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Mets: The wild world of Wilmer Flores

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Welcome to the wild world of Wilmer Flores.

Starting him at shortstop this season was born of Sandy Alderson’s failure to rectify the position ever since upper management elected to let Jose Reyes walk away.  They held no intention of re-signing Reyes, and ponderously failed to trade him and recoup a potential replacement.

While Ruben Tejada‘s overall game deteriorated during the 2013-2014 seasons, Sandy Alderson insisted addressing shortstop remained a priority.  But for those two off-seasons Alderson did nothing.

In fact, I denounced his proposed plan to pursue Jhonny Peralta during the 2013 off-season as a charade.  That year’s (free agent) qualifying offer was roughly on par with Peralta’s asking price.  Sandy Alderson should have been able to deduce Peralta’s cost down to the dollar.  Instead, when Peralta’s agent proposed an annual ask of $14+ million dollars, Sandy Alderson fled as if being hunted down by malevolent IRS agents.

That, however, requires a different discussion.

Back in December, I wrote Stuck in the Middle with You: Wilmer Flores.  I did it to offer Wilmer a modicum of support.  As most fans strongly felt the experiment at short would surely fail, my intention was to partly urge fans into keeping the heat on Sandy Alderson, and into occasionally turning a blind eye at Flores’ defensive shortcomings until the situation worked itself out.

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Well, the situation did not work itself out.  Wilmer’s initial throwing errors only exacerbated the situation.  No one really saw that coming as the focus had previously been on his lack of range and poor foot work.  Wilmer Flores wound up starting 69 rather disturbing games at short through June 27th.  Needless to say, Flores’ brief stint reaffirmed why he was removed from the position years earlier in the minor leagues.

With respect to baseball in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, both enterprises have been largely influenced, and Americanized (P.R. more so) to a certain degree.  Although stressful due to language barriers and cultural differences, the process of leaving one’s homeland and entering affiliated baseball in the States is smoothing when compared to years and decades past.  However, I’d like to stress the process is indeed difficult nevertheless.

Venezuela also became prominent contributors to American-based baseball, providing such recent notables as Johan Santana, Ozzie Guillen, and Magglio Ordonez.  However, the road from Venezuela to the major leagues has not been as normalized to the degree of P.R. and D.R. just yet.

Like many Latino players, this was the condition thrust upon Venezuelan born Wilmer Flores.  For seven minor league seasons the Mets organization became his adoptive home and extended family.  Outside of his own family, the extended Mets were all he knew, trusted, and relied upon.  And over those seven seasons he seemed to have adjusted and overcome the language barrier quite well.  I think he speaks for himself quite effectively.

Wednesday’s organizational and media fiasco regarding the non-trade to acquire Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers perhaps weighed heavily on Flores, not so much because he was potentially leaving the only organization he’s ever known, but perhaps because after being listed as a top 100 prospect by Baseball America from 2009 through 2011, he felt his failed performance at shortstop might have precipitated the move.

Let’s face it, the entirety of the 2015 season to date has not been kind to him.  With his 24th birthday only a week away, and with the way Wednesday clumsily unfolded, an over-swell of emotion was understandable.

Wilmer Flores was finally shifted to second base on June 28th, where he’s looked relaxed, competent, and above all, confident.  He committed 10 errors in 296 chances at shortstop for a .966 FA, versus a .973 lgFA.  He has so far handled 105 chances at second base without committing an error, while the league maintains a .988 lgFA at second base.

During Wednesday’s game, the Citi Field crowd gave Wilmer Flores an extraordinarily compassionate standing ovation in light of his (unresolved) trade status.

Then on Friday, the newly endeared Wilmer enjoyed his finest game as a member of the Mets.  He made a brilliant diving play in the 1st inning, received a standing ovation upon his first plate appearance, drove in the game’s first run with a single in the 4th, then punctuated his night with a dramatic walk-off home run in the 12th inning, giving the Mets victory over their division rival whilst in the midst of a pennant race.

Friday’s win placed the Mets just 2 games behind the N.L. East leading Washington Nationals.  In that context, Wilmer Flores’ home run was the Mets’ biggest hit of the season to date.

Can Wilmer Flores be the Mets second baseman for years to come?  Yes, given a chance, and I would suggest you take a look back at Jeff Kent‘s few seasons with the Mets to gain insight into my thinking.  Of, course, many would argue the future of second base potentially belongs to Dilson Herrera or some other candidate.

What I do know is this: for the moment, shortstop is now back in the same condition as when Jose Reyes left, in the hands of Ruben Tejada.  However, second base looks just fine to me.

Having Flores at short and Daniel Murphy at second was an untenable situation.  That became very apparent within just a few weeks.  Without debating Ruben Tejada’s status (which is my next project), the Mets are presently improved up the middle of the diamond.  At least there’s a better condition than previously existed moving forward.

That said, what to do with (free agent to be) Daniel Murphy?

  • All in favor of starting Juan Uribe full time at third, and or, platooning him with Daniel Murphy, say aye!
  • All in favor of platooning Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores at second base, say aye!
  • All in favor of starting either Flores or Murphy over the other, and having one play off the bench, say aye!
  • If you have another plan, say aye!

For Terry Collins‘ sake, these are all good problems to have.

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