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Monday, September 7, 2009
Are Mets set at 1B with Murphy?

As Ben Shpigel writes, the Mets have a number of unsettled situations heading into the offseason, including "catcher, first base, left field and in the rotation." Well, yeah. But is first base more settled than we think? I'm just going to say this even though I know it's not nice ... Daniel Murphy isn't good enough to play regularly. He doesn't field well enough to play second base, and he doesn't hit well enough to play one of the corner positions. He just doesn't.

This season, 24 major league first basemen have played enough to qualify for the batting lead. Even with those wonderful stats since the middle of August, Murphy ranks 23rd in on-base percentage and 22nd in slugging percentage.

In fairness, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Murphy's only 24, and he spent just one full season in the minors (including just one game in Triple-A). As you might recall, Murphy was an infielder in the minors before the desperate Mets turned him into a left fielder upon summoning him to the majors last August. That seemed to work well enough, particularly because Murphy enjoyed the best two months of his life as a hitter. After which a number of people -- including Jerry Manuel, I'll bet -- said he was better than just "pretty decent."

Of course, it was all a mirage. This season he looked awful in left field before switching to first base, and he never has really hit. Maybe someday Murphy will be good enough to play regularly, perhaps at third base. But he's not good enough, now. And it's preposterous to suggest that he will be good enough next year, if only the Mets can deploy a power-hitting left fielder.

Baseball doesn't work that way. You can revive Ted Williams to play left field, and you'd still be giving away runs (and wins) at first base. Which doesn't mean you don't do it; every team gives away runs somewhere. But organizationally, you'd better at least know you're giving away runs, so you can work on not giving away runs.