Juan Lagares is a man of destiny whose first Opening Day start taught him the fragile difference between conquering hero and historical footnote. The New York Mets’ defensive wizard came to Citi Field on Monday unsure if he’d play at all; if not for the bullpen being in mid-season form, Lagares’ eighth-inning home run would have been the talk of New York on Tuesday. Instead, Lagares’ 2-for-4 effort, with three runs scored, is a subdued silver lining to a dark sunny day in Queens.
The Mets’ plan all along was to rotate four outfielders, so Lagares never “won” the spring competition with Eric Young, Jr., and might have been riding the bench if not for a few availability issues (Daniel Murphy, child’s birth, and Chris Young, quadriceps, were both late scratches). With the specific timing of Lagares’ clutch home run (on the heels of Jose Valverde’s inspiring performance), and even still now, I like to believe this is fate’s way of not letting the Mets screw up a good thing. Oh, and for comparison’s sake, Young Jr. played second base, going a “competitive” 0-for-4.
See, I understand that Curtis Granderson will be in a quasi-platoon against lefties, even though the Mets don’t seem to have noticed his average against southpaws has increased dramatically in recent seasons. Young — you pick which one — will need as many days off as possible since, well, he isn’t very good. And Lagares, sure, deserves a rest from being awesome now and then. But to include him in this mass of rotating outfield insanity is, in and of itself, you know, insane. Just call one of the Young Duo a bench player and be done with it; give everyone a role and stop this “four outfielder” nonsense. What I don’t understand is why the Mets always insist on bringing chaos upon themselves.
Lagares may very well parlay this hot start to a league-average offensive season, though combined with his stunning skills in the outfield, that would be enough for him to be an All-Star and a coveted asset around the league. It seems the Mets are the only ones who don’t understand they need to be making sure this kid is groomed as the centerfielder of the future, starting right now.