Every day over the past couple of seasons, New York Mets fans have taken to Twitter to voice their outrage about the lineups posted by manager Terry Collins. This week, they’ve taken their disgust for the batting order to a new level. Mets fans are particularly upset that Juan Lagares has not started the last two games (and is not in the lineup again tonight).
This has set off a new round of Twitter “Slacktivism,” which includes taking pictures of oneself holding a sign with a hashtag written on it. In this case it’s #FreeJuan, or something similar. While their reaction is overblown, it’s not like they don’t have a point. Lagares is the Mets’ best defensive outfielder, and more specifically, their best center fielder. He’s also gotten off to a good start with the bat, hitting .296/.336/.439 so far.
Coming into the season, the Mets would have been happy with .250/.300/.350 as long as he played outstanding defense. So why has Collins left him out of the lineup?
Collins likes the dimension of speed Eric Young Jr. brings to the team. He has 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts. Young has also had a good month of May, hitting .300/.364/.500. He’s also scored eight runs, which is a stat an old-school guy like Collins will value, even though a player has little control over how many runs he scores.
Also, the Mets didn’t pay Chris Young $7.25 million this year to ride the bench, and he’s one of the few Mets with legitimate home run power, so he’s been out there almost every day. Lagares has cooled off a bit in May, batting .277/.327/.404. That’s not bad, but his 12 strikeouts against one walk are. Collins recently commented that Lagares was expanding his strike zone. And while Lagares has six defensive runs saved, he has no assists after tallying 15 last year.
Also, we fans are not in the clubhouse — Lagares could have a nagging injury, or other malady that we don’t know about. Even with that information, Lagares should be the Mets’ everyday center fielder until he proves he shouldn’t be.
But it’s not like the Mets are benching Willie Mays in favor of Willie “Mays” Hayes. No one truly knows yet what kind of player Lagares will develop into. Eric Young (speed) and Chris Young (power) bring something to the table, and they can play their positions as well. Whenever fans start to angrily defend a player on their team, they further divide an already discordant fanbase. They tend to root hard for their favorite players while disparaging other players, especially if they think they’re hogging playing time. That kind of overreaction doesn’t help anybody.
Of course, that’s not to say Mets fans can’t criticize Collins, or that the Mets manager doesn’t deserve it every now and then. The bottom line is, the Mets have four good outfielders, and everybody knew it was going to be hard to find playing time for all of them.