The Situation at First Base

In Port St. Lucie, there is a “situation” — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mike Sorrentino find his way into the mix.

Because “The Situation” — meaning the Mets’ conundrum at first base, and not some guido from the Jersey Shore — grows more perplexing every day.

Originally, first base was Daniel Murphy’s job to lose; if it weren’t, the Mets most certainly would have aggressively pursued free agents such as Adam LaRoche, Nick Johnson, Hank Blalock, Troy Glaus, Garrett Atkins, Chad Tracy, and Aubrey Huff (to name a few). Strangely enough, though, GM Omar Minaya brought in Mike Jacobs on a minor league deal, and on February 15th announced that the starting job was an “open competition”.

As is par for the course with the miscommunicating Mets, manager Jerry Manuel followed that up four days later with the assertion that Murphy was “pretty much the guy” at 1B — and that he wasn’t really in competition with Jacobs, nor was he going to platoon with Fernando Tatis.

The Situation at first base has been similarly clear (as mud) ever since, with the Mets changing their tune as quickly, often, and unpredictably as the weather.

For example, in response to Ike Davis’ explosive beginning to the spring, Manuel reaffirmed that Murphy was the first baseman, and that “unforeseen things would have to happen” to unseat him.

Nine days later, however, a different tune was sung by Manuel, as he termed 1B “a competitive situation” between Murphy and Jacobs.

That’s all well and good, except, if Murphy is to lose the first base job, I’m not sure why he’d lose it to Mike Jacobs, since neither player is having a particularly impressive spring — both are hitting FAR below the Mendoza Line (which means they’re under .200, kiddies).

In contrast, Ike Davis and Chris Carter are absolutely blistering the baseball — both hitting well over .400 with long-distance power, and both getting on base more than 50% of the time. The next-best candidate, in fact, is 8th-string catcher Chris Coste, who is 4-for-11 (.364) with 2 doubles.

To put things in more frightening perspective, consider that Frank Catalanotto has an equal number of RBI and walks as Murphy, and he’s hitting .100.

But spring training numbers don’t mean anything, right? Or wait, they must mean something, if Daniel Murphy has gone from owning the starting 1B job to on his way to losing it.

The confusion, of course, is if indeed spring training performance means something, then why is Murphy losing to Jacobs and not Davis, Carter, or Coste?

As if this situation at first isn’t already bordering on insanity, there are reports that the Mets are scouting Mike Lowell — though, they’re also reportedly “not interested”. What’s more perplexing to you? The fact that the Mets are sending scouts to see someone they don’t want, or that they are scouting yet another first baseman to add to an already bewildering mix?

The more I toss this “logic” around in my head, the more I realize that “The Situation” on the Jersey Shore makes as much sense as the first base situation in Port St. Lucie.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mike March 23, 2010 at 12:02 pm
    I can’t argue with sending Davis to the minor league camp on the principle that he has yet to prove anything except that he can hit camp fodder in late spring training innings. He strikes out too much and can’t hit lefties. He belongs in AAA until he proves something there.

    It is hard to argue for Murphy and Jacobs. Joe, I know you like the idea of Jacobs as a part time catcher, but I see a bad hitter and fielder, not Brandon Inge. Moreover Carter is equally as bad or better than Jacobs in the field and he still has some kind of upside. Murphy stayed healthy last year and works hard while being a hustler despite his shortcomings. To me Murphy has earned a shot at 1st base for this year to start. But I’m more than okay with Carter or Davis taking his place if he fails. Jacobs has no right to anything but a pink slip if he doesn’t start hitting.

  2. Fla-Mets-Dog March 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm
    Please for the love of Columbus… remove that pic. makes me wanna vomit more than the prospect of the 2010 Mets season.
  3. Fla-Mets-Dog March 23, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    please, for the love of Columbus, remove that pic. Makes me feel sicker to see that than to think about he prospects for the 2010 club.
  4. This site hates the metsies! March 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm
    Seems like even your most loyal naysayers are sick of your negativity in every post.
  5. micalpalyn March 23, 2010 at 11:05 pm
    Joe. I’m a science geek and this is not hard for me. we should be ecstatic. The blogmaniaverse has annointed Adrian gonzalez saviour, but up comes the Mets 1st rnd pick from last yr who not only has out hit the incumbent (by 3!!!; .133 to .444) but smashed all comers. add to that the token body swapped for Billy wagner has crushed the ball (as advertised too).

    AND the silver lining…Carter, Murphy (and technically Jacobs) can be stashed in the minors until a trade comes along. AND better yet if jake, murph or whoever dont hit out of the gate…

    But the writing is there and the ist base job is really Ike’s…everyone else is just keeping it warm.

