By Ernie Palladino
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The Yankees can afford to keep starting Stephen Drew at second base because they have other people to get the job done.
That’s the difference between the two local baseball teams. The Yankees have a player or two that don’t produce at the plate. Drew is one of them — a non-starter starter, so to speak.
The Mets have a lineup full of them.
But this is not about the offensive disaster Terry Collins must manage through during this most important stretch of the Mets’ season. This is about how the Yanks can keep a player who hasn’t hit above .200 since 2013 with Boston. Drew has posted a .181/.255/.369 slash line, yet he’s somehow maintained his starting status at second base.
Obviously, the 12 homers are what keep Drew steadily employed. But beyond that, quite simply, they can afford the hole.
They have other people generating runs.
It’s why they lead the AL East. It’s why they rank as baseball’s second-highest run-scoring team.
It’s why Joe Girardi doesn’t wake up in cold sweats, facing a nightly nightmare that his team will regard a two-run deficit with the same hopeless desperation as a 10-run hole.
Managers and general managers can sleep peacefully when they have people like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and now a healthy Carlos Beltran capable of putting up four, five, eight runs in a game.
The Mets? They may never produce like that. Especially if Lucas Duda never comes out of his current funk. Especially if Michael Cuddyer’s barking knee takes him completely out of play. Especially if Collins has to rely on the likes of John Mayberry, Jr. and Kirk Nieuwenhuis to provide his power.
But then, once again, this isn’t about the Mets.
All teams have holes, though few must endure a season with as many as the bunch in Flushing. All would like to upgrade at certain positions, and baseball’s Bronx entry is no different.
The Yanks could use another starting pitcher, despite CC Sabathia’s encouraging respite Sunday from his season-long struggles. It would certainly be nice to get a younger bat on the bench as insurance against another injury to the ancient Beltran.
And, in an ideal world, it would be nice to pick up a second baseman with a steady glove and a .250 BA. That would be better than relying on the promising-yet-inexperienced Rob Refsnyder, who went back to Triple-A when Beltran was activated.
But right now, July 31 does not present a pressurized situation for Cashman. He may do something. He may not. And if he does anything, it will be to fortify the roster, not save the season.
“I like our club,” Cashman told the New York Daily News Monday. “I recognize there are certain areas that could be improved, but the reality of improving could be difficult … But I know we’re not perfect.”
The Yanks can live with Drew’s imperfections because seven others in the lineup make up for him.
The Mets are dying because seven of the eight position players they threw out there in Monday’s 7-2 loss to the Nationals were hitting no better than .255, with minimal power and an inability to push home runners in scoring position.
Again, this is not about the Mets. It’s about fixing or not fixing a hole at the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup.
But then, how much would Collins love to swap situations right now?