Tag: alex cora

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a time-honored adage that applies in many situations.

old_dog_new_tricks.jpgFor example, you wouldn’t expect to be able to teach a 10-year-old dog how to ride a bicycle, if he hasn’t even learned how to sit. It’s just too late — a dog that age is already set in his ways, and did his learning during his formative, puppy years.

Similarly, it’s simply too late in the game to ask a 33-year-old, 14-year MLB veteran to suddenly change his entire offensive approach — such as in the case of Luis Castillo.

Only three times in 14 years has Castillo driven in as many as 40 runs in a season. It’s not what he does. Rather, Castillo is a “table setter”, a guy who finds a way to get on base. He takes a lot of pitches, looks for walks, bunts, and punches little bloops all over the field. His career OBP of .367 would make a Billy Beane disciple drool, and he also has above-average baserunning speed, even at his advanced age. As an added bonus, he plays one of the “skill” positions. In any era, from the 1880s to now, a second baseman with Luis Castillo’s skillset would be a valuable piece of a championship ballclub. His game is not unlike that of Jim “Junior” Gilliam of the great Dodgers teams in the 1960s, Nellie Fox, Johnny Pesky, Willie Randolph, or Chuck Knoblauch. Yes, in the steroid era, his power numbers are feeble, but he’s not supposed to be a star. Used correctly — at the top of the lineup — he’s an ideal complement to a lineup of power hitters. His patience makes a starting pitcher use and show his full arsenal of pitches in the first inning, and his ability to get on base sets the stage for the sluggers.

Or, you could just put him wherever you damn well feel like in the lineup and ask him to completely change his approach and mindset at the plate. Just don’t be stunned or disappointed when he begins the season 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Yet, here we are, after four games, and Luis Castillo’s job is being called into question by pundits, the media, the blogosphere, and possibly even his manager Jerry Manuel — ironically, the man who has put him into position to fail. Castillo, after all, is hitting only .100, and there’s all those LOBs. Surely he’s the reason the Mets have lost two games this year. There are already calls for Alex Cora to take over the second sack. Yes, the same Alex Cora who is a career .245 hitter (.312 OBP), the same man who drove in all of 9 runs last year in 179 ABs, the same Cora who, in his career, has hit .249 with runners in scoring position. Sounds like a great plan.

Hold on, folks. Let’s look at this in perspective — even taking away the fact that Castillo is in the wrong spot of the order. HE HAS ONLY TEN AT-BATS. He’s 1-for-10 thus far. That’s basically two ballgames. Do you know how many times David Wright, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran will get only one hit over ten at-bats at some point this season?

Consider this: David Wright, one of the Mets’ key RBI men, is currently 0-for-4 with RISP. Does that mean Fernando Tatis should be starting at third soon? Danny Murphy is also 0-for-4 with RISP, so should Jeremy Reed (who is hitting 1.000 with RISP) be taking over in left field?

But we’re getting off the point here. The point is, no one should be surprised that Castillo is failing in his current role of #8 hitter. He’s completely misplaced, batting in a position where he frequently appears with runners on base. One of his best skills — bunting — is completely useless batting ahead of the pitcher. It’s a bad fit, and it’s irresponsible to ask him to suddenly be something completely opposite of what’s he’s been for the past 13 years.

I’m not saying you change your entire lineup to make Luis Castillo fit better. Rather, I’m saying you take a look at the skillsets of the players you have, and find a way to make them best work together. Danny Murphy has proven he can hit no matter where he is in the lineup, so how about moving him — a relative puppy — into a position in the order where his potent bat can be better used? Luis Castillo will never be an RBI guy, but Murphy might learn to be. Sure, Murphy might turn out to be a high OBP guy as well, but won’t the lineup be stronger if he’s further down in the lineup, both getting on base AND driving in runs?

Oh and hey, for those not paying attention — Castillo played in only one of the Mets’ losses this year. Alex Cora was the second baseman in the Mets’ loss to the Reds on Thursday afternoon.

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Giants Sign Juan Uribe

The San Francisco Giants have signed infielder Juan Uribe to a minor league contract.

As a Mets fan, why do you care? Well, you probably don’t. But it should be noted that Uribe is:

1. a righthanded hitter with power

2. versatile — he plays 2B, SS, and 3B

3. an excellent glove man

4. only 29 years old

5. signed to a minor league deal

Uribe hit 20+ homers in three out of the four years from 2004-2007. He lost his starting 2B job last spring to Alexei “All-World” Ramirez, and became a utility infielder with pop. In truth, I doubt he’s actually 29 years old — something tells me there was a “paperwork adjustment” — but if he is indeed under thirty, he should have at least one or two more years of peak performance left in him.

Once again — great glove man, former starter at 2B, good pop in the bat, righthanded hitter, signed to a minor league deal, which likely is much less than $1M guaranteed. Doesn’t that sound like an IDEAL fit for the New York Mets?

Oh, that’s right, the Mets signed 33-year-old, lefthanded hitting, no-pop Alex Cora to a $2M guaranteed MLB contract. Smart move.

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Mets Sign Argenis Reyes, Tom Martin

Just in case Alex Cora breaks his leg, the Mets have signed Argenis Reyes as a backup plan. Reyes is expected to begin the season in AAA Buffalo.

