One player standing in the middle of the outfield. Just one player. Big deal, right?
Mets’ outfielder Carlos Beltran underwent surgery in January and will miss the beginning of the upcoming season, forcing his team to scramble for answers until his return. However, what makes this entire situation so interesting is how many categories are being affected due to his absence. It’s not just a matter of finding a rental-type outfielder to fill the gap for a few weeks or months until he returns, but it totally affects the way the team is being structured.
The batting order, which can be one of the most difficult sciences of the game, will likely see a dramatic shift in the first few batting slots. Although Jose Reyes has been the leadoff man since the disappointing Kaz Matsui era, he may need to drop to third in the lineup in order to counteract the glaring hole left by Beltran. Last week, manager Jerry Manuel hinted at the idea of inserting Angel Pagan in the leadoff spot and said he plans to drop Reyes to the third spot in the order.
But why mess with Reyes? He is coming off an excruciating year of injury and probably shouldn’t be getting thrown around the lineup like a punching bag. He’s going to see different pitches and end up in different situations. If he doesn’t produce in the three hole, it will look much worse than if he struggles as leadoff hitter.
At the same time, it is something the Mets could try in Spring Training. Spring Training experiments don’t always translate into the most accurate results when there are double-A players patrolling the outfield, but at least it gives room for error.
Beltran’s outfield anticipation will also hurt the Mets in the beginning of the season. Beltran is known for his ability to read fly balls and track them down in a hurry, so the seemingly routine fly balls in CitiField may force more fans to hold their breath as substitute players try to step up.
On the bright side, Beltran was smart enough to follow through with the surgery early enough for him to make a mid-season comeback. Beltran has proved in the past that the second half of the season is all you need for a monster contract, as shown when he carried the Houston Astros through the playoffs after spending only a few months with the team. What came next? A 7-year, $119 million dollar contract.