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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Play Him or Trade Him

Just trade Jordany Valdespin so we can get to the part where the Mets gave up on him too soon. When he has a good game or a string of them or, for all we know, a career of them, we can just throw the Valdespin trade on the pile with Jeff Kent and Jeromy Burnitz and whoever the Mets in moments of pique decided wasn’t worth the trouble of tolerating growing pains or unorthodox personalities. Or if he fades from the scene due to a lack of refinement and/or maturity, Valdespin can be Lastings Milledge or Fernando Martinez, guys who legendarily never got the message.

But if you’re not going to trade him, let him play and do his thing. Work with him on adjusting his thing if his thing is so overwhelmingly offensive to the delicate sensibilities of the people who contract the vapors every time this guy claps his hands or makes a face or shows a pulse. Jordany Valdespin, like every position player who isn’t John Buck, is a flawed Met, but he’s an exciting Met and, at the moment, a generally effective Met. In Wednesday night’s Hefnerrible loss, Jordany recorded the following: three infield hits; two diving catches; one jog between third and home that wasn’t consequential given Daniel Murphy’s misguided sense of direction yet not exactly an endorsement of headiness; and one bases-loaded, full-count, caught-looking, inning-ending, rally-dousing strikeout on a filthy Kyle Kendrick pitch that caught the inside corner of the plate after Hefner was mysteriously sent up to bat in a situation that cried out for a pinch-hitter.

He may have also worn a t-shirt on the team bus. I’m not sure.

This was all the night after Valdespin tripled to maybe spark a little life into a dormant attack in a ballpark where we’re constantly reminded no lead is safe (the Phillies led by six in the fifth) in a sport where we’ve been told a triple is the most fabulous play there is (better than sex, according to a noted expert). Valdespin congratulated himself on the triple. Everybody else admonished him for enjoying the moment, even after he directly scored on a passed ball. He had brought the Mets a little closer in a game where the object was to win and we watched in the hopes the Mets could win. Yet Valdespin upset the unwritten code or perhaps darted into the visiting clubhouse to try on another t-shirt.

Maybe the guy is a royal pain in the rear when you’re actually around him. Maybe he’s just that caustic in close quarters. Maybe he’s the “1” in Steve Phillips’s old “24 + 1” A-Rod equation but doesn’t have the goods to back it up. Maybe he’s impenetrable to the wisdom the Mets unfirable corps of coaches dispenses, assuming they dispense wisdom. Maybe the Ambassador, in his role as Captain, has given him numerous talkings-to that just won’t take. It’s also possible that Jordany Valdespin plays the game the way it was played by the national team that won the World Baseball Classic, given that he’s from the same place, and it doesn’t always translate. Team Dominican Republic exuded “passion”; Jordany displays “histrionics”. Maybe it’s all about context.

Several of the Mets’ announcers can barely conceal their contempt for him. Most of the beat writers run their Thesaurii ragged to take nonlibelous shots at him. His manager can barely stand to look at him and has to force himself to write his name onto the lineup card, whether he produces or not. At the moment, he’s producing. The Mets outfield, despite Terry Collins’s stated preference for everyday assignments, is a six-card monte affair most nights.

Lucas Duda’s commenced an assault on National League upper decks. Collin Cowgill was last week’s catalyst (or cattle-ist), is this week’s afterthought. Marlon Byrd had a big hit a few days ago. Kirk Nieuwenhuis isn’t a backup infielder, which would make him more useful. Mike Baxter, he of the historic great play, made one pretty bad play and one pretty lucky play last night. And Jordany Valdespin, hitting .400, robbing opposing batters and being, shall we say, fascinating in the process, isn’t simply sent out there every game for several games in a row for some reason. Or for obvious reasons. Or reasons obvious to those who make decisions but not to me.

Give him a chance to succeed and grow up. Or give him a ticket out of here if his presence bothers you so much. Maybe you can exchange him for a fifth starter. We have a pile of those, too.

30 comments to Play Him or Trade Him

  • AaronMo

    The dearly departed Prof. Dickey would approve of your use of “consequential” (but not your pluralization of “thesaurii”).

  • That’s a weird report by DiComo. He infers that Terry Collins turned away, but that’s not really what Collins said. I wouldn’t run with it.

  • Agreed. Didn’t everyone hate us in ’86 for similar “histrionics”?

    Silver lining from last night was the ’73 highlight film during the rain delay. Loved seeing Rusty inside out a bunch of hits to left due to his ailing wrist, and seeing The Hammer go yard.

  • The Jestaplero

    Remember when we traded future MVP/All-Star Kevin Mitchell because management was afraid he’d be a “bad influence” on Doc and Straw? Thank God they did because Gooden and Strawberry might have gotten into trouble if he had stuck around.

