Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't dropkick Murphy

Squawker Lisa, I'm happy for you that things are "Swishalicious" on your side of town, but over here, they are not even Churchalicious. Swept out of L.A. and now Jose Reyes might have to go on the DL. But at least Daniel Murphy aced his first game at first base.

On his first play, Murphy took his foot off the bag, but Juan Pierre would have been safe anyway. But after that, Murphy made a range of plays that any first baseman would be happy to make - going to his left, going to his right, and leaping to take a hit away.

So I think it was a little harsh of the Post to put Murphy on the back page with the headline UGH-LY! Yes, Murphy went 0-for-4 and did not get the job done in the five hole, but it was a lot more important for Murphy to show he could handle first base.

We know Murphy can hit. But before last night, we also knew that he could not field. That he would have to end up in the American League as a DH.

But last night, Murphy did not look merely adequate at first, but actually like he belonged there. It's still only one game, but the Mets are a whole lot better off being able to solve the first base problem internal than calling up the Indians or Nationals and saying, hi, we're desperate for Mark DeRosa or Nick Johnson. Please rip us off.

As for his hitting, Murphy's slump has now left him batting .263. He hit .324 in April and is hitting .174 in May. Murphy is probably not a .324 hitter, but he's also not a .174 hitter. Murphy has also been jerked in and out of the lineup and his struggles in the outfield are well-documented. Perhaps having a secure spot at first base will help him settle down at the plate.

It's also not fair to criticize Murphy for not driving runs in as the 5 hitter last night, since he is not a power hitter and ideally would not be batting fifth if the Mets had other options.

Like it or not, the hitless wonder Mets are now a team that must win on pitching and defense. It's frustrating to see the team score only six times in the four-game losing streak, but at least the pitching has held the opposition to only ten earned runs in those four games - along with two unearned runs.

One of the unearned runs came after Murphy dropped the fly ball in the first inning Tuesday night. The other came of course when Jeremy Reed threw wildly from first at the end of Monday night's debacle.

With Murphy out of left and installed at first, the Mets have potentially shored up both their weakest spots on defense - though now they may have to contend with the loss of Reyes.

IF Reyes goes on the DL, the Mets must think defense first. But Jerry Manuel can't burn Fernando Tatis as a pinch-hitter as he did last night, leaving Ramon Martinez to bat in the ninth. Ideally, Martinez won't be batting at all soon, but Manuel must start treating the shortstop spot as he does catcher, making sure to keep options open.

With pitching, defense and smarter managing, maybe the Mets can avoid another Fenway massacre.


Condolences to Scott Schoeneweis on the loss of his wife. What a sad story. Our thoughts are with Scott and his family.

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