Note: The following is a fictional recap of the seasons of three fictional Mets ballplayers written by a fictional sportswriter/blogger. Any resemblance the fictional writer bears to a real-life writer is pure coincidence. Any resemblance the fictional players bear to any real player is 100% intentional.
A Season In Review: D.J. Murphy, Julio Francora, and Joe Kings
By John Q. Sportswriter
Promising youngster D.J. Murphy came into 2009 on the heels of a strong 2008 campaign. He opened up 2009 with a bang -- an Opening Day home run at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse. Murphy initially displayed his athleticism in the outfield, impressively ranging to get to many fly balls. Nevertheless, his lazy approach led to miscues, including a costly drop vs. the Marlins and loss of footing against the Cardinals. A shift to first base proved beneficial for a short period. He seemed more comfortable there than in the outfield. However, towards the end of the year he made several miscues, showing that he lacked the mental toughness necessary to play the position.
An attitude problem has been attributed to Murphy, starting last offseason. It was revealed that upon meeting his college baseball teammates for the first time, he stated "My name is D.J. Murphy and I bat 3rd." This cockiness did not sit well with teammates then and certainly doesn't now. This rook might be wise to know his place a little better. He has also been known to hog time in the batting cage, selfishly depriving teammates of their own shot to practice.
It was thought his rough upbringing in upper Manhattan might prove beneficial toward his development. To his credit, he made an appearance at an RBI Program (Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities) event at his childhood sandlot, but he still managed to screw that up by showing up late for that night's game. Young Murphy hasn't exhibited any toughness during his time in the big leagues -- just laziness and a low baseball IQ.
In half a season with the Mets, Julio Francora did nothing to alter the baseball world's perception of him as a soft free-swinger. The old saying goes "you don't walk your way off the island", referring to the hacktastic approach at the plate employed by players from the Caribbean. Francora still lives by that mantra, despite making it off the island and playing five years in the big leagues. His unintentional walk rate is at an all-time low, and it took him 56 plate appearances with the Mets to draw a walk. Upon doing so, he was seen laughing and joking with the Mets dugout, as if to say "look how ridiculous I am for drawing a walk, real men get base hits, I am a Nancy-boy!" If that wasn't bad enough, he was the first to break solidarity by shaving his beard, after the rest of his teammates pledged to not shave until the Mets record reached .500. Unsurprisingly, the Mets went into a tailspin shortly thereafter, perhaps due to lack of team unity caused by Francora.
He lived up to his "soft" reputation multiple times this season. Francora shied away from a routine fly ball against the Nationals and failed to run over the Astros' catcher on a play at the plate. Who would choose to slide on such a play? A soft player, that's who. After making the last out of a game on September 18th, ending a promising Mets comeback, he destroyed a water cooler in frustration. It was an embarrassing, immature display, and one he seemed to show no remorse for afterwards.
Moreover, there's oodles of evidence suggesting that Francora doesn't even like baseball. He stated that he would give it up for a music career in a heartbeat (if only he had the singing talent). He is frequently heard talking about his true favorite sport, futbol, and how he can't wait for the offseason so he can spend his days watching it on television. It appears Francora is here to stay, but for the sake of Met fans hopefully he can toughen up.
Following three outstanding, All-Star caliber seasons, expectations were high for Joe Kings in 2009. Unfortunately, the Mets' shortstop and team leader succumbed to injury in May, ending his season right when he was starting one of his patented hot streaks. It killed Kings that he couldn't join his mates on the field, evidenced by an emotional September media session and his continued desire to suit up, if even for just the final game. This burning desire and love of the game is nothing new for Kings, who has been with the Mets organization since his teenage years when he was drafted out of Lee-Davis High School in Georgia.
The leadership he has shown at such a young age is truly astounding. Every year, he creates a unique handshake for each of his teammates, making them all feel like part of something special. He rarely took a day off from 2005-2008, playing all but 15 games in those four seasons. In June 2008, he was removed from a game by manager Jerry Manuel as a precaution against injury. Kings was not pleased. No one takes him off a ballfield! He very publicly expressed his displeasure, evoking memories of another great New York warrior - Paul O'Neill. Much like fellow southern boy Brett Favre, Kings plays the game with steely-eyed intensity yet has more fun than a little leaguer. There is always a smile on his face.
He has been rehabbing hard this season and will continue to do so this offseason. Some say that only Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins is a superior all-around shortstop. Maybe that is true statistically. However, Ramirez clearly lacks the intangibles and grit of Kings. Ramirez's recent clubhouse issues are proof of that. Great things are on the horizon for Joe Kings. He is all business and should continue to live up to his namesake next season and beyond. Let's finish with a quote from ESPN columnist Mason Spark:
The day Joe Kings is paraded down the Canyon of Heroes will be the culmination of a life of hard work and love of baseball. If only he could get some help from his teammates!