Michael Baron at MetsBlog suggested the Mets bring back Fernando Tatis next year and, predictably, met a lot of animosity in the site’s comments section.
Tatis became something of a lightning rod for angry Mets fans in 2009 for a number of reasons. For one, he endured a ridiculous stretch from May 31 to June 24 during which he somehow hit into nine double plays in 45 at-bats, or one double play every five at-bats. That’s nuts.
A lot of that had to do, I would guess, with how frequently Tatis was hitting behind David Wright, and how often Wright was getting on first base during that stretch of the season. Either way, Tatis finished up the season with 13 GDPs in 340 at-bats — not the most impressive rate in the world, but one reasonable enough to suggest the rough stretch was mostly due to an unbelievable run of bad luck.
More of the distaste toward Tatis, I think, had to do with how often it seemed he was playing in favor of someone more exciting, whether it was Daniel Murphy at the start of the year or Nick Evans at the end. I get that and I felt the same way; we have little more to learn about Tatis, and it was baffling when, at the end of the clearly lost season, Nick Evans sat on the bench overlooked while Tatis played nearly every day.
But it’s not really fair to pin that on Tatis. It’s not his job to refuse assignments so fans could see more of younger players.
And because Tatis was pressed into so much duty in 2009, it’s easy to forget just how valuable a bench player he is. Tatis actually played average to above average defense at every single position the Mets put him in 2009, including a statistically — albeit in a tiny sample size — better second base than Luis Castillo, Alex Cora and Anderson Hernandez.
Plus, Tatis can hit a little bit. He posted a respectable .777 OPS for the Mets in 2009, and given his career lines, that’s probably a reasonable indication of what he can do at the plate.
Simply put, Tatis is a good player to have on the bench. I kill Omar Minaya pretty frequently in this space for the way he fills out the margins of his roster, but he did a great job identifying Tatis’ ability and rescuing him from the scrap heap before the 2007 season. And Tatis was likely worth well more than the $1.7 million he earned in 2009.
There’s nothing really exciting about Tatis, plus he’ll be 35 on New Year’s Day, so it’s difficult to advocate his return to a team that should be moving toward youth.
There was no good excuse for Jerry Manuel playing Tatis over Evans with so much frequently when the team should have been assessing whether Evans could be a right-handed platoon bat in 2010. But now that it happened — now that the team doesn’t have any real way of knowing whether Evans is ready to hit Major League pitching — the Mets could do a lot worse than bringing back Tatis for 2010, assuming a reasonable price tag. His defensive versatility alone makes him a useful cog, and it’s not at all his fault that he was forced into so much playing time in 2009.