04.25.08

Marchman : The Mets Have No Alternative To Delgado

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 6:23 pm by

“No matter how much money they make,” muses the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman, “athletes are just like other people, and would prefer to do well rather than badly.” For a proud man like Carlos Delgado (benched tonight against the Braves in favor of Marlon Anderson), is any size paycheck worth tolerating death threats from Long Island City’s no. 1 SF Giants fan?

When he came to the Mets three years ago, he looked to have a decent chance at the Hall of Fame. Now, he looks to have only sketchy chances of holding a job next year. He’s been dropped a spot in the order, and radio host Chris Russo, in a characteristically thoughtful riff, even suggested on the air that the Mets should consider killing him. (“They could kill him, they could bench him, they can do a million things.” ) It’s hard times in New York town.

One problem, maybe the worst one, is that Delgado has seemingly completely lost the ability to reach the outer half of the plate. This was visible to even the least observant fan last year, but it’s gotten even worse this year, when he’s had four hits (three of them singles) on pitches from the middle of the strike zone on out. The man can reach out and put the bat on the ball to slap it foul, but he can’t hit it with any authority at all.

Like most left-handed power hitters, Delgado is basically a pull hitter, so this isn’t necessarily an immense problem in its own right. The Mets are not counting on him to shoot dribblers up the third base line or through the hole the other way, but to crank long hits down the right field line. When a hitter can’t even pose the threat of being able to hit an outside pitch, though, he’s going to get nothing else. This isn’t just a hole in his swing, but a gaping black pit of despair. No pitcher needs to throw a pitch in his wheelhouse at all, for any reason, because he’s just not going to be able to hit anything that isn’t in it. This, I suspect, is why he’s hitting for so little power: It’s less that he’s incapable of hitting the ball really hard than that he’s incapable of forcing pitchers to serve the ball where he can tag it.

No one else on the Mets roster or in their system is capable of playing first base full time while hitting at all respectably. (Neither Moises Alou nor Ryan Church has ever played a major league game at the position, for the curious.) Even if they were inclined to make a trade, it’s unclear how they could do so ” the farm system is barren, and few teams are ever looking to do a New York team a solid. For the present, and likely the rest of the year, Delgado it is. One just hopes that the fans and even the writers keep in mind that baseball is hard. Don’t get down on the man: Even if it isn’t enough, he’s doing what he can.

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