Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Bizarre Logic of Jerry Manuel

With Opening Day in less than 18 days, and with the first round of cuts out of the way, a sizable portion of the Mets' future (and perhaps the present as well) remains in big league camp. Ruben Tejada is still there, and may crack the roster to start the season if Jose Reyes doesn't return by then. Ike Davis is still around, and if Daniel Murphy continues to hit the way he has and Davis stays on his absurd pace, some questions will arise as to whether or not Davis can supplant Murphy as the Opening Day first baseman.

The two names that are driving most of the debates, though, are the 21 year old outfielder Fernando Martinez and the 20 year old pitcher Jenrry Mejia. Both players have been incredible so far, with Martinez OPS'ing over 1.000 and Mejia dazzling the opposition, the writers, and the Mets with the ridiculous movement on his pitches and the results those pitches have yielded.

When you go through the players the Mets have, and what their team will most likely look like at the start of the 2010 Regular Season, the logical conclusion is that the Mets are more in need of a center fielder than a bullpen arm - especially considering the fact that the bullpen arm (Mejia), has been a starting pitcher his entire career and has the potential to be an Ace - which is what made yesterday's comments by Jerry Manuel a tad absurd. When asked by reporters if he would consider starting Fernando Martinez at center field on Opening Day, he responded by saying that it would "...Be difficult, in all honesty. That would be difficult. The center field part is very important to us right now. We came in here with the mantra that we're going to catch the baseball, play good defense, that type of thing, so we'll see how that turns out. But right now, we have Gary and Angel slated for that spot."

So, according to Jerry, it's fine to take Jenrry Mejia - a kid who's been a starter his entire career, and put him in the bullpen even though there is no glaring need (the Mets have Francisco Rodriguez, Ryota Igarashi, Kiko Calero, Pedro Feliciano, Bobby Parnell, Fernando Nieve, Hisanori Takahashi, Sean Green, Nelson Figueroa and others all competing for the 7 spots in the pen) - but it's "difficult" to envision Fernando Martinez, who's played center field and the other outfield positions every year he's been with the Mets, opening the year in center field because, according to Manuel, his defense is inferior to Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr?

Manuel's line of thinking here is completely ridiculous. Angel Pagan, for all of his talent, is not a plus defender. He takes terrible routes on fly balls, throws to the wrong base frequently, and suffers through other mental lapses in the field. Gary Matthews, Jr. was once an elite defender, but that time has passed. In his limited time in the Majors last year, Martinez made a few errors, but showed to be no less capable than Pagan.

If Fernando Martinez continues to hit the way he's been hitting, he should make the squad over Pagan and Matthews. There would need to be decisions made when Carlos Beltran returned - Would the Mets send Martinez back to AAA? Would they have him split time in right field with Jeff Francoeur - but Those are questions that can be answered when Beltran comes back. The main goal is for the team to win ballgames, and with Beltran and perhaps Jose Reyes out to start the year, the addition of Martinez to the lineup would bring a potential power boost in their absence. If it's perfectly fine to Manuel to take Jenrry Mejia, the most prized pitching prospect on the team, out of his element and stick him in the pen, how can Manuel not be strongly considering using Fernando Martinez to fill an actual need by playing his natural position?

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