“Who’s On First” is one of the classic American comedy sketches. Performed by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, “Who’s on First” is a short skit in which Costello approaches Abbott about Abbott’s baseball team. Abbott proceeds to talk to Costello about the team, not informing Costello that the names of the players on the team are; Who, What, I Don’t Know, Because, Why, Tomorrow, Today and I Don’t Care (give a darn or give a damn, depending on where you hear the sketch). Costello’s confusion and increased frustration as the sketch goes on is classic and still hilarious to this day. It is so much a part of baseball lore that the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown runs it throughout the day in the museum.
What makes “Who’s on First” funny is the anonymity of the players names and the confusion that results. Unfortunately, Mets fans can directly associate with this concept of anonymity, and those results haven’t been funny over these past two seasons.
The Mets have had identical 74 and 88 records over the last two years. During that time, they’ve had the following number of players start at each position:
Catcher – eight
First Base – seven
Second Base – six
Shortstop – six
Third Base – six
Left Field – 10
Center Field – 11
Right Field – 10
That is the definition of anonymity. The other egregious thing about this has been that the vast majority of the players that have started for the Mets at various positions over the last two years are no longer on the team, no longer a part of the team’s future, or more than likely not to be on the team starting in 2014:
No Longer On the Team – Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Kelly Shoppach, Rob Johnson, John Buck, Vinny Rottino, Ronny Cedeno, Jason Bay, Scott Hairston, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter, Andres Torres, Rick Ankiel, Marlon Byrd and Fred Lewis
So, to sum up, of the 35 different players to start at least one game as position players the past two seasons, 20 of them will not have a part to play on this team next season. Of the remaining 15, two are players that will start the season at AAA (Wilfredo Tovar and Juan Centeno), three are nothing more than bench players, and are possibilities for not making the team, depending on moves made this offseason (Anthony Recker, Justin Turner and Andrew Brown), one might be traded (Daniel Murphy), three might join Centeno and Tovar in AAA (Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada and Matt den Dekker) and one is nothing more than a platoon player (Josh Satin). That leaves David Wright, the enigma that is Lucas Duda, a borderline starter or bench player in Eric Young Jr. and two unproven second year players (at admittedly different levels of success in the majors), Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud, as the supposed base of the team. That’s pathetic.
Seeing all of that, it’s no wonder that Mets fans, in general, are bitter and pessimistic about what the front office will do this offseason
That feeling of negativity shouldn’t be here. We should be optimistic because this team does have its strengths. The rotation, even with Matt Harvey’s absence, should be a strong point with just minimal offseason additions, considering the depth of young arms in the minor league system, and the young pitchers that should make their debuts during 2014, if they aren’t traded (Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard). The bullpen, with the addition of one veteran arm (hopefully LaTroy Hawkins) should be full of young power arms with high end potential as relievers, not to mention the variety of strong, young relievers that are in the upper levels of the minor league system.
In addition to that, we have our captain, Wright, and a young catcher, who should be good, even if he hasn’t proven anything in d’Arnaud. Lagares should also be solid in center field and a Duda/Satin platoon should be serviceable. Second base will either be manned by the proven in Murphy, the top prospect in Flores or the speedster in Young, and that will be fine. Additionally Young, Murphy and Flores can play other positions, giving the team even more flexibility.
The really weaknesses of this team are at shortstop and in the outfield. This offseason, three players need to be brought into this team and the options are already drying up. Shortstop is really down to Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew to improve the position (Alexei Ramirez isn’t enough, Didi Gregorius, if you look at the minor league numbers, isn’t a whole lot better than Tovar and Rafael Furcal is old), as previous reported targets like Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, Starlin Castro, Yunel Escobar and Troy Tulowitzki all appear to no longer be available. The Mets also don’t appear to have the players Texas wants for Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus.
The outfield market is quickly becoming barren, for various reasons. Marlon Byrd is signed, Norichika Aoki, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer aren’t available, the Mets don’t match up on Jose Bautista and the club won’t pay out for Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury. Curtis Granderson wants to be on “a winner,” Nelson Cruz is coming off of the PED suspension and can’t run or field and Carlos Beltran wants a multi-year deal, lining him up to jump to the first American League team to make that offer. Oh yeah and the Mets don’t want to give up a draft pick so… That leaves the likes of David Murphy, Corey Hart (if he can even still play the outfield), Michael Morse, Franklin Gutierrez and Chris Young. So, any combination of those guys, only, will be an utter disaster.
That leaves a trade, but for whom? Yoenis Cespedes is rumored to be available, but how much will that cost? Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are available, but that’s a whole different level of cost and chance.
Sandy Alderson and company need to make it happen. Sign Peralta to play short. Sign Young to platoon in the outfield with Den Dekker. Go for it and trade Murphy, Davis, Montero, Cesar Puello and Kevin Plawecki for Cespedes and Brett Anderson (if the A’s even accept that deal). If they trade Puello to Oakland, find out what the Dodgers want for Ethier and do it. The bottom line is if the Mets walk away from this offseason with Peralta and any mix of those three outfielders, the team is moving in the right direction.
That’s what makes this offseason so important. “Who’s on First” should be a funny routine that we all enjoy, as opposed to the template that the baseball team we all root for likes to use for its roster. That’s not fair to the good players on this team or the fans that watch the games at Citi Field or on SNY. We shouldn’t be forced to live with the anonymous or the borderline. Mets fans have been patient. It’s time for the front office to step up. No one expects miracles. We just expect more than Who, What, Because, Why, Today,Tomorrow and I don’t know. That’s because, all of us, give a darn.