The Dysfunctional Mets: April 21st

Unfortunately, today’s segment with Jerry Manuel on WFAN wasn’t nearly as fruitful as the one on April 15th. There were no admissions of choosing Demonstrably Inferior Player A over Potentially Average Player B solely because of the former’s “experience.” No delusions of grandeur about an offense that has an upper limit of average. Nothing. The segment was strikingly bereft of incompetence.

In fact, when asked to diagnose the Mets and their current state, Manuel was downright sensible. He continually stressed that the key to the Mets’ season is their starting pitching, which is totally accurate. Of course, Manuel wasn’t perfect. He claimed Jonathon Niese was on the cusp of “being a force to be reckoned with for a long time.” He tacitly agreed with Mike Francesa that David Wright (.229/.439/.458) is struggling. Manuel was also fortunate that Francesa didn’t bring up Rod Barajas and his .200/.191/.356 line, although that’s probably mostly because Francesa joined Manuel in the Barajas lovefest this winter and doesn’t want to remind us of it. But all in all, Manuel didn’t say anything particularly incompetent or delusional, which was a huge disappointment.

But since you are no doubt relying on me to complain about something, I will bring up Manuel’s overly respectful and fearful description of the Chicago Cubs’ offense:

“They got good hitters. I mean, those are good hitters. [Aramis] Ramirez is a historically good hitter. Derrek Lee, obviously, is a good hitter. [Alfonso] Soriano, you know, has got some power. Xavier Nady. [Jeff] Baker, you know, all those guys. [Marlon] Byrd looks like he’s improved as a hitter. So they’ve got some dangerous, dangerous right-handed hitters.”

I’m pretty sure Manuel just named every Cubs hitter he could think of in 10 seconds, because this list includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ramirez is fine. He’s gotten off to a terrible start, but he’s 31 and has an excellent track record, so his inclusion on the list of “good hitters on the Cubs” is acceptable. Lee has also been an excellent hitter over the last few years. Those are the “good.”

Byrd is only good if you like shiny stupid stats like batting average and RBI, because he hit .283 and drove in 89 runs in 2009, numbers that suckered the Cubs into signing him as a free agent. You would also have to ignore Byrd’s .285/.322/.419 line away from the Rangers’ hitting-friendly ballpark in order to think Byrd is good or “has improved as a hitter.” Soriano is a disaster because, for the 11th year running, he cannot lay off breaking balls away. His OBP last year was .303, and even with the best of luck, it won’t top .320 this year. Nady is fine as long as he’s facing a lefty, but he’s below-average against righties. He’s 31 and that isn’t going to change at this point. Those are the “bad.”

The “ugly” is Jeff Baker, but his inclusion is more comical and inexplicable than anything else. In 27 plate appearances in 2010, the 28-year-old has hit .240/.296/.480 (.269/.325/.456 career) with two homers and three RBI. I mention the RBI because it’s not like Manuel was perusing the Cubs’ hitters and saw Baker had an outlandish RBI total, thereby deciding that he’s an offensive threat. Baker has three RBI and is hitting .240, numbers that would make even a traditionalist groan, so I really lack any sort of explanation as to why Manuel thinks Baker is a dangerous right-handed hitter.

That’s really it for this edition of The Dysfunctional Mets. Hopefully Manuel and Francesa will get into a discussion about Rod Barajas’ entirely predictable unfortunate struggles next time.

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