PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
As someone who witnessed firsthand the Chernobyl-level PR meltdown that occurred Thursday at Astros camp, I can tell you the Mets had a comparably smooth rollout of their own Houston-stained duo Friday at Clover Park.
Eventually, Jake Marisnick and J.D. Davis had to answer for their 2017 crimes despite being safely tucked away 50 miles north of what now is known as Cheatsville, Florida. And the Mets being the Mets, this had the potential to be a volatile situation for a franchise with a knack of spraying lighter fluid on a marshmallow roast.
On this day, however, the Mets had two things going for them. They already had severed ties with reported Astros super-villain Carlos Beltran after 77 days as manager, a termination that already goes down as one of the best moves in club history — on the heels of one of their most disastrous, which was hiring him in the first place.
The other benefit was getting the chance to follow the Astros, who screwed up so royally in attempting to apologize that any subsequent screw-up couldn’t finish any worse than a distant second.
This was basically a free ride. With the entire baseball world taking turns burying the Astros, all the Mets had to do was sneak a pair of role players in front of the TV cameras to apologize.
Friday’s effort wasn’t a flawless production. They never are with the Mets. But Davis and Marisnick didn’t say anything that had to be walked back or require a do-over. And if you think that’s easy, remember that Mickey Callaway needed two chances to say he was sorry for threatening a reporter after being told to do so before a game in Philly.
Marisnick barely gets a passing grade, and he lost points because he perpetuated the myth that the trash can-banging didn’t necessarily provide a clear-cut advantage. On the Astros’ scale, he placed above team owner Jim “No Impact” Crane but below Carlos “Slight Edge” Correa.
Both he and Davis said they watched the Astros stagger through Thursday’s shamefest, so they should have realized that they needed to cop to some common sense. Knowing what pitch is coming is better than not knowing.
In 2017, Marisnick had a 1.008 OPS at Minute Maid Park, which was rigged with the high-tech sign-stealing apparatus, as compared to .647 on the road. Coincidence?
“I think the thought behind it was to give us an advantage,” Marisnick said. “I’m not sure if it did or didn’t, but I think that was the reasoning behind it.”
Not sure how he delivered that with a straight face.
It was a familiar, tired refrain Thursday among the evasive Astros, and Marisnick probably owed his new teammates more than that, if not the general public. Otherwise, he revealed that he already had spoken to Marcus Stroman — who vented on Twitter about Houston’s cheating scheme — and appeared contrite.
Earlier in the week, Michael Conforto embraced the two former Astros as “our guys now,” so this shouldn’t cause any turbulence in the Mets’ clubhouse.
“I gotta earn the respect,” Marisnick said. “I gotta earn anything in there. But it’s not going to go away lightly. I’m going to have to work every day. I’m going to have to put my nose down and work hard.”
Davis was a rookie called up in August and played only 24 games for the Astros, so he’s not in the same cheating category as Marisnick. But when you’re linked to a scandal that has virtually swallowed up the sport, people are going to want a mea culpa, and Davis provided that Friday at his locker. He said he was “star-struck” getting thrust into that Astros clubhouse but later felt “ashamed” for following the alluring drumbeat of the trash can.
“I’m with the Mets this year, I’m ready to turn the page,” Davis said. “It’s terrible for baseball. Baseball took a couple steps backward because of these events and the investigation applied to it.”
The Mets, however, now can move forward. Unlike Marisnick, Davis has built up some good faith in a Mets uniform after hitting .307 with 22 homers and an .895 OPS in 140 games last season.
We never thought a player would be considered lucky to escape a perennial 100-win franchise like Houston for Flushing, but we’re comfortable saying that about Marisnick and Davis. The more anyone can distance themselves from the Astros these days, the better.