  6. gary s. March 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm
    what did we have to lose if we started ike davis at first this year??he has the type of power to make citicavern look small.at best danny murphy is a journeyman type player without a real position.why does he have a position given to him when he’s hitting .120 for the spring??
  7. isuzudude March 24, 2010 at 6:50 am
    Apparently, either Jerry has no level of commital whatsoever, or he speaks a lot of hot air and has no buffer zone between what he thinks and what he says. How else are we to interpret his constantly changing opinions and roster decisions?

    Aside from the 1B situation, the topic of Jose Reyes batting third was nearly chiseled into stone by Jerry earlier this Spring. Now? “I would probably see him getting a sense of comfort back in the leadoff spot right now,” said Manuel. Wouldn’t you know it, another flip-flop. I just hope Jerry stays on the ‘flop’ because Reyes belongs in no other spot in the order than leadoff, whether sick, healthy, injured, or comatose. Jerry even poked fun at himself with his constant mood swings: “Now you know me, I’ll change now. I’ll change on you now.” That’s right, Jerry, laugh at you own incompetence. Nobody does it better than you.

  8. isuzudude March 24, 2010 at 6:58 am
    Apparently, either Jerry has no level of commital whatsoever, or he speaks a lot of hot air and has no buffer zone between what he thinks and what he says. How else are we to interpret his constantly changing opinions and roster decisions?

    Aside from the 1B situation, the topic of Jose Reyes batting third was nearly chiseled into stone by Jerry earlier this Spring. Now? “I would probably see him getting a sense of comfort back in the leadoff spot right now,” said Manuel. Wouldn’t you know it, another flip-flop. I just hope Jerry stays on the ‘flop’ because Reyes belongs in no other spot in the order than leadoff, whether sick, healthy, injured, or comatose. Jerry even poked fun at himself with his constant mood swings: “Now you know me, I’ll change now. I’ll change on you now.” That’s right, Jerry, laugh at you own incompetence. Nobody does it better than you!

  9. micalpalyn March 24, 2010 at 9:39 am
    Joe: Dude nails it again. You cant bet anything on Manuel’s statements. But to his defense the players are not helping. I mean he can pencil reyes as #3 but Reyes has to learn to hit as a #3 which means reps…that has not happened.

    he gave murphy 1st base. but if Murphy then proceeds to hit .100 what can manuel do?

    He put Pagan in the leadoff spot…that worked, but can Pagan hit as a #2?

  10. isuzudude March 24, 2010 at 10:05 am
    As for the 1B situation, I’d opt to start out of the blocks with Murphy starting, Tatis and Carter on the bench, Jacobs and Davis at AAA, and Catalanotto DFA’d. I’m mostly agreeing with Mike, here.

    Murphy finished up 2009 on a positive note and, regardless of how lost at the plate he looks this Spring, it’s just spring training. I take virtually no stock in statistics during the preseason. He’s earned at least the first shot at securing the first base job in 2010. We all know Ike Davis is the future, but at least if we play Murphy he has a chance at increasing trade value. If we ship him to AAA or relegate him to the bench he’s going to be completely worthless. Give him one last shot at making something of himself, and if he fails, then at least we can say we tried. Davis needs to go to AAA until he forces the Mets’ hand to call him up, and 20 or so impressive ABs in preseason games does not constitute a forcing of the hand. Tatis has to be on the roster because of his contract, and I’d go with Carter over Jacobs/Catalanotto because he has the brighter future of all 3 and has always hit at every level he’s played at. You know what Jacobs is (a very poor man’s version of Adam Dunn with less plate discipline and less versatility) and you know what Catalanotto is (singles hitting veteran with a mediocre glove). Carter is the unknown, and may develop into a very nice bench player and pinch hitter. I say give him the shot. He’s certainly earned it.

  11. TheDZA March 24, 2010 at 10:20 am
    Give the job to whoever can prove they used ’6 minute Abs’…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIYYZPnacWo&feature=related

  12. Mike March 24, 2010 at 10:25 am
    izuzudude, real quick like, what do you consider an ideal leadoff man? For me OBP is the most important thing and not speed. Since we want Wright and Beltran in traditional RBI spots they are out, so that leaves Reyes and Castillo as the highest OBP guys on the team. Since I believe the number 2 spot in the lineup is the most important after cleanup, I bat Reyes at 2 and Castillo at 1. 1 gets almost no RBI chances whereas 2 gets almost the most. I like the idea of Castillo working a pitcher and slapping a single after 6 or 7 pitches, then Reyes driving a double in the gap to score him as opposed to Reyes hitting a single and knowing for sure Castillo will NOT hit a double to score him. Sure Reyes could score from second on a Castillo single, but Castillo has consistently shown he CANNOT drive home runs. If Castillo is not 1 I’d bat him 8 or 9.

