How Brady Clark Can Help
You may already have heard the breaking news — the Mets have signed Brady Clark to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Big woop, right? Clark is a journeyman who will simply compete with Ruben Gotay, Olmedo Saenz, Fernando Tatis, and Jose Valentin for the 25th spot on the roster. Why should we care?
There are a number of things I like about this signing; in particular …
– As was pointed out by Walnutz, Clark has a “James Brown” rep in MLB — he’s one of the hardest working men in baseball. But don’t take it from me; check out ESPN’s 2005 All-Grunt Team. (Never mind that it was three years ago, nor that Julio Franco was also on that “team”).
One of the hardest-working players in the game, at age 32, Clark doesn’t take a day in the majors for granted after being undrafted, released twice and traded once while in the minors. “Whenever my career is over, I don’t want to have any regrets. I just want to know that every time I stepped on the field, I did my best.”
After last year’s complacency — never mind the collapse — getting a grinder on the team is a great idea. It’s hard for anyone to slack off when they’re watching a guy like Clark wring out every last bit of his talent every day of the season. I’m not saying the Mets are a bunch of lazies, but as we’ve seen they are prone to spurts of lackadaisical effort. Having a hard-nosed hustler like Clark busting it around the field can help keep everyone motivated.
But the statheads can’t measure “intangibles” like that, and therefore they don’t matter. So let’s take a look at some numbers that suggest Brady Clark can help the Mets in a part-time role.
– He’s a good pinch-hitter, batting .269 with a .367 OBP in over 200 plate appearances
– He’s been consistently solid against all pitchers: .279 vs. righthanders and .273 vs. lefties.
– He is a career .328 hitter at Shea Stadium
– He has a .417 batting average (5-for-12) while wearing Mets across his chest. Why did we ever place him on waivers?
– He gets on base fairly frequently, sporting a .358 career OBP
– He’s batting 1.000 on 3-0 counts (OK, that’s a little misleading; he’s 1-for-1 with 33 walks)
Want to take a guess at which position in the batting order he has hit in more than any other? Leadoff, where he was penciled into the starting lineup 210 times. Obviously, he won’t be leading off very often with Jose Reyes, Endy Chavez, and Luis Castillo around, but it does suggest that his managers trusted him in the past with one of the most important spots in the batting order.
The minuses, of course, include his age (35) and the fact he’s not the most gifted ballplayer on the diamond. However, he won’t be asked to carry the team, but merely provide a solid bat and glove off the bench. If he makes the team, he could be a valuable extra part — he is above average at all three outfield positions, is a solid if unspectacular Major League hitter who consistently puts the bat on the ball, and he hustles all over the place. A good, no-risk pickup by the Mets.
In related news, the Mets officially announced the signing of Ben Johnson. Again, another guy who could be described as a “grinder” and can help the Mets both in the outfield and with the bat. There won’t be enough room on the roster for all these outfielders, but Johnson likely won’t be ready until mid-May and after last year, we know the Mets can never have enough outfielders.