By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Minor league call-ups always make for great stories, but they don’t always make for great runs to the postseason.
It’s because they’re minor league call-ups. For the most part, these kids are by definition raw, still developing, so new to “The Show” that they’re not used to having their personal luggage dropped at their hotel doors on road trips.
They carry their own bags in the bushes. And yet, the cries outside both the Yanks’ and Mets’ locker rooms call for two of those minor leaguers to carry the team long-term, not just for purposes of developing young talent, but to take each squad to the playoffs.
Those who bellow for Double-A slugger Michael Conforto to come save the Mets from the general hitting malaise they temporarily climbed out of in the three-game series against Arizona just prior to the All-Star break are yelling for nothing short of a longshot.
Those who call for Rob Refsnyder to become a permanent solution to the Yanks’ problems up the middle may be barking up the wrong tree despite the Ruthian shot he fired to the back of the Fenway’s Green Monster seats in Sunday’s 8-6 win.
These are young kids. Like most minor-leaguers, they need to mature at the major league level before any manager can put his faith in them long-term. In other words, the veterans on the roster have to provide the major production, not the kids. If they don’t, it’s unlikely a child will lead them.
This is why the current cries for Conforto totally lack perspective. Sure, the kid is doing well at Double-A Binghamton, hitting .312 with an .869 OPS fueled by three homers, 10 doubles, and two triples in 141 at-bats. But Double-A pitching is a lot different than the stuff he’ll face in the majors, so it’s only right that Sandy Alderson bide his time and give the kid a good chance to mature before placing him squarely in the spotlight.
Refsnyder is already there, having come up Saturday from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because Stephen Drew is hitting all of .182.
He started at second both games and was 0-for-5 before he singled and then blasted his homer to stretch Sunday’s lead to 8-4. Now, the question Brian Cashman will mull before his roster opens up second-half play at home Friday against Seattle is whether to keep Refsnyder up and in the lineup over the next couple of weeks.
Whatever decision either GM makes, they have to understand that neither man will take his team to the promised land. Unless Alderson catches bottled lightning, Conforto eventually be confounded by the master class he will have been thrust into. Cashman, despite assurances from scouts that Refsnyder is ready to handle major league pitching, must be realistic about the kid’s chances for immediate success.
The fact that both teams find themselves in division races makes this an issue. Were they sub-.500 at this point, the heat would be off. It might actually be advantageous to bring them up on a fact-finding mission. The Mets made out well with that when they brought up Matt Harvey in July of 2012. They were rewarded when they brought up Jacob deGrom in May last year.
But then, they had nothing to lose. The Mets were going nowhere. The heat was off, and the considerable success each rookie achieved provided a prologue of promise for what is happening this year.
To expect anything more out of Refsnyder and Conforto — especially Conforto — is unrealistic, not to mention unfair to the player.
Conforto needs to go through the traditional progression of seasoning. Maybe a promotion to Triple-A to wind up this year, and then compete for a job in spring training 2016.
It won’t hurt anything if Refsnyder stays a while, though the purpose there would be more to light a fire under Drew than to have Refsnyder take a leadership role.
As attractive as the two minor leaguers’ careers have been so far, Alderson and Cashman need to keep some perspective on how and when to use Conforto and Refsnyder.
It wouldn’t hurt if the voices outside the franchises’ executive offices did the same.
Both have something at stake, at least for now. So tread carefully.