Fernando (Don’t Call My Name)

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The Mets have done and seen plenty of strange things this season as they slowly devolve from a competitive baseball team into a parody of one. The words “grandfather” and “thumb ligament” now cause me to think of the Mets in a non-flattering manner. The team and Oliver Perez continue to see who’s going to play chicken with his roster spot. And I don’t really want to write more about a certain problem whose name sounds a lot like “Frank Jeffcoeur.” Things aren’t exactly going swimmingly.

But I think if you’re looking for just one more move that defines so much of what’s wrong with the Mets, Fernando Martinez being the major leagues right now might be it.

Why is he here? Before being called up, Fernando Martinez had a .787 OPS in AAA Buffalo — only the eighth highest OPS on the pluralization-defying Bisons. He wasn’t exactly destroying the baseball this season, even when being compared to just his own teammates. In fact, if you look at the Mets farm system as a whole, Martinez does not appear in the top ten for any offensive category. Not one. Not average, not on-base, not home runs, not RBI, not steals, not slugging, not total bases, not walks, not hit-by-pitches, not runs, nothing. Obviously, missing a huge chunk of the season because of injuries didn’t help him out there, but still — Fernando Martinez doesn’t lead Mets minor leaguers in anything except name recognition. And possibly this.

But, as is always stated in Martinez’ defense, he remains only 21-years-old. And, as has been noted many times before, the Mets promoted Martinez through their system aggressively to see how he reacts to being challenged — I guess because it’s just easier to be a Met if you’re already used to constant, soul-crushing failure. So Martinez still played well CONSIDERING his age and level of competition. He certainly wasn’t overwhelmed in AAA, though perhaps he was somewhat overmatched.

BUT . . . because he didn’t destroy AAA pitching this season, I see only two ways you can realistically look at Fernando Martinez right now:

1. He’s not good at playing baseball.

2. He will eventually become good, but he wasn’t entirely ready for AAA this year.

You can pick whichever one makes you more comfortable with the universe and your place in it. However, in either scenario, I don’t see how Fernando Martinez belongs in the major leagues right now. He either doesn’t belong because he’s not good enough, or he doesn’t belong because he’s not good enough yet. I don’t see a way how “striking out three times as often than he walks” translates into “big league ready,” or really even “AAA ready.” He certainly didn’t force his way up with his bat.

Yet Martinez is here . . . sitting on the bench half the time, making it all the more crazy. Perhaps the Mets new plan to keep Martinez healthy involves never letting him play, which I suppose is only slightly less absurd than letting him play the outfield as a bubble boy . . . You know what? I could probably stop writing this post right here, and the fact that he’s on the bench would be enough to prove why Martinez being in the majors doesn’t make any sense.

But let’s pretend he’s playing regularly anyway and continue to explore the madness.

So why is Martinez in the major leagues? Well, I think everyone knows the answer to that. He’s in the major leagues because he’s an outfield prospect and the Mets needed an outfielder. Or really just change for the sake of change. But whatever — he’s here because he’s their outfield prospect.

But I think that leads to a more interesting question: Why is Fernando Martinez a prospect? Or, really, why do I know that Fernando Martinez is a prospect or THE prospect? Because again, I’m not sure I can point to that much he’s actually done on the field as evidence of such. Maybe his .877 OPS in some time in AAA last season . . .but then he posted a .517 OPS in the major leagues. His .321 OBP in Buffalo this season is uninspiring. I certainly don’t see anything that indicates his elite status in his performance. So why do I think of Martinez that way?

I suspect the answer is somewhere along the lines of “I know Fernando Martinez is a prospect because other people tell me that Fernando Martinez is a prospect.” After all, I live in the 21st century and the media thinks all my thoughts for me before I even know I’m thinking them. Right? 2+2=5? But the reality is that I can’t and don’t even want to watch thousands of minor league games to figure out who’s good. So I need people to tell me who’s good and I generally trust their opinions.

BUT, the prospect gurus and websites who tell me Fernando Martinez is a prospect can’t be saying so based entirely on things he’s done on the field because:

A) He’s never on the field

And

B) Even when he is on the field, the Mets promoted Martinez too aggressively for anyone to get a real feel for what he can do against equal competition. The Mets seem to just keep throwing him into the river with progressively heavier rocks tied to his ankles to see if he can still swim.

So I’m not sure how much anyone has much to go on in terms of evaluating Fernando Martinez. I suspect that the gurus tell me Martinez is a prospect partially because he was signed for a lot of money and the Mets seem to really like him, and partially he’s played decently considering that he’s been in over his head his entire professional career. Basically, Fernando Martinez is a hyped prospect because the Mets decided he was a prospect to be hyped and pushed, and Martinez hasn’t objectively proven them wrong yet. He hasn’t proven them right, but he hasn’t proven them wrong, and that’s the best thing he’s got going for him.

So “Fernando Martinez: Super Prospect” is essentially a creation of the Mets themselves. Martinez certainly didn’t create it with his play, though perhaps that’s not his fault. But the Mets have just promoted Martinez essentially because he’s the Super Prospect — does anyone else see the weird thing here? Either the Mets honestly believe Martinez would be helped by spending time in the big leagues (which I just don’t see), or they’ve just consciously or unconsciously bought into their own hype about Martinez. For whatever reason, they see him as a good option right now, and I can’t come up with any happy, comforting reasons why that is.

If they think he’s a good option now, they should look at his AAA numbers.

If they just consciously bought into their own hype about Martinez, then they’re trying to get me, the fan, excited about shiny young players so I still buy tickets for this season. This comes potentially at the cost of the development of the young players, harming the team in the future and causing me to buy less tickets for upcoming seasons when the team continues to be bad. I don’t understand how this strategy makes sense — unless the Mets are expecting the world to end in 2012. Based on what has happened with the team recently, this seems like a surprisingly plausible strategy for them.

On the other hand, if they just unconsciously bought into their own hype about Martinez . . . well, I don’t really think anyone should need to explain why self-deception is senseless, especial
ly when it’s hilarious, unintentional self-deception. The Martinez hype was partially created by the Mets when they had no depth in the upper minors. Now they seem to have bought into it, though Martinez hasn’t necessarily done anything to deserve it. The Mets created this monster and now it looks like they’re letting it harm what could be a pretty good baseball player. Like Public Enemy said: “Don’t Believe the Hype.” Particularly when it’s your own creation.

Whatever the Mets reasons for having Martinez up, I don’t see how it reflects positively on the organization’s decision making. I’m not really sure what reflects positively on the organization’s decision making right now, but this certainly isn’t it. Martinez didn’t hit his way into the big leagues, and this move is either short-sighted, misguided, or just incomprehensible. Probably all three. Maybe the Mets know something about Martinez I don’t — but I do know that’s he’s not hitting here, and he wasn’t hitting that much in AAA either.

And to top it all off, Martinez isn’t even playing regularly here. That can’t be beneficial someone who has trouble getting on the field to begin with.

The entire situation is a head scratcher, and as a Mets fan my scalp is already quite sore from head scratching.

Fernando Martinez image via Keith Allison Flickr CC 2.0

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2 Comments

Filed under Columns, Words

2 responses to “Fernando (Don’t Call My Name)

  1. Anonymous

    >please ship fmart and tejada back to buffalo and promote duda/feliciano(choose one) and turner

  2. Anonymous

    >F-Mart is in the majors because of two reasons:1) Last year, Omar needed (in his mind) to do something to get the fan base excited. So he added F-Mart to the 40-man hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.2) This year, Omar's trying to do more of the same, but more importantly, he's already used F-Mart's second option year. So he may as well just try it.

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