  • The Jestaplero

    PS No mention of Papelbon trying to get the game called for rain with 2 out in the ninth? I put the video on Facebook and tagged you, Greg – it was classic. Keith: “Are you KIDding? Get back on the mound, Meat, and let’s go.”

    • Saw it and enjoyed it. By this morning, however, my mind was on JV1. Thanks for the heads up, as at that point in the game, I was balancing the action from Nashville with the action from Philly.

  • joenunz

    Vapors!

    What baseball blog uses the word “vapors”? Oh, right, almost forgot where I was.

    The Mets will not screw this up, because…

    oh right, almost forgot what team we’re talking about.

  • John

    The Mets announcers (Keith mostly and sometimes Gary) along with Bobby Ojeda in the studio are prejudice. Throw Collins in there too.

    They always scapegoat the Latin or African American players. Reyes, Milledge, Valdespin, etc. I’d say it’s the cultural behavior of the players alone, but look at Ruben Tejada.

    Tejada is the nicest kid who never celebrates or acts out. Never brings attention to himself yet Collins, Keith, and Ojeda go after him like crazy. Two straight years for defense (his defense is actually really good) and said little about Baxter’s terrible play last night. They also didn’t call Duda lazy or cold when he couldn’t get to a ball or made a bad throw.

    Reyes was cold too! Now, he’s in Toronto (burrrr) lighting it up. Never hear a bad word about him there or in Miami.

    How about blaming Valdespin when Murphy can run the bases or field?

    There are many, many examples: Carlos Beltran (another quiet, nice guy) had several of the best offense and defensive years in Mets history. Wouldn’t know it from the broadcasts or post-game show. They’re happier with “gritty” Cowgill. Why wasn’t Reyes called “gritty?”

    Carlos Delgado? Cancer! Really? Only on the Mets. Never heard that it Toronto.

    Matt Harvey gives 20 interviews a day and talks like he’s the best in the world. Is a rookie supposed to do that? Take all that attention? Talk about being great like Verlander? I hope Rafael Montero doesn’t do the same. Keith, Ojeda, Collins no like-y that from certain kind of guy if you know what I mean.

    At least “Los” Mets first first or second every year.

    Let me make it clear this is not about the Wilpons who would not judge in that way.

    • There may be a tic toward default stereotyping (usually benign) in evidence on broadcasts of all stripe, but “prejudice” strikes me as an overstatement. I’m sympathetic to the many of the points you raise but I can’t go there.

      I do, however, miss Jose Reyes still.

  • Dave

    I’ll see your Jeff Kent and Jeremy Burnitz and raise you an Amos Otis. This isn’t going to end well.

    • Gil lost patience with Amos Otis too soon but I don’t think it was a “troublemaker”/”attitude” thing, certainly not on the scale of the others cited. But the giving up in advance? Oh, yeah, and sadly.

      • Dave

        Oh, definitely just meant giving up on Otis too soon, no evidence that he was a personality problem of any kind. He’s kind of drifted out of Mets’ fans minds, but one of the most unfortunate premature departures in the franchise’s history.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    While he does deserve credit for how he handled hitting in the lead off spot and that great shoestring catch in center, we must also keep in mind that monumental base running mistake on the part of Valdy – which was only over-shadowed by an equally big goof on the base paths by Murphy on the same play – which might be representative of why Terry Collins is hesitant to insert him into the lineup as a regular.

    Murph on second, Valdespin on third with a fly hit to short left. Murphy badly misjudged the ball and made it even worse by getting closer to third than second as he is still watching the play develop as the ball was just about to be caught. But even though he was doubled up at second, Valdy just jogged home instead of running at full speed. Valdespin running at full speed might not have scored as Murphy was doubled up but there is no excuse not hustling simply because he might have thought the play over due to Murphy for the simple fact that had the throw been a bit off line it could have given him the extra second needed to touch home plate before Philly touched the bag at second.

    It’s Valdespin’s mental mistakes that are his own worst enemy for he certainly has the talent. No matter how guilty on that play Murphy was, it doesn’t take away the fact that Valdy should have been running hard once the ball was caught. Even if he thinks Murphy is easily doubled up, by jogging in Valdy left himself open to many things – besides that throw being a bit off line the throw could have been errant instead but recovered quickly enough by the back up infielder to fire it toward home and getting the non-hustling Valdy out.

    I think what we saw last night is very important for again, it is not his talent that is messing him up with TC and others within the Met organization as it is his attitude. Daniel just pulled a bone head play on the base paths but it came not of being laxidasical which Valdy’s play was. Again, had the throw been a little bit off, a Valdy running at full speed beats the foot race between touching home and touching second. At the time, it could have made the score 5-3. If the bullpen didn’t allow those two more Philly runs, Duda’s homer makes it 5-4 and anything then could have happened.

