Mets at shortstop: Stop the rhetoric, please

By Rich Sparago

The baseball offseason can resemble a political campaign. There’s a lot of talk, much of it bluster, and eventually it begins to grate on your nerves. Take, for instance, some of the recent comments by Sandy Alderson about his team’s shortstop position.

In case you missed it, Alderson said he’d be comfortable going to battle with Wilmer Flores. While this is clearly posturing for consumption by competitive GMs, over time it becomes concerning.

Sep 10, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu (9) slides as New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores (4) completes the double play during the seventh inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s the response from the community (including fans, bloggers, and journalists).

Some have gone so far as to say that in fact, the Mets would be fine with Flores. They refer to other options as “marginal upgrades” and say that the Mets would be better off keeping all of their pitching, and converting those who do not crack the rotation into relievers. To this, I say, “wow.”

First, the Mets’ shortstop position in 2014 was not productive. Flores, Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla, and Wilfredo Tovar combined to hit .240, with 11 home runs and an OBP of .316. Looking at some of the options rumored to be available, Starlin Castro hit .292, with 14 home runs and a .339 OBP. Elvis Andrus, in his worst season, hit .263 with 27 stolen bases.

How are these players “marginal upgrades?”

In addition, one of the principles of building a team is to trade from your strength (pitching) to shore up your weaknesses (shortstop). How does it make sense to hold all of the pitching the Mets have, and enter 2015 with a double-play combination of Flores and Daniel Murphy (or Tejada and Murphy)? Woudn’t this be an example of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

The point is that the rhetoric is in full swing, as one would expect. However, the Mets aren’t going to compete by convincing themselves that they can play a pat hand. They’ve had six losing seasons in a row. Moves need to be made. The Mets are fortunate in that they have the chips to make significant moves.

I’m not saying the Mets should deplete their pitching, which we all know is a fragile resource. However, at some point something has to happen if the Mets are to “walk the walk” of their claim that they’re ready to compete.

Yes, I’ve fallen victim to reacting to rhetoric. Intellectually, I know it’s all talk. But like the political advertisements, I’ve heard about enough. I now need to see action. I know one thing for sure: Putting the same team on the field and expecting a significantly different result is not an option.