The Second Base Debacle

The much-anticipated, much-hyped, and much-ballyhooed drama of Mets 2011 spring training was to be the battle for second base. Everyone and their brother (and their sister as well) was convinced that Brad Emaus and/or Dan Murphy would dazzle with double plays and batter the baseball when at bat, while Luis Castillo was pushed out to pasture. And if Murphy or Emaus didn’t set the world on fire, then darkhorse Justin Turner would emerge from his AAAA-status and steal the job from under them.

Instead, we’ve had one big blah of a competition.

Loyal MetsToday reader and commenter “argonbunnies” had this to say in the comments yesterday:

If there are a limited number of 2B innings and ABs to go around, why are we wasting any of them on guys who aren’t actually options there?

Luis Hernandez has never hit well in his minor league career; it doesn’t matter how good a defender he is, he’s a .600 OPS guy… and we already have a slick fielder with a questionable (though better) bat in Hu!

Justin Turner may be the best option, but it’s not likely, and it won’t cost us anything to stash him in AAA while we check out Emaus or whoever. Turner simply won’t be our starting 2B.

Finally, there’s Castillo. It’s a little more likely that he’s our best 2B option. But what are the odds of him helping in 2012? 0% And what are the chances of us finding a 2012 2B in 2011 if we give Castillo the job? Also 0%. Let’s give ourselves a chance to find something in an unknown quantity. If Emaus and Murphy can hit and need to learn 2B on the job, that’s as good a use of 2011 as any.

Plus, Castillo’s a negativity funnel for media and fans; having him gone will be a relief. How does Collins and everyone else forget that he was GREAT after the dropped pop-up? He manned up, played hard, and had a .400+ OBP for the rest of 2009. But all that anyone remembers is the bad stuff. I think he’s just cursed with a sullen-looking face. Anyway…

Alderson should have demoted Turner and waived Hernandez on Monday if not earlier. No-brainers. (Castillo is trickier.) Instead he’s letting a manager who was hired to be more fiery than brilliant influence personnel decisions. Gah!

If this team is really going to have the Smart Exec stamp on it, give Collins a reality check. Terry, your job is to evaluate how much 2B playing time you want to give to Hu, Emaus and Murphy. No, there is no “utility infielder” job for Murphy; Wright, Reyes and Davis will be playing every single day. If you’re looking for a spot for Murphy other than 2B, get him in the OF ASAP. Despite a few horrific moments out there, he really wasn’t awful overall, and may have more range than Duda.

Finally, what’s the logic of having Hu and Willie Harris both on the roster? If Harris is more valuable overall, then spending a roster spot just in case Reyes gets hurt is ridiculous — that’s what AAA is for. If Hu’s glove and hitting potential are better, let Willie go. It’s not like Hairston can’t play the OF. I mean, I’d love to root for Harris, he seems cool, but he’s not much of a hitter and we’ve only got so much room for defensive specialists. We’re already sacrificing future potential (Nick Evans) for current results (Hairston) in one spot; we can’t afford to do that on multiple counts.

Some of this could be solved by carrying one fewer reliever, but we’ve got the same crunch there as with Emaus and Hu — if we don’t find space for Misch, Izzy, Beato and Acosta, we lose ‘em.

Honestly, I couldn’t have stated any of this better myself — I agree with every single point “argonbunnies” makes (what IS an argon bunny, btw? does it taste better than a chocolate bunny?). What do you think, and how would you handle these personnel decisions? Post your thoughts in the comments and let’s hash this out.

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. Mic March 18, 2011 at 7:23 am
    Shallow…very shallow
    • Joe Janish March 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm
      Um, what?

      Please elaborate. I have no idea what you mean by shallow.

  2. Larry Smith March 18, 2011 at 7:44 am
    Joe,
    I agree with MOST of the points that were made. I think the 2B job should be split between Murphy and Emaus and then re-evaluated some time in March.
    Murphy was a disaster in the OF. I think he made Greg Luzinski and Todd Hundley look good in the comparison. If he doesn’t take to the 2B job then a pinch-hitter/fill-in at 1b, 2b, 3b is probably his best role.
    And why they signed Willie Harris is still beyond me.
    • Joe Janish March 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm
      I also have no idea why Willie Harris was signed. OK, I have some idea, but I simply don’t agree with it.

      Anytime someone references “The Bull”, I get goosebumps. Nice.