    If Valdy just rubbed players the wrong way in the clubhouse but was 100 percent serious when it came to the field, then that would be a personal issue that would really be of no concern for us as fans. It’s just that I see Lastings Miledge written all of him with another one’s ego (more than immaturity) making his talent go to waste.

  • FL Met Fan Rich

    Spot on!….I have wondered about this for a long time.

    What is it? Is he lazy? is he a cancer in the clubhouse?

    The Mets are not good enough to have a player and let him rot on the bench.

    Let him play every day and see what he’s got. What’s the worse that can happen?

    4th place again?

    Thank you baseball Gods for the Marlins!

  • azulnaranja

    McCarver should not get credit for the remark about the triple. He stole it from “The Great American Novel” by Philip Roth.
    As to the outfielders, Terry should either pick regulars or pick platoon partners and stick with them. His mixing and matching and playing hunches just makes no sense.

    • open the gates

      Well, it only makes sense when you have a outfield consisting entirely of fifth-outfielders. Which is what the Mets have now.

      I think Terry Collins is waiting for a few of the outfielders to force his hand and make him play them every day. I don’t know that any of them have so far. Including Jordany.

    • Roth to McCarver to Mets fans…helluva relay there. And good catch by you.

  • eric b

    I agree 100% with you on this one Greg. Play him… And there’s a good analysis on Amazin’ Avenue today about how Valdespin somehow got more of the blame from the announcers for Ike’s double-play pop-up than Murphy did. Murphy clearly at fault, yet somehow Spin gets most of the blame. There is definitely some ethnic prejudice going on here, though probably not consciously, among management and announcers alike. In any case, this crappy Mets team really can’t afford to play Niewienhuis (sp?) or Cowgill over Spin…He’s simply a more talented and better baseball player than they are.

    ( I’d also prefer to see Baxter against all righthanders than Marlon Byrd. Baxter reaches base, pure and simple…)

    • Good AA article. And at this moment, I’m all for playing the hot hand, no matter how allegedly hot the head associated with it is.

      Mets have four OFs in the lineup tonight. Thank you, DH?

  • Dan Herbert

    I couldn’t agree more with this. Valdespin offers too much potential — even if it’s just the potential to flame out — to be ignored.

    While I’ve enjoyed watching Terry Collins’ development of a ‘blue collar’ (read: white color?) Mets team with a Protestant work ethic instead of the listless losers of Jerry Manuel (whom I loved, btw), a team that is just plain ordinary — with three 5th starters and four 5th outfielders — can’t ignore a *potentially* extraordinary talent.

    Perhaps it’s because he’s extraordinary that Valdespin evidently pisses off people. I adore Gary, Keith and Ron (and Terry Collins) but the Amazin’ Avenue piece that Eric B references struck a chord. While it’s easy to root for a guy like Murph’, why is it so hard for them to root for a guy like Jordany?

    I understand that his behaviour rankles. But the kid has talent. And on this year’s ball team, as Greg so rightly writes, that should entitle hime to a starting berth or a ticket out of Queens.

    • Dan, you hit on something that I’ve found strange for years: “blue collar” players. Who’s a white collar player exactly? Don’t they all run the same bases? Don’t they all work at their craft? And, come to think of it, what’s so bad about “white collar”? My dad was a “white collar” professional and worked extraordinarily hard, albeit in a different setting than “blue collar” people.

      I guess the intimation is blue collar players don’t have talent, but they’re in the majors pulling down gold collar salaries. Silly descriptor.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Valdespin reminds me, to a degree, of a young Carl Everett, who also was eccentric and reportedly abrasive yet undeniably talented. I can’t help but keep my eyes on the tube whenever Valdespin is batting. The mention of Jeff Kent at the top of this posting is also telling.

    Do we keep or deal this guy? Yes, fellow Met brethren, that is the potential dilemma.

    • Everett eventually made an All-Star team, but wow was he strange. But even Everett (when under all kinds of parenting suspicion) didn’t elicit the kind of groans from the announcers of his day that JV does now.

  • March'62

    It’s probably just me but I see Angel Pagan when it comes to Valdespin – does everything one day, nothing the next.

    As for why Murphy got a free pass but not Valdespin – just a matter of bonehead play vs. lack of hustle. But Murphy definitely should get a turn in the woodshed after that.

    And now for the Mets & Twins renewing their rivalry. This should have been the 1987 World Series showdown. Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this matchup. Is Killebrew still on the team?

    • Pagan’s image arc as a Met was a bit of a mystery to me. In 2010 he was praised to the high heavens as a wonderful human being. During the infamous Walter Reed incident, it was pointed out Angel looked for the veteran who’d had the toughest time and sat with him talking to him intently. The next year he was back to being a head case.

      Anyway we can return Viola for a closer of Aguilera stature? Do we still have the receipt?

  • BTW, David Wright didn’t run hard to home and cost the Mets a run in late 2009 when Jeff Francoeur was out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. He’s still a good guy.

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