When news came out about the fitness camp that many Mets are involved with this offseason, it was unfathomable to me that before now, top prospect Wilmer Flores had never had any training regimen that he participated in once the baseball season was over. Sure, we all get a good laugh out of John Kruk telling a fan, “Lady, I’m not an athlete. I’m a professional baseball player.” But when there are tens of millions of dollars on the line, it would be nice if both the player and the organization took things a little more seriously.
Almost as surprising was the fact that Jeff Wilpon was instrumental in putting this very necessary plan in place. It turns out that the younger Wilpon befriended strength and conditioning consultant Mike Barwis which eventually led Barwis to becoming involved with the Mets. Barwis is running the camp that Lucas Duda, Flores, Ruben Tejada and others are attending this winter.
We’re all frustrated with the year Tejada put up in 2013 and clamor for a change in the team’s starting shortstop. But if nothing else, Tejada gets it. Tim Rohan in The New York Times quotes Tejada as saying, “This is my career, my future. That’s why I came here.”
Let’s salute Tejada and the others. Also going to the camp is Juan Lagares and minor leaguers Patrick Biondi, Phillip Evans and Dominic Smith. Biondi and Smith were 2013 draft picks. If anyone reading this isn’t excited about Smith, the team’s top pick, attending this camp – I don’t know what to say to that person. This is great news – that our top pick is willing to go the extra mile to be the best he can be.
The camp is held in Michigan, which helps explain why Biondi, a Michigan native and University of Michigan product, is there. Evans was a player the Mets gave a large signing bonus to back in 2011 to keep him from going to college. He hasn’t had a big year yet in the minors, so it’s encouraging to see him participating in this camp.
It would have been preferable to see two other guys here, too. In a perfect world, Travis d’Arnaud would be here and so would Ike Davis. Most of the injuries to d’Arnaud were not chronic ones. Still, it would be nice if a guy who we’re counting on to play 130 games this year, one who has been injured in three of the past four seasons, would have showed up.
Perhaps Davis thinks he’s too old to be in this camp. Let’s hope he doesn’t think he’s too established as an MLB player to be bothered with such things. You would just think that as a guy who was sent to the minors and then publicly mentioned as a trade candidate, that Davis would have motivation to prove to the club that he had what it took to be great.
It’s hard not to notice that Duda attended and Davis didn’t.
A few years ago, Terry Collins made a big deal about Tejada not showing up early to Spring Training. My reaction was to claim that Tejada was not the bad guy and that Collins was making a mountain out of a molehill. Tejada went out and had a solid year after that. The following year, Spring Training 2013, Tejada showed up early and had a horrible year. Showing up early to Spring Training meant absolutely nothing to the ultimate success or failure for Tejada.
It’s certainly possible that showing up to this fitness camp won’t mean anything, either. But my opinion is that a player who goes to Michigan in the middle of winter to bust his butt at a fitness camp has more of what it takes to succeed than a guy who shows up early to Spring Training in Florida to get face time with the boss.