For the fan in enemy territory

New York Fan in South Jersey Daily Headlines

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The great no bat debate


We have all heard the old adage "defense wins championships". This may or may not be true. That depends on who you ask. I could run the numbers of any sport and present an argument that would hold water against anyone to back that up. But the truth is, offense puts people in the seats.

It really doesn't matter what sport you mention. People want to see scoring. They also want to see defense, but not at the risk of neglecting offense. The New York Mets have pondered this very question for several years. I recall in the mid to late 90's and early this decade, the Mets had a player that sparked the debate, Rey Ordonez.

He was a three-time gold glove winner at shortstop for the Mets. During his time in Queens, he never hit for a higher batting average than the .257 in his rookie season. His most explosive home run season was in '01 when he hit three. He never was a base stealer either. His highest total there was 11 in '97.

Yet, everyone wanted him in the lineup for his glove. When his defensive skills started failing him, he was chased out of New York. While here, the debate raged on, anemic offense and solid defense or potentially solid offense and mediocre at very best defense. I bring Ordonez up because, these days the same debate is brewing at second base.

Just about everyone hates Luis Castillo. In fact, Carlos Mencia could make that into a WB show to rival Everybody Hates Chris. It is certainly a hot topic these days. What to do with Luis? Trade him? Cut him? Play him? Bench him? His range and defensive skills have been under question for quite a while now.

The intense scrutiny of which has caused even Jerry Manuel to play rookie Ruben Tejada in his place. Tejada is the quintessential example of poor offensive skills that wields a great glove. He is batting .191 as of the time of this article. By the time it is published, that may plummet even further.

In comparison, Luis Castillo was obtained for offense and experience. Now, his glove has become such a detriment, that he is riding the bench with his massive contract. However, his current .245 batting average does not make it worth keeping him in the lineup when his glove is so suspect. But when looking at his career, he does have greater offensive potential than Tejada.

They released Alex Cora, who was just the same mold as Tejada, in that he can't hit but has a good glove. So it is down to two players as options. It is sad that this is the state of the team. They are forced to decide between an old player that is hitting .245, or a young player that is hitting .191 and it is disheartening as a fan.

The only reason Castillo is still in the discussion is due to his contract. He is currently making $6.25M this season. That's too much money to have on the bench or in the minors. If he was making $1M or $2M, then there would not be a debate. He would have been cut long ago. That would have made financial room for the team to sign or trade for a better option at the position.

So once again, it comes down to the front office. The team is in this bind because they failed to have the foresight to not trade for Castillo in '07. He was getting older then and he is decrepit and ancient now. They traded for him when he was declining. That lack of vision has crippled them this season and for the next few to come.

In other words, the team is in this position to have to choose bad or worse because they put themselves in that position. The immediate future is not so bright with these options. Though Tejada is young, he really does not seem to have figured out how to hit at the major league level.

Finances being what they are, however, these are the options for the next year or more. So the debate will rage on, but with these players struggling more and more at the plate, the lack of offense will have to force the Mets' hand to make some type of move for someone in the off season.

Though the experts all say they will not be able to spend, empty seats will make them at some point. After all, if defense wins championships and offense fills the stands, then the fans will eventually dictate the direction of this team.
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