About an hour before the game, Terry Collins lost both Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes to injuries and his lineup looked like the Abbott and Costello routine, because “I Don’t Know” was playing third base.
Ultimately, Travis d’Arnaud drew the short straw and was plopped out in David Wright’s old position, but Collins wasn’t going to leave his starting catcher out there naked. No, instead he pulled a “What” at second base by switching d’Arnaud with Asdrubal Cabrera 22 times during the game in order to keep the ball away from the neophyte infielder.
“I thought it was brilliant by Terry,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said when asked about the move. The Yankees tried to hit the ball to d’Arnaud, but the out-of-position catcher was able to stay away from the tough plays enough not to affect the outcome of the game in the Yankees 5-3 win at Citi Field.
“We talked about it when we were looking at our options when it came up and it was him,” Collins said. “We were going to pick our spots and in certain double play situations (Cabrera) was going to stay at second base. We just told Travis in case of a double play ball, just get an out.”
It was an unusual situation for the Mets, but not the first time this happened in team history. Collins said he did it in 1976 in Triple-A Salt Lake City, but Davey Johnson also did it in the outfield when he was forced to use Rusty Staub in the outfield in 1984 and in 1986 after a brawl in Cincinnati switched Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco between the mound and the outfield.
What makes this more unique is that the Mets were caught with their britches down before the game as both Flores and Reyes bowed out of the game right after batting practice and because the Mets Triple-A affiliate is three time zones away in Las Vegas, they couldn’t get someone here in time.
And that may be the more damning issue. Because of mismanagement, the Mets are stuck with a terrible situation with Vegas. It’s not that the 51s are a bad franchise to deal with, it’s the logistics that makes this situation tough.
For example, if the Yankees were caught in that situation, they could easily have someone from Scranton arrive at Citi Field maybe not by game time, but at least during the first few innings. It’s just a few hours drive away. It would have allowed a manager some more flexibility during the game instead of playing with a 23-man roster.
And we haven’t gotten into the nightmare scenario, because what if Cabrera got hurt or better yet, tossed out of the game for arguing balls and strikes in the ninth inning. Then who would have played second? Jacob deGrom? Juan Lagares? Chris Flexen? Activate David Wright? We kid, but you can see where a huge problem could have arisen.
The Mets must do their best to fix the problem after their affiliation agreement is up with Vegas next season. Even though Jeff Wilpon burned a few bridges with Triple-A teams, the Mets need to see what the can do to move their affiliate back to the East Coast after six years out on The Strip.
It may not prevent a nightmare scenario when players get hurt during batting practice, but it will help the franchise in the long term to have better flexibility in getting players ready. Remember earlier in the season, the Mets pretty much gave away a game by pitching a jetlagged Adam Wilk to punish Matt Harvey, who took the day off. If the affiliate was on the East Coast, at least the guy would have had a chance.
Just remember most of the competition has its affiliates in the same time zone and they don’t get into these situations. You know the next time this happens the ball won’t hide from d’Arnaud or whomever is playing out of position and it may cost the Mets a meaningful game or two when they are actually in a pennant race.