By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Imagine what the Mets’ offense might have looked like right now had Chris Young done anywhere near the job he was supposed to last year?
They might have kept him around had he shown any of the timely power the 31-year-old outfielder has showered upon the Yanks in recent days. And today, people might be talking about hero stats and game-busting hits instead of an offense that relies on the beneficence of strangers, in Sunday’s case the two Reds errors that pushed Dilson Herrera home to win Saturday’s suspended game in the 13th inning.
This is how might-have-beens go, though. It’s an exercise in fantasy, an opportunity to second-guess in the most unfair of manner. With just a little bit of effort, one can easily chalk up Young’s August severance from the Mets as another Sandy Alderson backfire.
But looking at it impartially, it’s easy enough to see that getting rid of Young was not only a wise move, but the only option the GM had. Young was just that bad in Flushing, a catastrophe, almost from Day 1.
The Mets had brought him in from Oakland on a one-year, $7.25 million deal to provide some pop as a utility outfielder. He had made the All-Star team in 2010, and his power total had reached double figures every year since that 27-homer season.
Considering Young had hit just .200 in 375 plate appearances in Oakland the year before, the Mets clearly had bet on a big rebound season.
It never happened. Young’s slash line in 88 games was .205/.283/.346. To make matters worse, he failed to provide any noticeable power, hitting eight homers and knocking in 28 runs. Virtually none of those homers proved difference-makers.
He became such a liability offensively and defensively that, at the end, Terry Collins wouldn’t even play him.
At least Young made it easy for Alderson to cut him Aug. 15. The Mets had thrown away their money.
Then, the injury-riddled Yanks stepped in and signed him 12 days later. And suddenly, Young remembered how to play ball. The final three weeks of the season saw him hit .282 with three homers and 10 RBIs.
The homers came in consecutive games — a tying shot against Tampa Bay Sept. 10, a two-run game-winner the next night, a go-ahead homer in the 11th inning against Baltimore on Sept. 12.
He continued to hit, and added some solid fielding, too. And when it came time to add players this year, the Yanks signed him up for 2015 at an economical $2.5 million.
Where he actually cost the Mets money, Young has been nothing short of a Filene’s Basement steal for the Yanks. In 69 games, he already has 10 homers and 25 RBIs. The slash sat at .272/.317/.509 before Sunday‘s 0-for-3 in Houston snapped a 10-game hitting streak that included a .459 average (17-for-37), Friday’s three-run homer in the seventh that gave the Yanks a 3-2 win, and Saturday’s two-run shot that helped put his team up 6-0 in an eventual 9-6 win.
He was .419 over the last 15 games with both pivotal homers and plays in the field. Unfortunately, some perfectly justified consternation over Masahiro Tanaka’s tenuous elbow situation has steered attention away from his contributions.
The fact remains, though, that if Young was doing this for the Mets, Alderson wouldn’t be talking about overpaying for a bat right now, and the writers wouldn’t be conjuring a trade for currently injured Martin Prado, or Justin Upton or Marlon Byrd.
He’s a new man.
It can’t be the New York thing. The media pressure and fan expectations sit just as heavily in Flushing as they do in the Bronx.
It can’t be attitude. The Mets rescued him off the scrap heap last year. He had no options. He was grateful.
And it can’t be a matter of fit. Who couldn’t fit on the Mets’ offense these last couple of years? Injuries and incompetence have left so many openings in that lineup that anyone who comes with his own stack of bats should seem like a welcome addition.
So chalk it up to a move that simply didn’t work out. Alderson’s mistake — in signing him, not releasing him — turned into the Yankees’ treasure.
It happens that way, sometimes.
Just don’t blame Alderson for this one.