While everyone is in agreement that the Mets need to score more runs, there is no shortage of opinions on how to get there. It ranges from the ridiculous, “Trade for Mike Trout” to the inappropriately expensive, “Go ink Hanley Ramirez and Yasmani Tomas and call it a day.”
The more realistic people who have seen the modus operandi under the current post-Madoff regime is targeting choices between the senior citizen brigade – Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Marlon Byrd – or the lightning-in-a-bottle approach of catching someone in a comeback from injury or rebound from a horrible performance – Grady Sizemore and Chris Young would be examples of this ilk. (Sorry, I know I made you throw up a little in your mouth on that last one). J
Recently I’ve advocated inking 38 year old (and now possibly retiring) Torii Hunter to a short term deal based upon his recent 2013/2014 nearly carbon copy slash lines of 17/83/.286 while playing in cavernous Comerica Park. Like everyone else, I’d be concerned both about his age and price, but that’s the kind of solid production this team needs to take the next step.
Some fans probably wonder aloud, “Why can’t the team find some under the age of 30 who can deliver a boost to the moribund offense? I know I’ve pondered it many times but either these players are too expensive already or simply not available in trade. Why would a team give up on someone young and productive like that instead of building around him for the future?
There exists one under-30 free agent available this off season who baseball-reference.com suggests in a 162 game season would deliver 16/84/.283 – remarkably similar to the much more senior Hunter. This fellow has, in fact, been playing since he was 20, so there’s quite a track record of production to analyze, including a rather remarkable 2010 season in which he posted 21/112/.298 when he finished 10th in the MVP voting. Believe it or not, his most recently contract that is ending pays him just a modest $750K and he’s still playing this year for the Baltimore Orioles in the soon-to-begin ALCS as part of a right handed attack.
By now you’ve probably figured out I’m talking about the pariah named Delmon Young who coincidentally made quite an impression on the New York media when during a drunken incident in the Bronx while playing for the Tigers in 2012 he was charged with a hate crime when he yelled an anti-Semitic slur at the arresting officer. He was suspended for 7 days, paid a fine, did community service, and attended a program at the Museum of Tolerance.
Let’s take a look at sports in general for a moment and then we’ll come back to Mr. Young. Has anyone read recent headlines about rapes, domestic violence, MURDER…and these players were allowed to resume their careers. Even boxer Mike Tyson bit off the ear of Evander Holyfield, did jail time for the rape of Desiree Washington, yet was able to not only resume a boxing career upon his release from jail but also to star in the “Hangover” movies. Then there’s the whole PED crowd, including Ryan Braun, Jhonny Peralta, and, among others, the Mets’ highest paid starting pitcher, Bartolo Colon. Apparently the better the athlete you are, the more willing people are to forgive your transgressions.
Now let’s get introspective for a moment. What does alcohol do to a person? It breaks down filters and leads people to say and do things they might not otherwise exhibit while sober. Is that a good thing? Of course, not. However, there are any number of famous and everyday people who have done things they regret while under the influence, yet somehow they go on to lead productive lives after having been forgiven for their transgressions. A good example is Las Vegas 51s Manager-of-the-Year Wally Backman whose own alcohol-induced incident blackballed him from his chance leading the Diamondbacks, yet after an interval he was able to resume a successful managing career.
Now let’s come back to the enigmatic Delmon Young. I find it highly hypocritical for someone who has been caught doing far worse things than calling someone a reprehensible name getting off more lightly than the rather wide swath the condemnation of anti-Semitism seems to create for people’s careers. I can’t find an exact parallel as Mel Gibson had multiple similar incidents in his lifetime and John Rocker was seemingly an equal opportunity bigot. Are we naïve enough to think that no other baseball player after having a few too many hasn’t said equally offensive things directed at people of African American or Hispanic or Middle Eastern heritage? I find the last one particularly galling because it seems perfectly acceptable to many to condemn one class of people but absolutely forbidden to say anything about others.
Now I didn’t mean to get all political here and would like to come back to the baseball decision of whether or not Delmon Young would be a good option for the Mets. They need an outfielder. He plays outfield (well, with about the same grace as Lucas Duda, but he has logged 827 games there at the major league level). They need power, he has power. They need a right handed bat. He bats right handed. They need someone who delivers a top notch OPS. He’s in the top 100 of starters across baseball in this regard. They need someone affordable. He could probably be had for a few years at a few million per year – about what a Ruben Tejada or Eric Young, Jr. would cost. At worst, he could be a right handed platoon partner for Matt den Dekker. At best, he could deliver the solid production the lineup needs. Oh yeah, let's not forget he’s just 28 years old.
So the question is – not the incident that is well documented – but from a purely baseball standpoint, would Delmon Young represent the kind of player the Mets could use?