Answering Bud Abbott

Surely you remember the old Abbott and Costello routine: “Who’s on First?”

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, the Mets have Ike Davis on first, are asking what’s on second, and I don’t know about third base — and it’s no joke.

The dreaded and mysterious injury of the intercostal has befallen both Daniel Murphy and David Wright, creating gaping holes at both positions. For the Mets to have any chance at a winning season — meaning, winning at least 82 games — Wright has to play nearly every day and hit like he did last year, and Murphy needs to hit like he did in 2011, while playing as often as he did in 2012.

During the WBC, Wright was hitting like he did last year. However, that’s not helpful if he’s on the DL. We have no idea how long he’ll be disabled, and the Mets’ description of his injury as a “moderate” strain does not imbue optimism. It should be noted that intercostal strains are graded as “Grade 1″ (mild), “Grade 2″ (moderate), or “Grade 3″ (severe — a muscle tear). By the Mets’ description, we’ll assume the injury is “Grade 2,” which means Wright will be out a minimum of three weeks, though he could be out of action for up to five or more.

Meanwhile, Murphy has already been out a month, and still isn’t ready to take five at-bats against MLB pitchers.

So what is on second? Could this be Jordany Valdespin‘s “Wally Pipp” moment? The swaggering 25-year-old has been swinging a hot stick in the spring, though he hasn’t been playing much second base. Still, that’s his natural position, so we’ll assume he’ll be there on Opening Day if Murphy isn’t ready.

As for third base, like Lou Costello, I don’t know. It was Justin Turner for about five minutes, but after rolling his ankle the position is wide open. One would think that Zach Lutz would be next in line, and if he’s not, he might want to consider a career change. Lutz has shown the ability to hit for average and power in the minors, as well as a penchant for getting on base. He hasn’t bust through to the bigs yet for three reasons: David Wright, Ike Davis, and injuries. Now 26 and turning 27 in June, if Lutz doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity, he’ll almost certainly be stamped with the “AAAA” label.

After Lutz, things get murky. Technically, the “backup to the backup” would be Brandon Hicks, he of the .133 AVG through 98 MLB plate appearances. Originally a shortstop, Hicks has a strong arm and a history of being solid defensively. He’s flashed homerun power on and off in the minors, but overall has been inconsistent at the plate, with high strikeout totals.

Next in line is Brian Bixler, but, I don’t see the 30-year-old journeyman filling in at 3B. Bixler is not on the 40-man roster, while Lutz and Hicks are, and Bixler doesn’t have the upside of the other two. Though, he could sneak onto the 25-man roster as a utility man.

Finally, there is Wilmer Flores, who spent all spring playing second base. Would the Mets suddenly shift him back to the hot corner? I’m thinking no, if the Mets are committed to making Flores a second baseman. Eventually, Wright will be back, and will remain at third base for the next eight years. Which brings up a new question: if Flores will be playing 2B — presumably in Las Vegas — then what are the Mets doing with Reese Havens? The former first-round pick has been riddled with injuries and has yet to play as many as 100 games in a season. In the few appearances he made in spring training games before being reassigned to minor league camp, Havens lacked confidence and looked overmatched. Now 26 years old, time is running out quickly for the lefthanded-hitting infielder. Will he return to AA Binghamton to start the year, while Flores mans 2B in Vegas? Does Wright’s injury change anything for Havens? For example, might the Mets try Havens at 3B while Flores learns 2B and Lutz fills in for Wright? And in doing so, might Havens be groomed to be a “super sub”? Maybe the only way to keep him on the field for the length of a season is to play him three times a week.

But, we’re getting off track. Back to the questions at hand: what’s on second? Does anyone know who’s on third? Answer in the comments.

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. MikeT March 18, 2013 at 10:50 am
    Here’s the thing about Havens: he is irrelevant. He might get talked about a bit on telecasts (I hardly get to watch spring games so I only know what I hear about), but that is likely just TV production folks trying to find a narrative that fans might find interesting. Fans know Havens’ name, and SNY needs to talk about something to keep the games interesting, thus Havens is discussed. But I digress…

    The reason he is irrelevant is because he is a 26 year old who never played about AA and cannot stay healthy. He is so nonathletic now that his injuries either stem from this or have caused it. He’s a slow stiff. The real important question is not what SNY thinks is an important part of the Mets’ future, but what the FO thinks. Havens is irrelevant. Flores keeping him in AA is nothing to bat an eye at so long as Havens continues to disappoint.

    • Joe Janish March 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm
      I mostly agree with you, but, Havens IS relevant for no other reason than he’s taking up a spot on the 40-man roster. Of course that status could change soon but at the moment, he’s considered one of the top 40 assets in the organization.
      • Izzy March 18, 2013 at 8:17 pm
        Hoyt Wilhelmi very happy Mike T not a GM. HoFer Wilhelm made major league debut a week before he turned 30. I guess he was irrelevant.
        • MikeT March 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm
          Hoyt Wilhelm was a knuckleball pitcher. Name me one knuckleball pitcher who was successful with that pitch at Reese Haven’s age. Apples to oranges, Izzy. A knuckleball pitcher can be successful into his forties because he does not need outstanding athletic abilities. Reese Havens is supposed to be a second baseman. His age is only important because he is not likely to get more athletic as he ages.
  2. NormE March 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm
    I remember walking into the HOF in Cooperstown and hearing a great amount of laughter coming from a nearby room. I walked in and found groups of people gathered around TV monitors watching the A&C “Who’s on First?”
    routine. No matter how many times you see or hear it you can’t help but laugh.

    Any laughing being done about the Mets infield is of a vastly different variety. If Wright and Murphy can’t answer the bell it will divert our attention from the OF (which is worth its own A&C routine).

  3. James March 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm
    Ike Davis’ injury is scheduled for April 27 (at which point he will have 8 hr and 16 rbi). Stay tuned.
    • DaveSchneck March 18, 2013 at 11:05 pm
      So on April 28, Tejada can throw the ball to who. Naturally.
  4. Joe March 19, 2013 at 10:28 am
    This is a pretty subpar version of this routine but then this has been a repeat of the same old story too.

    I think at least one of these guys will be starting the season and think “have any chance at a winning season” is a joke anyways, though I guess like letting go of reality in a movie theater, it is something to believe in as a possibility.

    Just for fun, I see Mr. Q. has 39 MLB games at 2B. As to lutz, I see the term means “a toepick-assisted jump with an entrance from a back outside edge and landing on the back outside edge of the opposite foot.” Or, a somewhat clumsy person. Or, “anything you want it to mean.” This appears to apply to who plays in the OF and now maybe the IF. Where’s that Family Guy clip?

  5. ChrisB March 19, 2013 at 10:33 am
    I don’t think Wilmer Flores will get the call for either position. He has struggled initially with each level promotion in the past, though he eventually adjusted.

    While this bodes well for the future, in the short term he won’t be any kind of upgrade at either spot and might risk damaging his confidence if he fails. He didn’t have a stellar spring as it is

  6. argonbunnies March 20, 2013 at 8:55 am
    I’m less concerned about Wright and Murphy’s fill-ins than I am about RF. Why in the world are we valuing an extra win or two from Byrd over the chance to try out guys who might actually be part of our future? Byrd has proven what he is, and what he is does not belong starting on a winning team. Andrew Brown, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt Den Dekker have not proven what they are. Maybe none of them are likely to be pieces going forward, but shouldn’t we explore the chance anyway?