Defense Wins Championships
You already know what this post is about, so let’s get right to it: the Mets defense is horrific. Absolutely horrific. After the weekend sweep to Atlanta this issue has now been presented clearer than ever.
In particular was Friday’s embarrassment of a loss, when Jacob deGrom pitched his heart out on his 27th birthday, allowing only two hits as he entered the eighth inning. Sure the offense isn’t the best, but they gave Jacob a run for his birthday. I know, how thoughtful! It didn’t matter if it was one run or one hundred, deGrom had this game on lock. Right? RIGHT?! Wrong, says Wilmer Flores. Wrong, says Terry Collins. With a runner on third and one away, deGrom induced a ground ball to Flores from the mildly-quick pinch hitting Pedro Ciriaco. Flores looked back the runner (Andrelton Simmons) on third. And looked him back. And looked him back some more. My expert analysis is Flores got into a staring contest with Simmons, pump faking to make his opponent blink. After this detour, Wilmer remembered he was playing baseball and actually was in possession of said baseball, and finally threw the ball to first. Safe. Atta boy, Wilmer. Way to have your ace’s back.
You too, Terry. After 97 pitches and allowing a base runner that wasn’t his fault, Mets skipper Terry Collins pulled the excellent starter for the not-so-excellent reliever Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin gives up a two-run double, and one inning later the Mets lose 2-1. Absolutely sickening to watch. After the violent puking and emptying my body of every tear it contained, I decided to enjoy the sight of the standings for one last day. Yes, the Mets were still leading the NL East. Yes, the Nationals are in the NL East. And yes, the division should be renamed the NL Least. Do the Mets have a shot at the division title? No way. Not with this roster. What could they do to improve?
Get healthy, for one. The best part of the Amazin’s offense remains on the DL in David Wright and Daniel Murphy. They don’t score often, but the dominant starting pitching keeps them in most games. But if the Mets want any shot at the postseason, they need to improve defensively. Defense wins championships, or so they say. Ruben Tejada isn’t a third baseman; Murphy’s return will sit Ruben down. When Wright returns, Dilson Herrera will find his way to the pine with Murphy’s move to second. The main defensive issue is at shortstop. Wilmer Flores isn’t a shortstop. He’s playing there. That’s a problem, plain and simple. Sure, his home runs are great, but the guy isn’t a wizard with the bat either. So what’s the solution? Call up Matt Reynolds. “That makes too much sense!” Mets GM Sandy Alderson probably says. Then what? Close our eyes, cross our fingers, and bow our heads every time someone hits it in Flores’s general direction? That isn’t working either.
How about a trade? “A what?” asks Alderson. A trade, Sandy. How about Kevin Plawecki, a catcher with a ton of upside and no playing time to show for it with d’Arnaud’s return. Starlin Castro is available in Chicago, but we aren’t trying to downgrade defensively. “We aren’t?” (also Alderson). That counts out Milwaukee’s Jean Segura. Ben Zobrist is an intriguing option, but his price tag may be too steep. The market for the thin-but-valuable shortstops appears to be a shallow one. The Mets appear to be stuck, like when your opponent profoundly proclaims check in a game of chess, and as you decide what to do width your next move, you realize that you’re actually in checkmate. This stinks for two reasons: 1. You lost a game of chess. 2. You lost a game of chess to someone so dumb they didn’t even realize they just beat you. The Mets are you: you felt like you were winning, but now you’re starting to realize that you’re without a move. The Mets should have addressed their shortstop problem a long time ago. Instead, they thought they could live with it, hoping the offense would outweigh the defensive mistakes. Now they’re seeing the harsh reality: defense really does win championships.