  3. John March 18, 2011 at 10:11 am
    I pretty much agree with argonbunny, although I thought he was awful in the outfield in 2009. I think you option Turner, waive Castillo and give the job to Emaus and see what he can do. If he succeeds great, if not you try Turner. If Haven’s surgery took care of his underlying problem, he will probably be at second base next year anyway.
    Murphy really is a utility player or a DH. I don’t think it is a bad idea to give him a few starts a week and first and third and possibly at second. It is a long season and I think Wright would benefit from not playing 162 games.
    Hu and Hernandez are the same player. Decide which one you want to keep, and go from there. There isn’t room for both of them even at AAA. You got to let Tejada and Turner play every day. And hopefully Havens will be in Buffalo by July anyway.
    Harris can only stay if you get rid of both Hu and Hernandez. That would put them in a bind if Reyes has a minor injury since they really wouldn’t have anyone on the roster to fill in for a day or two without recalling Tejada so I would probably keep one of them and get rid of Harris.
    I think you have to keep Evans over Harris to start the season. Even if you don’t see him in the future, keeping him gives you the opportunity to find a buyer without waiving him.
    Really, these next couple of years are going to be a transition somewhat like 84 and 85 were. There are quite a few promising younger players that are a year or two away. So I think you need to look see about these middling guys like Emaus, Turner, Murphy, Evans and Duda and see what you have. One of them may turn out okay. Same for Gee.
    • Joe Janish March 18, 2011 at 10:41 pm
      Actually I thought argonbunny was pretty good in the OF — much better than Murphy, in fact.

      😉

      The Hu / Hernandez / Harris thing you refer to is on point, IMHO. Funny, I remember the last front office working with similarly inefficient redundancies. I guess it’s really, really important to have below-replacement-level utilitymen in the organization, especially since the Wilpons can only afford a nickel a dozen and these types of guys generally cost about a dime per dozen.

      • John March 19, 2011 at 9:08 am
        I’ll grant you agrobunny caught what he got to but his range was more like the tortoise than the hare. lol
        • argonbunnies March 19, 2011 at 9:06 pm
          You’ve been listening to the wrong scouts. I play ultimate frisbee. That means I can run like crazy, but can’t read the paths of flying spheres, or figure out how to catch stuff with a big ol’ glove on my hand. Kind of like Roger Cedeno.
  4. Reese Kaplan March 18, 2011 at 10:31 am
    Turner won’t be here because he has options.

    Secretly they’re probably hoping Castillo has a monster spring so he might draw some trade interest.

    Actually, it might be in the team’s best interest to trade Murphy as he has no position. Remember, 2011, whomever mans 2B is just a stopgap. You have both Valdespin and Havens knocking at the door for 2012. For that reason I might even hold my nose and endorse Castillo. It’s just one more year — and we’re not likely winning any post season berths anyway.

    Emaus is their biggest headache. He hasn’t shown he can hit nor field the position. I have a feeling he may be offered back to Toronto or they’ll work out a trade for one of the fringe guys on the farm.

    Harris and Hu are indeed somewhat alike — defensive replacements — but in the OF be it Beltran’s balky knees or Duda’s suspect defense, there actually is a need for late inning replacement. However, Hairston can fill that role and Evans has a bigger bat. The only problem is you’re now staring at a bench that’s almost exclusively right handed. Hence the desire to make Murphy into “supersub” — the lefty swinger off the bench.

    • Joe Janish March 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm
      I think Emaus makes the team no matter what, because Ricciardi endorses him and the Mets need some youthful depth — what do they have to lose by giving him a shot? He hasn’t shown much this spring but the sample size is pretty damn small and useless. This entire second base “audition” is a farce — how can you learn anything about a player from a handful of games and 30-40 ABs?
  5. Manchester Met March 18, 2011 at 10:59 am
    All over Twitter – Castillo has been released. That narrows the field.
    • Mike March 18, 2011 at 11:30 am
      YEAH! See yah Luis, have fun getting paid to do nothing… oh wait…

      BTW, Andy Martino of the Daily News wrote that we hate Castillo because we are racists. Joe, case in point why journalism today is a farce. How can he get away with a blatant opinion (an incredibly stupid and ignorant one at that) piece that is based on literally no facts, adds nothing of value, and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever? I love blogs and see them for what they are, but real journalism should seek to separate itself from this sort of writing, not promote it. Just another case of old thinkers not understanding how to succeed in new media and the new world.

      • Joe Janish March 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm
        Mike, I don’t even know how to react to the unbelievable stance by Martino. I’m not sure who is more insane, him or his editor. Well … I guess Martino was drunk or is really that blindly way way way leftist and the editor needs to sell newspapers / get web visitors.

        I would not lump that irresponsible, ridiculous article with “journalism” as a whole. But I can understand your frustration.

  6. NormE March 18, 2011 at 11:43 am
    I have to wonder if there are two many brains (possibly “egos”) in the front office. It might be paralysis by analysis.
    With Castillo gone, Alderson should put an end to this farce.
    If Hu, Hernandez, Emaus, Turner and Murphy are found wanting, why not just bring up Tejada and let him play 2B
    until Reyes is traded. Hopefully the Mets get either a SS or a 2B in the deal. If they can’t land one then Tejada plays SS and give Valdespin or Havens (if he is healthy) a taste of MLB. We ‘re not going anywhere this year, so give the kids a shot.
  7. argonbunnies March 18, 2011 at 6:41 pm
    I’m also eager to see how good Tejada, Valdespin, and Havens can be. But let’s see them earn their way up the ladder. It seems easier to learn to hit MLB pitching if you’ve at least had a shot to learn to hit AA and/or AAA pitching first.

    Let’s not do the Carlos Gomez thing again.

    John, good call on Hernandez and Hu. Hu’s minor league hitting numbers are FAR better, but after today’s game, I wonder about his arm… hopefully he was just off-balance on that lollipop that didn’t make it to first.

