Mickey Callaway and the first base ‘problem’

Manager Mickey Callaway has had his share of problems to deal with during his tenure with the Mets, but one of these problems is one that most managers would not mind having. Specifically he has to find playing time for two very good first sackers on the roster, right-handed slugger Pete Alonso and left-handed batter Dominic Smith.

Alonso has electrified fans with his high-exit velocity shots at the plate, and he has been really productive in most of the batting aspects of the game. Through the Sunday action he has assembled a slash line of .325/.416/.727 with 8 homers and 7 doubles. So he’s hitting for power, hitting for average and is getting on base. He is making a strong early candidacy for the Rookie of the Year award, and he’s playing better defense than was expected. Barring injury or a prolonged slump, he is in no danger of losing his starting slot.

Smith has been playing quite well, in more limited action he’s cranked out a .409/.519/.500 line, with 2 doubles. He also is smoother at fielding his position than Alonso is. Smith had been an under-achiever with potential prior to this season, but apparently using medical equipment to control sleep apnea has given him new life.

So far Callaway has managed this embarrassment of riches quite well. He has gotten both players into all 21 games played (again through the Sunday action.) Smith has gotten a spot start, but mostly has been used as a pinch hitter and or late game defensive replacement, with Alonso getting the bulk of the work at first base.

Part of the challenge for Callaway is that the two players are both only suited for the first base slot, or DH in the few road inter-league games. Smith throws left-handed, so he can’t play any of the other infield positions. He has played just a bit of outfield, especially in the minors last year, but all that proved is that he is a first baseman. Alonso is right-handed thrower but it is hard to envision him anywhere else in the field besides first, especially since he is doing so well there.

It’s not too often that a team gets two young, exciting and productive players who are only suited for first base. We might have to go all the way back to the late 50s when the Giants had Orlando Cepeda win the Rookie of the year award in 1958, and then had Willie McCovey win it the following year. Both players went on to win MVP awards and both ended up in the Hall of Fame. Cepeda was athletic enough to play the outfield, but he didn’t like it, and McCovey was like a fish out of water trying to patrol the outfield pastures. The Giants finally traded Cepeda to the Cardinals for pitcher Ray Sadecki, a deal that turned out very well for St. Louis.

So far, so good for Callaway in handling this situation. There are worrisome spots in the Mets lineup, but first base is not one of them. There is not really a competition for the starting spot which Alonso has clearly won. Both players are contributing despite the fact there is only one spot in the field for both of them.

7 comments for “Mickey Callaway and the first base ‘problem’

  1. Chris F
    April 23, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I think mistake number one in the assessment of Smith is that he is somehow the next coming of Hernandez in the field. I dont see him as any batter than Alonso, who continues to improve with every start. Any notion that Alonso is butcher and Dom is on a GG track fails to see what is going on, yey I bet 90% pf people buy that hogwash.

    Dom has slotted in where his numbers show it: he’s a back-up first baseman capable of maintaining defensive skills and hitting off the bench. Unfortunately, because hes really only that, I cant imagine why you lock down that roster spot. With Frazier back, he can easily sub for Alonso, while letting 3B go to McNeil most nights, and flip to 3B when McNeil needs a rest.

  2. Oscar A. Rivera
    April 23, 2019 at 10:29 am

    It is a big problem and very sad for Smith. He should be traded to a team where he can play on a daily basis, so he can continue developing his skills. A trade for a starting pitcher sounds like a great idea. It is not fair to keep him, if he is not going to have some at bats.

  3. MattyMets
    April 23, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    I realize it’s not sustainable to have a backup first baseman, but I love Smith’s approach as a pinch hitter and he’s had a great attitude. Injuries have a way of sorting things out, but someone from among Smith, Frazier and Davis is going to have to go. On their own, none of those three has much trade value. And that’s the issue. For now, they juggle as best they can. I don’t understand why Davis hasn’t gotten a chance in left field where he has more experience than McNeil.

  4. April 23, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    The early 70s Reds had the same problem with Tony Perez and Lee May. They used Perez at 3B but that was less than ideal. Ended up trading May and it worked out better than it did for the Giants trading Cepeda. While May had fine years after the trade, the Reds got Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham and Cesar Geronimo.

    As for the Mets, my opinion is that it’s as big of a problem as you make it out to be. The pecking order is established in that Alonso and McNeil are starting and the rest slot in where they can.

    To me they have two options. First, they can go to a 6-man bench and go 6 relievers, using Diaz and Familia as one-inning guys and the other four as multi-inning guys. Or they can keep seven relievers and cut Broxton.

    And you might have to do both of those things when Lowrie comes back.

    • John Fox
      April 23, 2019 at 9:19 pm

      That trade the Reds made dealing May to the Astros was what kick-started the Big Red Machine, picked up 3 important pieces especially of course Morgan.

  5. Chris B
    April 23, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Dom Smith solved a sleep apnea issue in the off-season which seems like the type of life altering decision to improve long term health. He looks to be in much better shape and has even commentated on his mental awareness and health being in a better space. I dont think that the Mets will trade him if his bat continues to play as he complements Alonso quite well.

  6. NYM6986
    April 24, 2019 at 7:37 am

    It’s a great problem to have as is the multiple third basemen. When Lowrie returns someone has to be sent down. Favor an extra bench player than BP arm. Can Lowrie still really play a little SS so Rosario can have some time to sit and work on his game? Like little Louis at SS but he’s no hitter. And can we send TDa down to work on his hitting on an everyday basis? We know his catching shortcomings but if he hit .275 and learn to bunt we could live with that. In the meantime, first place sounds great any time during the season.

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