Mets Reportedly Settle Second Base Derby

Terry Collins shows he's willing to take a risk

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Mar 15, 2011  |  Updated 10:30 AM EDT
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Mets Reportedly Settle Second Base Derby

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Terry Collins wasn't really dealt the best hand in his first year as manager of the New York Mets.

The team's best pitcher is hurt, the ownership situation is a bad joke and he was tasked with choosing a second baseman from a group that resembled one of those awful gubernatorial debates from last November.

Collins was forced to choose from Luis Castillo, Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, all of whom have been underwhelming in camp and none of whom fill you with glee about the 162 games to come.

Collins seems to feel the same way because he's gone off the trail and selected a complete dark horse to be his second baseman.

Mike Puma of the Post reports Tuesday that Luis Hernandez, who has had all of 12 at-bats this spring, will be turning double plays with Jose Reyes when the season gets underway.

While passing on all of the unfab four shouldn't qualify as a surprise, the choice of Hernandez is a bit of a shock.

He isn't a good hitter -- career minor league on-base percentage of .302 -- and the team had seemed to be prioritizing offense with the other candidates.

At 29, he's survived because of his glove but it is hard to believe he's better defensively than Chin-lung Hu. It's a head-scratcher, although we'll try to make some sense of it.

The first thought that comes to mind is that choosing someone else at this point puts the pressure on Sandy Alderson to cut Luis Castillo loose once and for all.

Much like Oliver Perez, Castillo's continuing presence on the roster is a source of nothing but irritation for Mets fans. He was thought to be the default choice at second, but if Collins is willing to choose Hernandez at this point it means he won't play Castillo.

That, in turn, means it is time to jettison Castillo and move forward instead of treading water.

The other thought is that Collins could be trying to motivate the other candidates, especially Emaus and Murphy.

Emaus was a Rule 5 draftee, which means he has to spend the entire season on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the Blue Jays. To accept that situation, you'd need to be sure there's something helpful there and no better way to see it than to threaten the man's shot at a big league job. 

Murphy has been a perpetual tease but clearly has more to offer offensively than Hernandez. Perhaps the thought of being beaten out by the textbook definition of a replacement level player will be the thing that finally gets Murphy to put forth the consistent performance the Mets have dreamed about for years. 

The third possibility is that Collins was just sick of the whole thing and chose Hernandez as a protest to the options put on the table. Unlikely? Sure. But it would be a perfectly reasonable reaction all the same.   

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