Friday, March 20, 2015

Joey's Soapbox: The Mora Things Change, The Flores Stays The Same

I feel like I'm stuck in a snow globe writing about our Mets this off-season.

Greetings, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran, taking over the Studious Metsimus blogging duties on this snowy first day of spring.  My colleague, Ed Leyro, has finally allowed me to write something on the current Mets since he seems to have forgotten they still exist, what with all the ten-million word "One Mo-MET In Time" posts he's been writing this off-season.  Maybe you have the patience to read them, but I'm a fast-talking bear in a fast-moving world.  I don't have time for that.  What I do have time for is telling you about a mistake I hope the Mets don't make regarding the current shortstop situation - a situation that goes by the name of Wilmer Flores.

But before I get to Flores, I have a question to ask you.  Do you remember the 2000 season?  That was the year Mets were coming off a memorable 1999 campaign in which they made the playoffs for the first time since the Reagan administration.  That was also the year Rey Ordoñez got hurt, fracturing his left forearm on a tag play at second base in late May.

Ordoñez was a three-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop, swallowing up ground ball after ground ball, sometimes in spectacular fashion.  But once he got hurt at Dodger Stadium, the Mets were left with a defensive hole at the shortstop position.  They tried to fill it with Melvin Mora, who was in his first full season with the Mets, but he was much more comfortable with a bat in his hands than a glove.

Mora started 37 games at the shortstop position, batting .265 with four homers, 18 RBI and 27 runs scored in just 147 at-bats.  Compare that to Rey Ordoñez, who had a total of four homers in his five-year career up to that point.  Mora also boasted a .442 slugging percentage and .750 OPS in his seven-week trial at short while Ordoñez had a lifetime .292 slugging percentage and .580 OPS prior to his season-ending injury.

The Mets scored 216 runs in Mora's 37 starts, averaging nearly six runs per game.  They scored 212 runs in the 44 games started by Ordoñez prior to his injury, an average of 4.8 runs per game.  Now let's compare the offensive numbers put up by the two players while playing shortstop during the 2000 campaign, especially since they both had almost the same number of plate appearances in their abbreviated seasons.

  • M. Mora (164 PA): .265/.308/.442, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 27 runs, 5 SB.
  • R. Ordoñez (155 PA): .188/.278/.226, 5 doubles, 0 triples, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 10 runs, 0 SB.

There's no question that Mora was clearly the better offensive contributor of the two in a similar sample size.  But from a defensive standpoint, Mora was no Ordoñez.  In fact, he wasn't even average.  In the 37 games he started at short as Ordoñez's replacement, Mora committed seven errors in 144 chances for a .951 fielding percentage.  He also participated in just 14 double plays and had 93 assists.  According to, Mora's defensive WAR was -0.1 in 2000.  For all you kids out there, that means from a defensive standpoint, he wasn't better than nothing.  Nothing was better than him.

Meanwhile, Ordoñez had a lifetime 8.8 dWAR leading up to his injury.  That's the highest dWAR through five seasons of any Met in the history of the club.  To this day, only Bud Harrelson (13.6 dWAR in 13 seasons) and Jerry Grote (11.2 dWAR in 12 seasons) have posted a higher lifetime dWAR than Ordoñez.

With Mora, the Mets sacrificed defense for offense.  They did the opposite when Ordoñez was in the starting lineup.  But back in 2000, general manager Steve Phillips panicked when Mora couldn't cut it defensively, even with the team scoring a run per game more than they did when Ordoñez was in the lineup.  So just days before the trade deadline, Phillips, in his infinite wisdom, dealt Mora to the Baltimore Orioles for shortstop Mike Bordick.

O, Melvin Mora.  If only you could have fielded like Rey O.  (James Lang/US Presswire)

Bordick basically did what Mora did as a Met, both offensively and defensively, although Bordick played more games at the position for the Mets than Mora.  In 56 games with the Mets, Bordick batted .260 with eight doubles, four homers, 21 RBI and a not-so-impressive 0.1 dWAR.

So what happened in the years after the Bordick-for-Mora trade?  Well, Bordick went back to Baltimore as a free agent at the conclusion of the 2000 campaign, where he became Mora's teammate.  In nine full seasons with the Orioles, Mora reached 20 doubles eight times, 20 homers three times, double digits in stolen bases four times, batted over .300 twice, led the league in on-base percentage once (.419 in 2004), made the All-Star team twice (2003, 2005) and won a Silver Slugger award (2004).  Meanwhile, Ordoñez played two more seasons with the Mets and played his final game in the big leagues as a member of the Chicago Cubs in 2004 - right around the same time Mora was becoming a legitimate star.

That brings us back to the current day shortstop situation with our good pal, Wilmer Flores.  (You thought I had forgotten about him, didn't you?)  In case you've been hibernating in a cave somewhere, let me remind you that Flores is generally not considered a good fielder.  But no one is complaining about how much better he is at the plate than Ruben Tejada.  In 2014, Flores split his season between AAA-Las Vegas and the Mets, spending approximately half of his time at the big league level.  Flores's numbers were strikingly similar to the overall numbers put up by Melvin Mora in 2000 prior to his trade to Baltimore.

  • W. Flores (2014): 78 games, .251 average, 13 doubles, 1 triple, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 28 runs.
  • M. Mora (2000): 79 games, .260 average, 13 doubles, 2 triples, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 35 runs.

Taking it a step further, Flores's offensive and defensive WAR in 2014 were also right on par with what Mora produced 14 seasons before him, as Flores had a 0.7 oWAR and -0.2 dWAR, while Mora put up a 0.6 oWAR and -0.1 dWAR with the Mets in 2000.

Let me give it to you straight.  Tejada is a good fielder, one who's clearly better with the leather than Flores.  But the difference between Tejada and Flores defensively doesn't even compare to the difference between Ordoñez and Mora.  Ordoñez was one of the best defensive shortstops of his era.  The nicest things we can say about Tejada is that he has nice eyebrows and he won't hurt the Mets in the field.

We've already seen how big of a mistake it was to let Melvin Mora go without giving him a chance to prove himself for more than 37 games.  We can't make the same mistake with Wilmer Flores, especially since Flores is also five years younger now than Mora was in 2000 and can still mature in every facet of the game.

Wilmer Flores may never become a Silver Slugger-winning All-Star like Melvin Mora was, but he certainly has the potential to establish himself as a very good baseball player.  We already know he can hit.  Let him prove to us that he can learn from his mistakes on the field.

At the very least, it would prove that the Mets are trying to learn from their mistakes off the field.  The team certainly doesn't need another Mike Bordick situation in Flushing.

Let him play!  Let him play!  (Brad Barr/USA TODAY Sports)

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