    As for Emaus, I’m a big fan of OBP, and the guy looks patient, but the pop he showed in the minors might be a Vegas mirage — MLEs predict him to slug .369 in the majors.

    Perhaps the proper thing to do now is to gauge just how much worse Murphy is than Emaus at 2B defensively. If the gap is small, give Murphy the job to get more offense into the lineup, and keep Harris on the roster as a multi-position sub. Losing Emaus back to the Jays isn’t the end of the world, especially given Valdespin, Havens, etc. If Murphy turns out not to be the answer for 2012, at least he raises his trade value (which, right now, I imagine to be low).

    Joe, thanks for the love! “Argonbunnies” is the name I used to post on MetsGeek back in the day; thought I’d keep it in case some of those folks come here.

    • Joe Janish March 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm
      Bunnyboy, I am well aware of your handle — I secretly read MetsGeek under the covers with a flashlight back in the day and remember your comments. But that still doesn’t explain what the heck an “argonbunny” is !!
  8. argonbunnies March 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm
  9. mrtasan March 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm
    There is NO MORE DEBACLE….because castillo is released!!! I totally called it. Lets give someone else a deserving chance.
    • Joe Janish March 18, 2011 at 10:50 pm
      well done. I can’t believe the rest of us didn’t see this coming!

      😉

      • mrtasan March 19, 2011 at 2:18 am
        eh, i’ve had a bad month so need something to feel good about
  10. gary s. March 18, 2011 at 11:44 pm
    The only thing more embarrassing than castillo being on the roster this spring would have been castillo on the roster on opening day.If Alderson had a clue, he would have known the fans wanted castillo out the last 2 years.What a lame excuse to cite the fans dislike when they finally get rid of this washed up excuse for a ballplayer.Btw, the fans loathe the Wilpons also Sandy, you going to fire them too to make the fans happy. This organization is still pathetic.
  11. Nick March 19, 2011 at 2:16 am
    Awesome ad on the subway today from the always insightful Manhattan Mini Storage: “Why leave a city that has six professional sports teams, and the Mets?”

    I still don’t understand the whole Castillo thing, the fans hate him for some reason (don’t say it was the dropped ball thing, they hated him just as much before that), yeah the guy is old and doesn’t play like his old self, that’s what happens when you get old. It’s not his fault he was offered a multi-year contract when he should have been year to year.
    If he’s the best man for the job (and he is given what we have) why isn’t he the opening day second basemen? Can’t we at least pretend that we’re going to contend? What’s going to be the fun in watching a team that auditions scrubs in the hopes they find some flash of brilliance? That’s what September baseball for losers is for.

    Read the ridiculous reason they gave for releasing him; the fans wanted him gone. Are they joking? The fans are making the decisions now? You want to take a poll up and down the organization and let the fans decide who stays and who goes? They’d all be out of a job if not this season, next season. Heck, some of these fans would get rid of D. Wright.

    Luis Castillo should have played, should be playing, until we have a better option. Period. Now we can watch him hold it down in Philadelphia, just wait for the same columnists who praise this move to condemn it when he puts up his respectable numbers over there.

    • Joe March 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm
      I’m not sure how many “fans” (like “they,” this is some sort of artificial thing) “hated” him. I never “hated” him. I can see them hating the contract and him being hurt all the time. Unfair to put that on HIM but who says life is fair? And, he does at times have an attitude that can turn people off. And, even if he’s the best they got, he isn’t much any more, so losing him is no big deal.

      As to pretending, well, go right ahead. You can also pretend the second baseman will matter in that regard as compared to the bullpen, outfield and so forth.

      • Nick March 20, 2011 at 1:58 am
        Okay Joe we can get into semantics all we want, the point is why are they releasing the most capable man for the job and putting in an inferior alternative? Does that not strike you as contrary to what we though Alderson was supposed to be here for? Fine, sure, second base is not going to make or break our season. Neither is Left Field, neither is Center, neither is Right, neither is third base, etc.. Nothing by itself, but now we don’t know whose playing second base and we are less than two weeks away from the season. Brilliant! Just stick in one of the kids like this is AAA ball.

        I’ll defer to you of course, and I agree that its hard to root for a guy getting hurt all the time who was never quite the favorite to begin with.

        And I’m sorry I have to pretend, with some blogs, and baseball writers treating the Mets like spoiled fish, I like to think there is some chance they can go out and play professional baseball and maybe get the wins necessary to compete. Wilpon and Irving Picard aren’t playing in any of the 165 games. This is a major league team in a major market that has to go out there and win every day it is there. And if the die hards and the ex ball players want to see the kids running around the diamond so they can see if they’re special or not, then at least have the courtesy to wait for September and let the rest of us fantasize about supporting a professionally run team. Sorry I have to pretend.

        • Nick March 20, 2011 at 2:45 am
          Whatever Joe, your right he’s gone, we don’t need him or that left hander who has an amazing agent. I just wish it was the year right after 2006, when it felt like we were ready to take over the world.. felt good to be a winner.