LAGARES: Comes up big. Photo Credit: Getty Images
By John Delcos
Juan Lagares was in the New York Mets’ lineup again this afternoon in Washington. After sitting out four of the previous five games, Lagares returned in style Saturday with two hits and three RBI – including a two-run homer – and robbed Jayson Werth of a home run by scaling the wall in center.
For a player who had struggled, rather than sulk, Lagares responded like a professional and showed manager Terry Collins why he should play.
Collins said Lagares swung at too many bad pitches and wasn’t patient at the plate. However, rather than give Lagares a game or two to clear his head, Collins went on a rant when asked the innocuous question of what he had to do to stay in the lineup.
Rather than say ``keep up yesterday would be nice,’’ Collins became defensive and shifted to full attack mode.
``He has been an everyday player. He got into a little bit of a funk,’’ Collins told reporters. ``You know, it's not like I sat him for seven days. I sat him for two days, for cripes sake. We get a little carried away here. Somebody gets a day off and it's like the sky is falling in. It's not. He's the center fielder.’’
Actually, Lagares sat out four of five games, so let’s pause for accuracy as Collins argues about semantics.
Not satisfied, Collins took it to another level and ripped the media. It was reminiscent of last year when he blasted Mets fans after the Jordany Valdespin flap. Collins went into full damage control then, but I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
``In my opinion, this is what the market is here,’’ Collins said, losing media support with each word. ``If I give Grandy a day off, he's 'benched.' If I give C.Y. a day off, he's 'benched.' If I give Juan a day off, he's 'benched.'
``That's not really the case. I know you've got to sell newspapers, so do what you've got to say. But when I come in here every day and figure out who has got to be in the lineup, somebody can't play.
``And today somebody (Chris Young) is not going to play. I don't get too bent out of shape about it, because I know in the long run, after the next 120 games, they're all going to [have] play[ed].’’
Question: Isn’t Collins’ rant getting bent out of shape?
Actually, devising a rotation among four outfielders shouldn’t be that difficult. These guys are interchangeable, so how hard can it be to look at the upcoming pitching opponents and figure your outfield starters for the next week? Shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes tops.
Rather than rip the media that promotes his team, one would think somebody with nearly 40 years in baseball would have a better understanding of the market he works in and not pick fights over what was a positive story in Lagares.
Meanwhile, across town in the Bronx whined another example of somebody not understanding what it takes to play in New York. A New York fan wants a player to play hard; deliver; not make excuses and be stand-up when he doesn’t play well.
Ike Davis rarely did those things and was traded to Pittsburgh. With the Pirates in town to face the Yankees, Davis was asked the inevitable ``why didn’t things work with the Mets’’ questions.
After clamoring how much he didn’t want to be traded, one would have thought Davis might have been better prepared, unless, of course, this is what he wanted to say all along.
``It’s nice to play for someone that actually wants you or thinks that you can help the team,’’ said Davis, conveniently forgetting how many chances he was given and how the Mets consistently delayed sending him to the minor leagues when that was the obvious solution in 2012 and 2013.
Davis was off to another slow start this year, batting .208 with one home run and five RBI in 12 games before the April 18 trade that sent him packing.
``Obviously the Mets thought I could help the team ... a couple years – because I was there for almost five,’’ Davis said. ``I had one bad season, and they had to make a change. And they traded me away. I don't really know what else to say about that. It’s nice to be with a team that likes you. I don't think the Mets hated me ... until, you know.’’
First of all, it was more than one bad season. Davis missed considerable time with injuries. Yes, the Mets might have mishandled his ankle injury, and definitely GM Sandy Alderson made a mistake with his outward attempt to trade Davis, thereby lessening his value.
However, Davis didn’t do himself any favors by answering questions about his strikeouts by saying, ``I’m a home run hitter, I’m going to strike out.’’ He also didn’t help his cause by not addressing his numerous mechanical flaws, which including learning how to use the entire field.
And, Davis’ reputation took a hit when his father – former Yankees reliever Ron Davis – made excuses for him, including complaining about Citi Field’s dimensions. Ike Davis re-visited that issue this weekend.
Davis said being in Pittsburgh ``takes away some of the pressure of the nonsense off the field, like having to answer questions about going 0-for-4.’’
Davis added: ``It’s just when you have to talk about your bad streaks every day, you can think about it more than you want to.’’
The secret is to not have so many bad streaks, and not let the stadium get inside your head.
``At Citi? It’s just bigger,’’ Davis said. ``It’s harder. A couple balls might not get out. They get out [at Yankee Stadium]. Confidence is the biggest thing in baseball. You go up there and hit a couple balls that get caught at the track versus a two-run homer, it’s a game-changer.
``It goes from ecstasy to, ‘Dang, that could’ve been a homer somewhere else.’ It’s just what it is. Sometimes you hit a ball 405 [feet] to left-center and it could be caught and you hit it 310 [feet] and it gets out somewhere else. It’s the only difference. It’s a little easier to score some runs if you can sneak one over the wall.’’
Sure, it’s easier hitting in a bandbox, but that’s not how the game is played. Good hitters adjust their game and approach depending on the stadium. They don’t whine.
***John Delcos has covered Major League Baseball for over 20 years, including the Mets and Yankees since 1998. He has worked on several baseball books, is the owner of the Mets’ website, newyorkmetsreport.com and is a Hall of Fame voter.