Leslie Monteiro talks about the Mets best offseason acquisition.
First impression is always important in any walk of life. There’s only one chance to make a first impression.
In sports, it’s a must, especially playing in front of New York sports fans.
In Neil Walker’s first home Mets game, he made an impression to Mets fans in the Mets’ 7-2 home opener victory over the Phillies yesterday afternoon at Citi Field. He broke a 1-1 tie by hitting a RBI single that drove Lucas Duda home. From there, the Mets never relinquished the lead again. Overall, he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
He needed to be an impact player on this day just so he can relax instead of pressing for the rest of the homestand. There have been comparisons to him and Daniel Murphy since the season started. It has not gone unnoticed by Mets fans that Murphy homered and hit the go-ahead RBI double to win the game for the Nationals on Opening Day Monday.
In three games, the former Mets second baseman has hit .364 with a home run and five RBIs for the Nationals while the new Mets second baseman has hit .333 with a home run and five RBIs. So far, it’s a push.
To judge and compare them on three games is having an irrational view on things.
Both players should do well for their respective teams. Both are good enough to be an important contributor to their teams.
The Mets fans know what they had in Murphy. They preferred a proven player that can play in New York than an unknown player. He was coming off a great postseason for the Mets, which he hit .328, seven home runs and 11 RBIs while having an on-base percentage of .391 and a slugging percentage of .724 with 1.115 OPS. He was last year’s NLCS MVP for the Mets.
The Mets knew enough about Murphy to have a strong conviction of him. They did not think he was worth the money he was seeking in the open market. The Nationals were more than happy to sign him. They knew he would be motivated to beat his old team when the Mets and Nationals meet 16 times this season.
They acquired Walker from the Pirates for Jon Niese with the idea he would improve their defense and he was under contract.
The back end of Walker’s baseball card indicates he is a productive player. He is a player that can hit 14 to 16 home runs each year, and he will drive in 70-to-80 RBIs. That’s similar to what Murphy did with the Mets in his time with the team.
Replacing Murphy should not be a problem for Walker. It’s not like a player would have to replace Yoenis Cespedes. It’s a role player replacing a role player. That shouldn’t be too much pressure for Walker, right?
To Walker’s credit, he hasn’t let the comparisons to Murphy get to him. He does not think about it, which is the key to his success so far. That itself should show he has the right temperament to play in New York.
It’s easier said than done, though. In this market, fans and the local media love to compare a current player to a player that played for a NY team in the past. It’s what they do to create a conversation or sell newspapers. That can be overwhelming for some players.
It takes a mature person to be above all of this. Walker certainly has showed that since spring training. He lets his performance speak for Itself.
He did not need to make an impression to his teammates, coaching staff and the Mets front office. They know what he has to offer from watching him play for the Pirates over the years. They know he is a grinder who gets it done.
With the fans, that’s another story. Fans tend to have an irrational view of things. They are not going to give an unproven player a fair chance to prove himself. They want him to get it done now.
With Murphy doing so well, Mets fans were not going to have patience for Walker if he was off to an awful start.
Walker is no dummy. He knew he had to get off to a good start. He wasn’t going to admit it publicly, but he is smart enough to know what goes on around here if he gets off to a poor start.
The former Pirate has done enough to have Mets fans leave him alone for now by hitting a game-winning two run home run against the Royals and breaking a tie against the Phillies.
Still, he is one slump away to deal with the Murphy comparisons. He knows one week or one month does not mean much.
The only way Walker can put a stop to it for good is get game-winning hits against the Nationals and play well in October.
In the meantime, don’t expect Walker to fret about it.
He is secure enough to know he is a good player.