New York Sports: Jordany Valdespin and the Mets beat the Phillies, and lose another starter to injury
The New York Mets are winning games but losing players.
On Sunday, Ruben Tejada went down with an injured quad as the Mets beat the Diamondbacks, 3-1.
Monday night in Philadelphia, the victim was Josh Thole, who appeared to sustain a concussion on a collision at the plate. But his replacement, Mike Nickeas, had a huge double in the ninth to set the stage for Jordany Valdespin, a marginal prospect recalled to take Tejada's spot on the roster. Facing Jonathan Papelbon, who the Phillies paid $50 million this offseason to pitch in just this spot, Valdespin launched a three-run homer into the right field stands to give the Mets a 5-2 victory.
After the game, manager Terry Collins said that Valdespin would be his shortstop on Tuesday night. While SNY was quick to compare Valdespin's home run to one Omir Santos hit off of Papelbon when he played for the Boston Red Sox back in 2009, the first player that comes to mind when watching Valdespin is Melvin Mora, who became a key part of New York's 1999 team before getting sacrificed in 2000 as then-general manager Steve Phillips searched for a better shortstop to replace Rey Ordonez. Mora's age-27 season at Triple-A, interestingly, is largely a dead ringer for Valdespin's age-23 season.
The Mets will be thrilled if Valdespin can be Mora-like, because they need all the help they can get. If Valdespin can play shortstop as well as Mora—that is to say, if his good hitting offsets his mediocre fielding—this version of the Mets, whose other options are Justin Turner and Ronny Cedeno, will take it.
As for Thole, his replacements while he recovers are Nickeas, whose extra-base hit last night was just his third in 93 big league plate appearances, and pushed his career OPS+ to a paltry 49, or the minor league catchers Lucas May or Rob Johnson.
Could this group succeed? Sure, because the games still have to be played. But well-run teams, or more accurately, teams with the basic financial wherewithal to construct a roster with depth, do not rely on the theoretical realities of games that are still to be played to provide all hope for a team's future success. It is a shame that this team, playing so hard for Collins, and a fan base starving for success of any kind, hasn't been given any kind of margin for injury. Over a 162 game season, that tends to produce moments like the Omir Santos home run: brief success from a guy who ultimately, gave the Mets an 82 OPS+ in a 70-92 season.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Steve Popper, who as former beat reporter for the Mets knows a little something about players returning too soon from injuries, thinks the Knicks ought to play it safe with Jeremy Lin. Marc Berman, on the other hand, thinks coach Mike Woodson has nothing to lose, which is right, unless he actually does get the job. In which case his loss, if he turns out to be responsible for ruining Lin's health, would be considerable.
Marc Staal's overtime shot gave Madison Square Garden its second confetti shower in two days, and gave the Rangers a 3-2 overtime win over the Capitals, and a 3-2 series lead.
New York hosts Tampa Bay for three beginning tonight. The Yankees are in fourth place, trailing Toronto by a half-game, Tampa Bay and Baltimore by 3.5. This being the Yankees. there has been some discussion over whether David Robertson should be the closer, even though he has 21 strikeouts in 12 innings and hasn't allowed a run since late last season. This will become a bigger deal once Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano start hitting, giving New York more leads to work with. Also, remember how the Yankees are relying on Jose Campos to salvage the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade? Well, he's down with an elbow injury now.
Ahead of Wednesday's home match against Houston, coach Hans Backe needs to figure out how to incorporate Rafa Marquez, returning from suspension, and left back Roy Miller, returning from injury, into a suddenly stout defense. It tells you everything you need to know about Marquez's bloated contract that Miller is the easier fit.