It was a balmy day in the upper deck of Shea Stadium. The PA announcer tells the crowd that the Mets switch-hitting middle infielder is about to bat.
Wisin y Yandel's hit song Pam Pam Pamblasts over the speakers. A section full of joyous Dominicans and one scruffy gringo a few rows in front sing a few bars of the reggaeton track.
A couple of pitches are thrown, the aforementioned Dominicans start a chant of "Claro que tú puedes" (Clearly you can...), a line drive is hit to the outfield, runs score, a shot rings out, the maid screams (maybe somewhere else in Queens).
"Ohhhh, Mr. Siegel, I hope this is not another article about how Jose Reyes is the most exciting player in baseball."
Not to worry. The switch-hitting middle infielder this writer speaks of is one Ruben Gotay.
The Ruben Gotay who filled in so well when Jose Valentin went down, when Damion Easley looked like he was tackled by a phantom Lawrence Taylor running the bases, before the Mets re-acquired Marlon Anderson.
The run-of-the-mill fan may question why Mr. Gotay needs his own article. One should expect to see him at Shea this year, no?
The answer may indeed be no.
With the Mets re-signing Marlon Anderson, Damion Easley, Ramon Castro, and Endy Chavez, the first four bench spots seem all but set. When Luis Castillo was given a hefty renewal, the second base job was clearly locked up.
When the Mets traded for Angel Pagan and invited Olmedo Saenz to camp, Ruben Gotay's availability on the bench may be subject to how many mediocre relief pitchers Willie and Omar feel the need to carry. Does Gotay deserve to start the year in AAA? Not based on last year, but that's how it looks at this point.
Frankly, it was surprising that the Mets did not try to include Gotay in the package for Santana. Did this writer want to see Gotay traded? Absolutely not, especially after the exciting day Ruben provided on that sweaty June day versus the Arizona Diamondbacks and that hippie Eric Byrnes.
However, being that the Twins wanted to Jose Reyes, the Mets could have made Gotay, a switch-hitting middle infielder who has some pop and some speed, part of the package.
No, he's not Jose Reyes, but maybe he could have helped the Metropolitan baseball club retain its other prospects. Now the Mets have to hope that Gotay is either good enough to make an impact in their lineup, if and when he gets an opportunity, or is attractive enough to other clubs if New York needs an extra piece of the puzzle (extra outfielder, relief pitcher) in their quest for October.
The obstacles for Gotay are his weakness against left-handed pitching (.194 according to ESPN.com) and his supposed lack of defense. However, Ruben only committed three errors in over 300 innings in the field in 2007 for the Mets at second, short, and third (according to thebaseballcube.com).
In addition, he wisely utilizes his speed by hitting more ground balls than fly balls (1.75 G/F ration according to ESPN.com) and only grounded into only two double plays in 190 at bats (thebaseballcube.com). If Ruben can learn to swipe a few more bases this spring, look for him to make some noise somewhere this season.