Malek And The Numbers Game

"It's a numbers game." That's what they told Bobby Malek as spring training came to a close and he was staying in St. Lucie to repeat high A ball, despite having dominated FSL pitching last season. Instead of showing frustration with a lack of promotion, Malek has ripped apart opposing pitchers so far this year, forcing the organization to revisit those numbers.

If a part of what you look at in evaluating your prospects is their maturity in handling adversity, Malek must be soaring off the charts. After a 2003 season where he was the three hitter and a key cog in a championship team's offense, Malek had every right to figure he was headed to AA Binghamton to start the season. Malek hit a combined .274 last year between the Mets' two full season A ball teams, drilling 31 2Bs and stealing 28 bases. He drew 56 BBs while K'ing only 72 times. All this after an offseason where his workouts were limited due to rehabbing from TJ surgery in 2002.

Yet, even after reporting to St. Lucie in January and working out at the Mets' complex throughout the rest of the offseason, when roster assignments were handed out Malek's hard work and performance were rewarded with no promotion. The Mets upper levels are stacked with veteran minor leaguers. The slot he should've been rewarded with in AA went to Prentice Redman who was demoted despite a productive season at AAA in 2003. Redman's spot in Norfolk went to Victor Diaz who defensive struggles made a move to the outfield a necessity if he was going to continue to progress through the system. Even as opportunities have arisen this spring due to injury, the Mets have gone out and signed veterans like Gerald Williams to fill holes, as opposed to promoting kids through the system.

So you could excuse Malek if he showed his frustration every now and then, but that's just not how Bobby operates.

Instead of wearing his frustration on his sleeve, Malek continues to be one of the first players out of the clubhouse and on to the field for every game. He greets fans and teammates with an infectious smile. At a recent local "Meet The St. Lucie Mets" event, Malek stayed longer than any of his teammates, signing autographs, talking baseball, and promoting the team and the organization in the local community.

In addition to handling himself with class and maturity, Malek is delivering on the field in a way that will make it impossible for the organization to keep him here much longer.

After last night's loss to Dunedin where Malek had another 2-4 raising his average to .308, and another double, giving him 9 in 104 ABs, Malek's name and numbers sit among the leaders in nearly every organization wide offensive category. He's hitting .308/.371/.558. In addition to the 9 2Bs, he has 4 3Bs and 3 HRs. He has 20 RBI and 22 runs scored and 4 stolen bases.

It appears as if Malek has decided that the way to deal with being back in St. Lucie is to perform at a level that makes it impossible to keep him here. Instead of hanging his head like so many kids do when faced with adversity, just as he did coming back from his injury in 2002 and subsequent surgery, Bobby has met the challenge head on. He's used hard work and production as his responses.

It may in fact be a numbers game for the Mets. If it is, Bobby Malek is making sure the Mets are going to see his name every time they look at the numbers.

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