when these particular players were surrounded by good hitters in the lineup, one could justify keeping their Gold Glove-caliber arms around. It was when they were on crappy teams their offense or lack thereof was considered a liability. Sadly, folks, we cannot have it both ways: lauding a guy’s defense, then complaining afterwards when they don’t get the big hit when the team needs it. It should not be a surprise, really, that at the end of the day, scoring and driving in RUNS is where the Mets have been lacking these past few years, and not to mention these “moral victories” with these great “clubhouse guys” and their “gold gloves” don’t necessarily translate into “real” victories in the wins columns.
I can say unabashedly and unashamedly that had Luis Castillo (the “best defensive option for the Mets at second base in 2011” for most folks) or Brad Emaus (I agree that the Mets didn’t give him much of a chance, but they needed to make a statement and a Rule 5 guy isn’t going to make or break the team) been in the game, the Mets would not have won last night. And yet, after Daniel Murphy – quite possibly one of the most divisive players on the Mets these days – hits a home run to tie the game in the 8th inning, and before he hit a bases clearing double in the 9th inning, people STILL harped on the fact that “He wasn’t covering second base when Jason Bay misplayed a pop-up in left field.”
Let me get this straight: a veteran left-fielder misplays a pop-up, but that’s “okay.” The catcher allows a passed ball, allowing a runner to get into scoring position, but all of a sudden, Murphy’s miscue at second base would have been the be-all end-all of the game had the Mets lost. Oh and I won’t mention the Nationals marquee player, Jayson Werth, miscued many fly balls in HIS NATIVE POSITION LAST NIGHT. And he’s getting paid a lot of damn money to misplay those balls.
Well, they didn’t lose, they won against the Nationals last night in a game that anyone who was watching agreed that they would NOT have won in 2009 or 2010, they would have rolled over and died in previous years. One of my biggest gripes with this team is that they would not beat the teams they are supposed to beat. The Nationals are a team you need to beat. End of story.
Now that said, I have to take on the Murphy haters with their slamming his defense. While I have to admit that I was a little nervous in watching him play, the fact is he has not been that bad. One of my blogging friends, Steve Keane, told us that he is a Murphy fan simply because he puts in all the extra work that’s required of him and then some. When he’s slumping, he’s out taking extra batting practice. He’s a natural third baseman, and when the Mets couldn’t find a role for him, they stuck him at a lot of different positions. And he’s never complained about it.
The Mets have not had a true second baseman (save Castillo) playing for them in forever. The quickest way for a guy to make the team is if he can play second base. Reese Havens was being groomed for that, clearly he is not looking like he’ll make the big club any time soon not due to offense, defense or playing liabilities but rather because he cannot stay healthy.
Perhaps we are a still suffering from Post-traumatic Mets Disorder when Murphy dropped a fly ball in left field against the Marlins in 2009, when Johan Santana was pitching against Josh Johnson. Yeah, I remember that game too, it sucked. But it sucked mostly because the Mets couldn’t score a run off Johnson, more so than Murphy causing an error to in effect lose the game.
Next I’d like to put this whole defensive thing to rest. I heard Florida Marlins fans in the past and Atlanta Braves fans now complain about Dan Uggla’s defense. Yet, I think every single one of us wouldn’t mind having Dan Uggla on our team. Why? BECAUSE OF HIS BAT! Not to mention his performance against NL East teams. Doing some detective work when he was traded to Atlanta in the offseason led to this eye popping factoid: at Turner Field, his lifetime stats are as follows: .319/.363/.597. Uh, wow. He absolutely killed it in a place where he will play 81 games a year. Something tells me that even though his defense isn’t all that great, or perceived to be that great, he’ll certainly win some people over with his bat at the Ted.
Look at Jeff Kent. One of the best second basemen of his generation. Guess what he was known for? HINT: Not his defense. Looking at his defensive stats is a little misleading, though. Taking into account that his range wasn’t all that great (something that is unquantifiable), chances are there may be balls that don’t put him into a position to MAKE an error. Lastly, how good was the defensive unit surrounding Kent when he played? If you have a good fielding shortstop next to you, if you have a first baseman who can reach for wild throws, chances are those chances are error are limited.
And you can win those games with your bat.
Jeff Kent could have very well been Roger Dorn’ing many balls coming his way (“It was out of my reach!”). Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar would easily be chosen over Kent’s defense any day of the week, and he’s made his margin of errors no doubt.
I’m not saying Daniel Murphy could be a Jeff Kent, a Chase Utley or a Roger Dorn at second base. He could be a Dan Uggla type who smacks the hell out of the ball to make up for his less than stellar defense. In the meantime, let’s give this whole defensive liability argument a rest. Let’s see how he pans out in a platoon with Justin Turner or whatever the future may hold for him.