Ice Belongs in the Freezer
In many ways, this 2011 season is reminding me of 2005 — though, in reverse.
In 2005, the Mets were on the cusp of something special, and only a few pieces away from a legitimate contender. Actually, they were just a smidge away from being a dominant steamroller. But, at the time — before Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, Paul LoDuca, and other key pieces arrived — it was very clear that the 2005 Mets were pretenders, and had no realistic chance for postseason play.
Please do not misinterpret; I enjoyed that season immensely, mainly because it offered optimism, and also because for the first time in a while, the team had some personality. If you remember, this was the first full season of Jose Reyes and David Wright, and as the 2005 season unfolded it was clear that these youngsters were going to be superstars that the Mets could build a team around. By the end of the year, when the Mets finished four games over .500, we knew that better days were ahead.
Which was why it was so frustrating to watch dozens of at-bats taken by the likes of Gerald “Ice” Williams, Miguel Cairo, Brian Daubach, and Jose Offerman — a group of barely adequate veteran bench players who were not going to be part of those better days. If there were no other options down on the farm, it could have been understood, but there were a number of youngsters who could have been given a look. For example, Anderson Hernandez, Mike Jacobs, Jeff Keppinger, Angel Pagan, Lastings Milledge, and Brett Harper. Granted, in hindsight’s view this group of kids had mixed results in their futures, and maybe a few weren’t truly ready for “prime time”. But the point is that they showed enough so suggest they could be part of those good days ahead, and as long as the big league club wasn’t going anywhere anyway, why not give a few of them a legitimate, extended look?
Which brings us to 2011. After recalling the ’05 team, maybe you now understand what I mean by this team being similar, but in reverse. Like the 2005 Mets, we know it is realistic to think there will be games played in Flushing beyond the first week of October. Also like the ’05 team, these 2011 Mets have a personality unlike we’ve seen in several years. The difference, of course, is that these 2011 Mets are not on the cusp of contention — more likely, the opposite. They are not looking to add a few pieces to complete the puzzle; rather, they are looking to drop pieces and start the puzzle all over again. So it’s even more frustrating to see Willie Harris and Scott Hairston take at-bats away from Lucas Duda, and keep young men such as Nick Evans and Zach Lutz in AAA. Yes, I know Evans has not looked very good in his brief callup earlier this year. But you know what? Hairston didn’t look all that great until very recently, and Harris was barely above the Mendoza Line a few weeks ago. But those two vets were given consistent chances to work through their slumps. Why?
I might be nitpicking, because Harris and Hairston are starting maybe once a week between them. But I’d rather see young guys in there — kids who we still aren’t sure about — than see players who “are what they are”. Don’t get me wrong — I like Harris and Hairston. They are professionals, have a great attitude, are team players, and would have value on a club in need of a bench guy. But the Mets don’t need a bench guy, they need to figure out who is going to play in 2012 and beyond. Now is the time to find out if Dan Murphy and Lucas Duda can hit lefties, rather than mold them into platoon players. Now is the time to see if Nick Evans can adjust to the bench role / platoon player that seems to be his ceiling.
Instead, we are seeing Hairston and Harris get into games in “matchup” situations. Why? How many games are going to be won as a result of playing these matchups? Maybe three or four at most? I’d argue that there’s just as good a chance of the Mets losing as many games because Hairston is brought in to face a lefty, or Harris is inserted against a righty. When it’s all said and done, the very best these two veterans might do is help the Mets go 84-78 instead of 82-80. Or maybe they drop the team down to 80-82. Whatever, the point is it’s negligible. As February 2012 rolls around neither Hairston nor Harris should be anywhere near Port St. Lucie, and you have to guess whether Evans, Duda, etc. are going to be able to fit into roles, rather than know what they can do.
What do you think? Am I being unreasonable? Are you pleased to see Harris and Hairston getting playing time over youngsters? If one of those vets goes down, should the Mets consider bringing back Ice Williams for one last hurrah?
Let me know in the comments.