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The Bench: Effective or Detrimental?

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When I used to ask my uncle who his favorite Met was in the early part of the past decade, his response was always the same: utility-man Joe McEwing. A member of the Mets from 2000-2004, Joe McEwing played every position for the Mets during his time in Flushing, with the exception of pitcher and catcher, and showed an enthusiasm for the game that was unparalleled by any other Met at the time. He served as an early mentor to guys like Jose Reyes and David Wright, and he was a great late-game defensive replacement who would often keep the Mets in close games.

With a team that had players like Mike Piazza and Al Leiter, however, I did not understand this at the time. I did not realize that it's not just the eight position players, a stellar ace, and competent closer that contribute to a team's success. It is all twenty-five players, even the ones that we only see for eighty or ninety games a year. And if a team doesn't have those two or three players that are able to sit for seven or eight innings every game and then come up in a big spot to get a base hit, then that team is not going to be as successful as it wants to be.

Now, over the past decade, the front office has seemed to have a special talent of finding players just like McEwing to help the Mets. From exceptional pinch-hitters like Lenny Harris and Marlon Anderson to players like Chris Woodward and Endy Chavez, who had the ability to provide the team with exceptional defense late in games, the Mets always seemed to have one of the better benches in the league and won several games because of it. And especially toward the end of the season when starters are tired and races are tight, these are the players that can have huge impacts on a team by stepping it up when forced to perform in the clutch.

In 2010, however, the bench has not been performing. With the exception of back-up catcher Henry Blanco, the guys Jerry Manuel has relied on over the first twenty-five games of the season have just not done well. Gary Matthews Jr., Frank Catalanotto, and Fernando Tatis are all players whom have had good seasons in their careers. With resumes including Tatis's Comeback Player of the Year award just two years ago, and several top ten league leaders in different offensive categories between Matthews and Catanalotto, these three players are established Major Leaguers and without a doubt have the ability to be contributing factors to a championship ball club. But through the first month of the season, they have just not played at the level they are capable of playing at. And as the three of them are hitting a combined .161, I think it is fair to conclude that these guys are past their prime and that the Mets need to seriously consider renovating their bench.

The front office could approach this in a variety of ways. First, I think once Daniel Murphy returns from the disabled list, he could potentially be a very effective bench player -- he has the ability to play multiple positions as well as be a powerful bat. That could help the Mets late in games. Based on last season, I don't really see him as an every day player, and I think he could have a great impact on the Mets late in the season. I am also a supporter of calling up guys like Chris Carter, who showed some power in Spring Training or Nick Evans, who proved a couple years ago that he is able to hit Major League pitching. Bottom line: the Mets cannot continue to use the bench they have now. Not only are they not helping the team, but they are hurting them significantly. Whether it's bringing up players from Buffalo or dealing for a player, something has to be done. Because as of right now, it's clear that the bench is the weakest part of the Mets roster. And while they have been able to live without it until this point, there will come a time in the season where they will become vital to the Mets' success.