Friday, March 17, 2006

Mets Don't Know When to Fold 'em

by Rob Hyman

I am quite the amateur Texas Hold'em player. I'm at just the stage where I'm good enough to know what I'm doing, but not good enough to realize that I actually don't know what I'm doing. I have played enough, however, to live by one rule...

There is no such thing as being "pot committed".

So what does this have to do with baseball? Let's say Kaz Matsui is a pair of 10s. He looks solid on the surface – no guarantees, but definitely something to get excited about. After all, in 8 seasons in Japan, he averaged 19HRs, 69 RBIs, 36 SBs and hit .313 (average 136 games per season). Not that bad – certainly the kind of numbers that make it seem worth betting a blind on.

Then comes the 2004 season, or the flop (no pun intended, but I thank
whoever named the flop, the flop). Kaz's 2004 season was akin to a King, Jack and 6 coming out. He had 7 HRs, 44 RBIs and hit .272 in 114 games. Lest we not forget his .956 fielding percentage – second worst in the Majors among starting Shortstops (his fielding percentage in 8 years in Japan was .978). But okay, it was his first season in the United States so I can understand cutting him some slack and thinking that he would turn things around in 2005. The pair of 10s, suddenly don't look overly impressive any more, but still, worth sticking around for another card.

The 2005 season was the turn (as in "Kaz, turn around and go back to Japan.") Another King is out of the deck. After this past season, I think it has become clear that the guy is a bust. 3HRs, 24 RBIs and hitting .250. The shift to second base only marginally improved his fielding percentage, which was again second worst in the league. The best day of the season was June 17th when he got injured in Oakland. The odds are starting to pile up against you. It's highly probable that someone is holding a King or Jack, meaning it's time to cut your losses and bow out of the hand.

This brings us to the current day – the river. (If it were me, I'd throw Kaz in the East River right now.) Give up on him! The Mets have young talent that can be brought in and taught on the job. It will take a near miracle (another 10) to make it worth keeping Kaz around. Unfortunately it seems as if the Mets feel they are "pot committed". Somehow they think it is a better decision to start someone they don't want there, just because they made a financial commitment before they had the current information at hand. All they're doing is digging themselves a deeper hole.

Kaz is a sunk cost, as are the poker chips you already threw in the pot with your once good-looking pocket 10s. Poker players sometimes have the tendency to think that they've come this far, they may as well play out the hand, even though they knew they'll probably lose. There is more respectability in saving face now than in explaining yourself later. That money would be better spent on the next hand – or on another second baseman in this case.

My prediction – the last card will be an ace, giving the Mets almost no chance of winning the hand. There is no way it could have been a ten anyway because Victor Zambrano is holding the other two.

Rob Hyman's column appears alternate Fridays

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