    Reyes should be 2 because even if Castillo does not get on Beltran or Wright can drive home Reyes from just about anywhere on the bases, regardless of what Castillo does ahead of him.

  13. Andy March 24, 2010 at 11:16 pm
    Even if the spring doesn’t mean much, at least it could provide SOME momentum into the season. I would start Carter at first, Davis in Buffalo (to delay the onset of his arbitration years), and Murph on the bench. At least try it until the lightning escapes from Carter’s bottle . . .
  14. isuzudude March 25, 2010 at 6:28 am
    Mike: OBP is a big factor when determining a leadoff man, I agree. But it should not be the sole factor. If healthy, Reyes will steal more bases than Castillo. If you bat Reyes #2 you are providing him with less oppurtunities to steal (because he’ll either have a man on 2nd base ahead of him, and because you don’t want him running out of innings with Wright/Bay/Beltran at the plate). When you bat him leadoff, and he gets on base, prototypically he’ll have no one out with Castillo at the plate, who is adept at taking pitches to allow Reyes a chance to steal, while also being adept at sacrificing himself or providing a productive out to get Reyes into a better scoring position. NEVER EVER would I bat Castillo 8th or 9th (unless he is hitting under .250) because then you are taking his strength away from him, which is patience. Batting low in the order with the pitcher behind him, he’s going to be forced to swing more and take less (because you’d rather Castillo trying to drive runners in with 2 outs than the pitcher, right?)

    We’ve had these conversations before here and it’s also a hearty debate. But I always settle on the side of the fence that keeps Castillo at the top of the order. His career stats indicate he is uncomfortable batting ahead of the pitcher’s spot, and I’m inclined to believe he’s a more productive all-around #2 hitter than Reyes would be. I’d much prefer Reyes set the tone of the game with a triple or a single and SB than Castillo with an infield single or a groundout. That’s why I’d opt to stick with Reyes 1, Castillo 2.

    Andy: some momentum, I concur. But Francooeur is struggling this spring, too. Does that mean start FMart in RF to begin the season? Chris Coste has been the hottest hitting cacther, do you start him behind the dish? Where does riding the momemtum end? And what if Murphy heats up in the final week of Spring? Do you pull a “Jerry” and flip-flop back to Murphy starting and Carter on the bench? I’m trying to stay consistent, and since I think Murphy earned the 1B gig with his August/September of ’09, I’m not going to let a 30 AB sample size in spring training take that away from him.

  15. CatchDog March 25, 2010 at 8:09 am
    Both ‘dude and Mike are right on with their thinking. Likewise, the same can be said with FMart as what was stated with Ike. Let them both force the Met’s hand. If Frenchy regresses back to the norm and F! rakes up in Buffalo, at the very least, the Mets could have a solid platoon of F! and Frenchy in right. Ike would send Murph packing.

    With a 12 man pitching staff along with the regular 8 starters, the bench would then be Blanco, Pagan, F!, Tatis and Cora.

    As much as I believe Chris Carter deserves a shot over Jake, he most likely starts the season as part of an AAA outfield featuring himself, F!, Pridie, Evans and Jesus Feliciano.

  16. CatchDog March 25, 2010 at 8:14 am
    I’dude and Mike are right on with their thinking. Likewise, the same can be said with FMart as what was stated with Ike. Let them both force the Met’s hand. If Frenchy regresses back to the norm and F! rakes up in Buffalo, at the very least, the Mets could have a solid platoon of F! and Frenchy in right. Ike would send Murph packing.

    With a 12 man pitching staff along with the regular 8 starters, the bench would then be Blanco, Pagan, F!, Tatis and Cora.

    As much as I believe Chris Carter deserves a shot over Jake, he most likely starts the season as part of an AAA outfield featuring himself, F!, Pridie, Evans and Jesus Feliciano.

  17. micalpalyn March 25, 2010 at 11:48 pm
    the 1st base topic ha created great debate. one thing not really stated is that Carter is older than Murph and has been stuck at aaa for years. surely he has earned a look, where as Murph was supposed to be at AAA LAST yr for the first time, based on the supposition that a player progresses one level per year.

    Personally I think Carter will win playing time with his bat either sooner or later. BUT that said I think Muph is a better player than he is showing to date.

    Ditto Fmart. Just as Carter has been blocked by Youklis, So Fmart is blocked by CB. I am beginning to wonder if Fmart is not going to be traded (in a Cliff Lee type trade). Maenwhile rumors continue to swirl that sarge JR is being shopped…possibly to make room for Fmart. Consider history for the last 3 yrs the Mets have had Millz, Gomez et al to shuttle up and down shocasing them in NY but sending them to AAA (or the DL) periodically. I bet the same is slated for Fmart who the Mets want to assess (periodically) at the big club either as CB’s replacement or as trade bait.