Friday, June 6, 2008

Bench Needs Tweaking

The monkeys found themselves checking the status of Jose Valentin today. Just in case you were wondering, he's back at AAA after his comeback was slowed by shoulder tendinitis. He's starting tonight as the DH and batting third. Now Valentin knows how to play the game and is by all accounts a great influence on Reyes and the other younger players, but really how much can he really have left? Yes, he was a godsend in 2006 until his inability to drive in a run from third base with less than two outs slowed down the momentum the Mets had after Endy's catch in Game 7 of the NLCS. Last year, he was barely a blip and mostly ineffective. So the fact that we were checking must mean the Mets bench is in need of some reinforcements.

It got the monkeys thinking: What makes an ideal bench? Well if you have an offensive catcher, you'd like a good defensive backup. But, the Mets have a defensive catcher so you'd like an offensive catcher. Well, Ramon Castro fits the bill so we are okay there. We were even okay when Castro was injured because for the most part, Raul Casanova fit the bill.

For backup outfielders, you'd like a defensive specialist and a power hitter off the bench that could jack one. Endy Chavez was perfect in that role in 2006, pretty good in 2007 before he pulled his hamstring, but hasn't quite got it going this year. He still is a gem in the outfield and he got the biggest hit of the year to date with a game tying homer in the 9th, but he is hitting under .200. For a while, he had the excuse that Angel Pagan had cut into his playing time, but Endy has been getting his share of AB's lately. He needs to pick it up, but he has earned the right for the Mets to give him time to right the ship. You can argue that Fernando Tatis fills the power role, but he is miscast as an outfielder as has been more and more apparent the more often that he plays. So a power hitting outfielder should be on the agenda. Perhaps in-house options Valentino Pascucci (11 homers, 27 RBI, .409 OBP) or Chris Aguila (15 homers, 31 RBI, .297) deserve a shot before the Mets make trade.

For backup infielders, a team would like a good defensive hard nosed player who can fill in at second and short and a backup corner infielder with some pop. If he hits righty and you have a fading left-handed hitting first basemen, all the better. This is actually where Tatis is a better fit. Might the Mets eventually need an upgrade here? Perhaps, but Tatis has had enough big hits and added needed energy to give him a shot first. Damion Easley is a nice player who knows his role. However, he was nicer last year when he hit 10 homers. This year he has hit only one. And why is he batting fifth so often lately? 1 homer and an appaling .265 OBP simply do not warrant that position in the batting order. The monkeys like Easley and feel a bit guilty saying this, but this is another spot that needs to be upgraded.

A few tweaks that should be easy to make, but could make all the difference in the world.

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