The blogosphere is going crazy these days with all the news about Jose Reyes' hyperthyroid problem. From respected bloggers like Joe D and The Coop, there is no shortage of talk about Reyes and the fact that the Mets lack depth at so many positions.
Carlos Beltran will not be available to the Mets until May at the earliest. If Reyes misses the full eight weeks (has the timetable changed to two minutes to eight months yet?), he will also not register his first at-bat of the season until May. Of course, coming back at around the same time as Carlos Beltran might prevent the Jerry Manuel "Let's Bat Jose Third" Experiment from ever seeing the light of day. Of course, I'm trying to find a bright side to all this while the fluorescent bulb in my brain has fizzled out.
No Reyes, no Beltran. Who do we have waiting in the wings? How about Angel Pagan and Private Matthews for Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora and (shudder to think) Fernando Tatis.
Herein lies the problem for the Mets. They don't have capable backups to replace Beltran, Reyes, et al for an extended period of time. Case in point: In 2009, Alex Cora saw extended playing time due to Reyes' injury. In 271 at-bats, he batted .251 with 11 doubles, one triple and one home run. He also collected 18 RBI. Compare those numbers to the .279 average, seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and 15 RBI amassed by Jose Reyes. Now consider that Reyes did that in only 147 at-bats.
Let's put this into perspective. In 1984, the Mets' backup shortstop was Rafael Santana, a man not known for his hitting skills. As a backup, he only played in 51 games and collected 152 at-bats that season. In those 152 at-bats, he hit .276, with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run and 12 RBI. Those numbers are almost identical to the digits put up by Cora despite the fact that Cora collected 119 more at-bats than Santana did in 1984! Heck, if Johan Santana could play shortstop, I'd take his bat over Cora's.
The Pagan/Matthews combo is somewhat better in the offensive department. However, consider that Beltran was a consistent 20-20 threat and Gold Glove winner. Private Matthews has never hit as many as 20 HR in a season and Angel Pagan hasn't hit 20 HR in his CAREER! Also, neither player has stolen as many as 20 bases in a single season (Matthews' career high was 18 in 2007 and Pagan stole 14 last year for the Mets). That shows how much of a dropoff you're getting whenever Beltran is not in the lineup. They're both adequate fielders, but neither of them would win a Gold Glove over a full season like Beltran would. (And don't let me get started about fundamentals. Beltran puts the "fun" in fundamental, while Pagan brings home the "mental" part, as in he makes fans go mental watching him. I haven't seen enough of Private Matthews, so let's give him the "da" part of fundamental.)
What I'm trying to say in this lengthy diatribe is that the Mets are employing too many Coy and Vance Dukes and not enough Bo and Luke Dukes.
Bo and Luke Duke WERE the Dukes of Hazzard. They were the stars. They were the reason young fans tuned in on Friday night, at least until puberty hit and Daisy Duke became the main reason to tune in. In Season 5, Bo and Luke were "replaced" by Cousin Coy and Cousin Vance. Ratings went down faster than David Wright's 2009 home run output and Bo and Luke were written back in to the show before the season was over.
Alex Cora is Coy Duke and Pagan/Matthews are Vance Duke. They're not capable of carrying Reyes and Beltran's jock straps, let alone replacing them adequately on the field.
The Mets had their chances to sign Felipe Lopez, a younger and more productive player, to back up Reyes at short and chose to re-sign Cora. Lopez then signed a one-year deal with St. Louis for less money than the Mets gave Cora. The Mets could also have signed Jim Edmonds as a backup for Beltran in center and instead decided to trade for Private Matthews. Edmonds has since signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and is in camp with the Brewers trying to become their fourth outfielder. Surely the Mets could have signed him to a similar deal. After all, in his last stint in the majors, he collected 19 HR and 49 RBI in only 250 at-bats for the Chicago Cubs in 2008. We already know he's a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder.
Are the Wilpons trying to become a modern day Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane, trying to keep as much money for themselves while trying to screw the fans out of the team they deserve to root for?
After Jason Bay, the Mets did not address the issue of role-players. Re-signing Fernando Tatis was as far as they went. They chose to ignore the fact that players who are injured once tend to get injured again. Didn't they learn that the players from last year who were forced into everyday action were not capable of helping this team contend?
Coy and Vance Duke were not adequate replacements for Bo and Luke Duke. The fans never accepted them as Dukes. Similarly, Mets fans should not accept Cora and Pagan/Matthews as adequate replacements for Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. It's like trying to replace moonshine with water. It might look the same in the bottle, but once you have a taste of it, you'll know the difference.
Cora, Matthews and Pagan will all be wearing the same Mets jerseys as their teammates, but they're not the New York Mets the fans are paying to see. If the Wilpons were Dukes of Hazzard fans, they'd pay close attention to what happened in Season 5. Then maybe they'd see that fans won't accept an inferior product when there are better Dukes on the pond.