Reyes flashed a decent glove, a lot of hustle, and not much else in his 49 games with the Mets in 2008. His most valuable asset — according to the SNY broadcast team — was his being “always in the middle of something.” High praise for a guy who hit .218 with a .259 OBP and .245 SLG (who knew it was mathematically possible to have a slugging percentage lower than your OBP?).

In addition, the team brought back another former Met, LHP Tom Martin. Martin would have been a great addition six years ago, when he had a career year with the Dodgers and had a 3.53 ERA in 80 appearances. He pitched in Flushing in 2001 and posted an eye-popping 10.06 ERA in 14 games. Hopefully he can improve upon that in his next go-around with the club.

Interestingly, Martin — who turns 38 in May — was released by LA during spring training last year and pitched five innings for the Long Island Ducks, striking out six. From my point of view, it’s a so-so signing — more paint on the wall.

Hopefully the signing of Martin will not block the return of Ricardo Rincon, who did an admirable job in 8 appearances last September.

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Mets Sign Alex Cora

According to Mets.com, the Mets have agreed to terms with Alex Cora.

Well I guess that’s it — the offseason roster makeover is complete!

Cora should step right in to left field and provide the Mets with the much-needed power bat they need to …. oh, wait a minute ….

Last I checked, Alex Cora was a light-hitting middle infielder with a good glove and a good attitude. The kind of guy who is a capable middle infielder and can play a few other positions in a pinch without embarrassing himself (he’s played one career game each at 1B and LF, and has played 16 at 3B). On an American League team, he is an ideal backup / late-inning defensive replacement second baseman / shortstop for a team that has offensive-minded middle infielders. He’s also a good guy to have around in the event of an injury, as he can play competently for stretches at a time.

In other words, he’s Damion Easley, except that he has zero power, not as strong a bat overall, is a lefthanded hitter, and a better fielder. Oh wait, so maybe he compares more closely to Argenis Reyes or Anderson Hernandez … except he’s not a switch-hitter. And he costs at least four times more.

In short, I’m not sure about the logic behind this signing. With a roster comprised of a dozen pitchers, bench spots are precious, and need to be filled by people who can play both sides of the game — offense and defense. Cora doesn’t have much of a bat, and is only an average baserunner. I’m assuming he can bunt. He does have a career .264 average as a pinch-hitter, which is pretty good. However, as a lefthanded hitter, he strangely has a much better average against lefthanded pitchers — not righthanders — and we know that Jerry Manuel will either not notice this fact or ignore it, and use him exclusively against righthanded pitchers.

Speculation is that Cora would push Luis Castillo, and possibly take over second base eventually. Hmm … so, the Mets won’t go after Orlando Hudson because they don’t want to eat Castillo’s contract, but it will be OK to bench Castillo (and, effectively, eat his contract) to play a mediocre talent such as Cora at the position? More to the point, does this mean that the Mets find Cora to be a better low-cost alternative for second base insurance than, say, David Eckstein?

I don’t mean to bash Cora — I actually believe he’s a solid all-around ballplayer. Nothing special, but solid. He’s not unlike Miguel Cairo. A good guy to have on the team, if you can afford the luxury. And that’s where I have a problem. The Mets supposedly don’t have the money to spend on a top-flight pitcher such as Derek Lowe, but they have no problem spending an unnecessary $2M for a veteran utilityman that is not necessarily an upgrade over a player who would cost the league minimum (such as Argenis Reyes, Alex Cintron, Angel Berroa, Chris Burke, or Ramon Martinez). This is my point: if you are willing to spend $2M for a utility infielder, why in the world aren’t you spending it on someone like Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Loretta, or Ray Durham — in other words, a guy who you know can give you an offensive boost? Because last I checked, the Mets don’t need a defensive replacement for Jose Reyes nor David Wright — and I’m not seeing Castillo leaving games because of his defense, either. (Loretta, by the way, signed for $1.25M, and would have been a much more interesting option to platoon with / push Castillo).

Overspend for a substitute player of which there is a surplus of talent, but underspend for starting pitching. Not exactly the trend followed by championship ballclubs.

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Mets After Alex Cora

According to Rob Bradford of WEEI, the Mets are interested in Alex Cora.

Why is this news? Why am I posting it?

Further, someone tell me why there are actually some fans “disappointed” that the Mets didn’t sign Nick Punto?

Has the world gone mad?????

In all seriousness, I like Alex Cora. But not so much to lose sleep wondering if he’ll pick Flushing as his home in 2009. And I’m not quite sure why the Mets would spend about $1-2M for an older and more expensive version of Argenis Reyes. Ohhhhh that’s right — Cora is the brother of Joey Cora, and the Coras are best buddies with Tony Bernazard. Now it all makes sense!

Interestingly, Cora is coming off his best season since 2005. Although, I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in his eye-popping .378 OBP — he had only 168 plate appearances. He’s more likely to regress to his mean of .245 AVG / .313 OBP / .348 SLG — particularly since he’s now venturing toward his mid-30s. His main value is as a glove man. So again, why spend seven figures when you can pay Argenis Reyes the league minimum? Further, if the Mets want to spend money on a veteran infielder, why not bring back Damion Easley, or take a flyer on someone else with some punch, like Jose Vidro?

Why waste precious blog space on such a seemingly minuscule issue? Why quibble over a 25th roster spot and/or a few million bucks of the Mets’ money? Because this is the same team that supposedly thinks $3.5M is too much to pay Chad Bradford. It’s the little things that add up and can make a difference between winning a division or losing it by ONE game.

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