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May 13, 2009 at 9:36 am ET
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Nick Evans: The Curious Case of a Buffalo Bison

newyorkmetsphotodayrek7vy4d1vylGary Sheffield has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets — certainly not for his slow hitting start, but most definitely for his atypical, upbeat, team-first attitude.テつ And his teammates seem to love him for it.

But I know one guy who probably wouldn’t have been too sad if the Mets passed on the former slugger a few months back.

A little under a year ago, Mets 1B/OF prospect Nick Evans made his major league debut, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs in a 9-2 Mets’ victory.テつ From that point on, it seemed that Evans’ role with this team was upgraded from a half-hearted “if” to an emphatic “when.”

Now, all the team can ask is, “Why?”

As of the last week of spring training, it appeared that his time had arrived. With experience in the outfield, and his natural position of first base, Evans seemed like a good fit for a team with erratic depth and questionable consistency.テつ He could spell guys at four different positions, while providing above average stats at the plate and in the field.

Then Detroit released Sheffield, and the Mets jumped on the former All-Star like he was holding the antidote. Sheff came back to NY, rosters were adjusted, and the 23-year old former lock headed to Buffalo, stunned and dazed by the aging whirlwind that just cost him a job.

And it’s been a decline of epic proportions ever since.

As of yesterday, it was announced that Evans is headed a little further south — all the way to extended spring training,テつ in hopes of solving the myriad issues that have recently surfaced.テつ To kick him a little more squarely in the groin, the Mets — when Evans successfully finishes his mental rehab — are going to reassign him to the Mets’ AA squad in Binghamton, New York ( “…if you hit the Arby’s, you’ve gone too far…”). That is, until he shows that he can handle the pressure of playing under the bright lights of big-time Buffalo.

In 22 games with the Bisons, Evans hit .093 with three homers, seven RBIs and 27 strikeouts. Over his past 10 games, he had gone 2-for-30 (both singles), hadn’t driven in a run, and struck out 12 times.

Again, the question is why? More importantly, the organization should be asking itself, what now?

At the AAA level, it isn’t uncommon to see former major leaguers try and rediscover themselves.テつ Teams put revolving doors in the clubhouses, and try to use fading stars as unofficial player-coaches.テつ However, it’s pretty rare to see someone who tasted major-league glory just a few months earlier work his way backwards from that level to AA ball so quickly.テつ For most, it would indicate the end of the line — another failed big league dream.

And backwards is exactly where Evans is heading.

Make no mistake, this will take a mental toll on the man.テつ It’s unavoidable. I don’t care if he wasn’t necessarily considered a hot prospect, but earned his way to the bigs. I don’t care that he’s only 23 years old with a ton of upside.テつ In your job, if the boss tells you that you’re not good enough to be a part of something bigger in the industry, you try to prove them wrong, but also reassess your goals and start planning for employment elsewhere.テつ This is no different.

The Bisons are a terrible AAA team, chock full of journeymen you may recognize — Elmer Dessens…Wily Mo Pena…Bobby Kielty…Kyle Snyder…It’s like an ESPN “where are they now” list exploded all over upstate New York.テつ They are sporting a healthy 8-22 record with a nauseating team ERA, and are nowhere near competing in their division, despite all that major league talent.

…and Nick Evans hasn’t performed well enough to even stay there.

New York, don’t be surprised if we never hear from the kid again. His talent is there. His work ethic is there. But this recent demotion to the instructional league level has branded Nick Evans with a stigma that even the most forgiving of GMs won’t be able to ignore.テつ Though no one in Queens will lose a ton of sleep over an Evans-free Mets team, and Nick will likely drift off into the ever-widening sea of MLB “what ifs”, it’s still strange to think about how differently this could have played out…

…if the Mets never signed Gary Sheffield.

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6 Responses to “Nick Evans: The Curious Case of a Buffalo Bison”
  1. Josh says:

    Who did more to hurt their prospects growth, the Mets shipping Evans around their farm system of the Dodgers bringing up Kershaw before he had the mental capacity to handle competing at a major league level?

  2. Teri Y says:

    Just one more reason to hate Sheffield! I never did like that Dbag!

  3. Dave says:

    This is truly one of those great “what ifs.” I really like Evans and thought he had a shot to contribute this year. I guarantee that if he’s traded to another team he’d have much more success.

  4. MarkW says:

    Let’s not write off Nick just yet. I seem to recall a fellow named Halladay getting his head handed to him some years back and getting sent all the way back to A ball. Whatever happened to that guy, anyway?

  5. dude abides says:

    This is a great post. Some good lines – my favorite is the Arby窶冱.

    But this is probably a not an uncommon phenomenon – where teams try to add one more bat or arm or tinker with what’s working. Aaron Small went 10-0 with the Yankees in 2005, and who did they start in game three of the ALDS? Randy “I ‘m 2-8 in divisional playoffs” Johnson. Having lost the series in five games, Yankees went on to move Small to a long relief position in 2006. It is likely that Small just caught lightning in a bottle, but we will never know…

  6. Gil says:

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to connect this to the Sheffield signing. A baseball life is filled with speed bumps. A bad call by an ump, failing at a key moment, getting booed, getting thrown at, a poorly timed injury. This is the bigs buddy. And he was only going to be in town for 4 games until the #5 starter was activated. He denies this is what threw him off, and I hope he’s right. Because life’s full of much bigger unfairnesses, and he has to learn how to brush them off.

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