February 10, 2008

Get To Know Your New New York Players, Part 4: Ryan Church

After looking at Brian Schneider and LaTroy Hawkins, plus some Venezuelan lefty whose name escapes me at the moment, it's time to see what we can't find out about new Mets outfielder Ryan Church. I put this off because I kept thinking Minaya was going to turn around and trade the guy, but apparently not; Willie Randolph told WFAN the other day that he (Church, not Randolph, though that would be fun) will get the chance to win the starting right field job.

Checking out Church's stats, I see that even the guy who sponsors his Baseball-Reference.com page writes, "It was a fun ride, but you're no Lastings Milledge." Ouch. Still, when Church has been healthy, he's put up solid numbers, unspectacular but useful.

Off the field, he found himself in the middle of a mini-scandal a few years back, thanks to conversations with the Nationals' overzealous team chaplain. The unfortunate Washington Post headline was "Nats' Church Apologizes For Remarks About Jews":
An article in Sunday's paper about Baseball Chapel quoted Church as saying that he had turned to Moeller for advice about his former girlfriend, who was Jewish. "I said, like, Jewish people, they don't believe in Jesus. Does that mean they're doomed? Jon nodded, like, that's what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don't know any better. It's up to us to spread the word," Church said.
Whoops. I'm sure the Mets' PR staff will be having a little chat with Church about trying not to alienate one third of his new team's fan base. (Particularly not the third that controls the media! Har.) Anyway, Church apologized immediately-- "I am not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others" -- and the whole mess seems to reflect more on Moeller, the chaplain, than Church, who comes off mainly as excessively impressionable. Still... the Mets ditched Shawn Green for this guy? Insult to injury.

Fun fact: Church once roomed and played with the Yanks' own Darrell Rasner at the University of Nevada. There's really no reason anyone should care about that, and yet, having learned it, I felt oddly compelled to share.

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