Something a little different today -- let's take a look into the Flushing Fussing mailbag.
I like Jose Valentin at second base, but his age dictates that in the near future we are going to need a new one. If Endy Chavez could start practicing, then actually play second in the spring, he might be a great (no cost) replacement. He is a natural athlete with a strong arm, and good ball sense. His power is the only thing holding him back as a regular outfielder -- as a second baseman however, his bat would compare quite favorably to the better second baseman in baseball. The thought of having the speed of Jose Reyes, Chavez,Carlos Beltran, and David Wright in four of the first five spots would surely make any opposing pitcher cringe. Your thoughts please.
Yours, Skip, is an excellent question. Moving players from position to position is the type of thinking that is often poo-poo'd by traditional baseball logic, but I've often wondered how detrimental it would really be. Theoretically, a guy like Chavez is a top-flight athlete, and it'd be hard to imagine he couldn't eventually get the hang of playing second. Note: Mark from Garden City points out that as a left-handed thrower, Chavez would be hard-pressed to make the switch. But he's been an outfielder for quite some time now, and there's a lot to learn before you can play middle infield in the bigs.
That said, check out this article I wrote earlier in the week about Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson. Johnson's case isn't exactly what you're suggesting, as he was drafted as a shortstop, but he still moved from the outfield to the infield at the Major League level.
I wonder if this is something the Mets would ever consider doing with one of their outfield prospects. As we all know, Beltran's going to be manning center field for a long time, and the Mets have three highly touted young studs -- Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez -- working their way through the Minors. Gomez, at 6-foot-4, is a bit big for a traditional second baseman, but I guess if we were following the traditional logic, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Of the three, I have no idea if any have the type of "makeup" and dedication that Bobby Cox claims Johnson has, but it'd certainly be an interesting experiment. The problem with experimenting, though, is that occasionally a player changes positions and then melts down both in the field and at the plate. See Todd Hundley for details.
One last note on the subject before I move on: A long time ago, my friend Eric and I debated how a team would do if it could field eight Mark McGwires -- one at each position. We wondered if the runs lost in the field would be more than made up for by a lineup full of McGwires, but then mostly got caught up in the hilarious image of a fleet of McGwires jogging out onto the diamond before a game. Of course, we extrapolated, and fantasized about someday controlling some sort of post-apocalyptic army of Mark McGwires, which would be useful for gaining control of the world, especially if the future world appreciated plate discipline as much as I do.
Do you think the Phillies are out of it already? They look really bad.
It's true, Roger -- the Phillies have looked really bad. But it's a very long season and it's still very early. I wouldn't call the Phillies out of it by a long shot. Do they currently look like a team that can compete to win the division? Not at all. Might they in June? For sure.
I don't do this often, but I'll defer to WFAN's Mike and the Mad Dog on this one. The radio personalities insist that records in baseball don't mean anything until Memorial Day, and I think that's a fair assessment. So if the Phillies are still mired in the basement of the NL East come early June, I'll count them out. Until then, though, they're just a contender off to a really, really bad start.
(Apropos of nothing save the above reference: If watching sports in New York is something like Greek drama, then Mike and the Mad Dog are like the chorus. They somehow manage to sum up what's been going on, react to it, foreshadow what might happen next and embody the mindset of the typical New York fan. And, though I rarely, if ever, agree with what they opine, it all makes for a remarkably entertaining radio program.)
Ted, I loved your article on Reyes and I printed a copy for my archives. Do any of your readers know how handsome you are?
Ted, I thoroughly enjoy your blog since I always like to read about the Mets farm system. I have to take you to task in regard to your suggestion that Jorge Sosa would be "the first-call starter if one of the Mets' five gets hurt or proves consistently ineffective." While he has pitched well so far for the Zephyrs and has some success in the league, he probably wouldn't be the first pitcher called up since he isn't on the 40-man roster. Granted the Mets could move Duaner Sanchez or Pedro Martinez on the 60-day DL to get Sosa up, but I think Chan Ho Park or Jason Vargas would be promoted for one or two starts need be. The Mets definitely have more quality pitching depth at Triple-A this year then last, when they had to turn to Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez. Any word on Dave Williams rehab and how far away he is from pitching again?
Whoops! I suppose I should've done more homework (more really obvious homework, at that) before writing that. I assumed that since the Mets gave Sosa a guaranteed contract, he was on the 40-man roster. He's not, though, so he probably wouldn't get the call unless, as you say, they bumped Pedro or Sanchez to the 60-day DL. Park has not been good in Triple-A, though, and Vargas was good until Sunday, when he was hit hard by the Albuquerque Isotopes. Phil Humber, on the other hand, was named the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week last week and, outside of one bad start, has been dominant at the level. If the Mets feel his stamina is up to par, he could be the first-call guy I thought Sosa was.
In any case, as you write, it's better than Lima. Was there anything more irritating than watching him carry on in the dugout last year when every time he started he got lit up like a Christmas tree? I think baseball players should be having fun and everything, but if you want to put on a show like that, you have to earn it. And Lima -- statistically one of the worst pitchers of all time -- certainly never did, especially not with the Mets.
If you keep asking them, I'll keep answering them. Shoot me an email at Ted.Berg@mlb.com and I'll consider your questions for an upcoming post. To comment on these questions and this post, chime in at the SNY message boards.