By Dave Mills
Doubtless, the All-Star break was the worst thing that could have happened to the NY Mets and their fans. It is analogous to, but not quite as heinous or impactful as the Colorado Rockies nine-day break between their sweep of the D-Backs and the start of the World Series. And if you don't think the nine-day layoff, for a team that won their last 15 of 16 regular season appearances and swept seven straight playoff games, was a very bad happenstance, then you probably will not subscribe to the theory that three days off set the Mets back to pre-streak mode.
Now, we are faced with arm injuries and the continuing post-concussion tribulations of Ryan Church. Having three or four converted infielders in the outfield is not an ideal scenario, but Minaya and Manuel have decided to give the two rooks--Murphy and Evans--a platoon in LF until Church returns and let Fernando Tatis play most days in RF. While this does not make for an ideal defensive alignment (as Evans' stumble exhibited against the Stros) for the beleaguered and thin pitching staff, Endy Chavez returns to his role of 4th outfielder with perhaps a bit more defensive emphasis. We will certainly be seeing Endy pinch-hit in the 7th or 8th and play a couple of innings or more of his usual stellar defense.
What has been proven now and perhaps forever, is that relying on older players like Alou, Nixon and Anderson has and probably will continue to backfire. Nonetheless, it strikes me as odd that both Chris Aguila and Val Pascucci have been left out of the mix for the corner outfield spots.
With the arms of Maine, Wagner and perhaps Sanchez needing a rest of sorts, Omar has brought up Eddie Kunz and his initial inning looked promising. Sanchez got lucky on Saturday, as Dan Murphy made a good play a terrific play by fire a bullet to get the double play at 2B. This might be a tremendous opportunity to bring up Jonathan Niese, and even Sal Aguilar, Eude Brito or Willie Collazo. Why not put Wagner and Sanchez on the DL and give them some much needed rest, while looking at the rooks and getting them post-season qualified?
The worst that happens is that some of these kids underperform and get sent back in two weeks. On the plus side, they perform well and we all get a better picture of how effective they might be in the future. At the same time, they are showcased and gain valuable experience in The Show.
I would like to see a team where youth is emphasized and one aging starter and utility player are in the mix for good measure and leadership. Damion Easley is that type of player and I must admit that the my call in early July to release Carlos Delgado was premature and ill-advised.
COULD DELGADO BE IN THE MIX FOR ANOTHER SEASON?
Clearly, Delgado has turned himself around and is playing like the Delgado of 2006 and earlier. Perhaps he is even better since he is consistently hitting to the opposite field and burning teams that continue to put the shift on. Right now, .275/30 HR/100 RBI is well within Delgado's reach. Doesn't it also seem his defense has improved along with his bat? Amazing how these things work. It is also quite apparent that Delgado looks better defensively with Easley or Argenis Reyes to his right, as both display greater range, agility and arm than Luis Castillo.
No doubt, Delgado has made the right adjustments, but he is also far more relaxed under Manuel than Randolph.
All the 1B talent in the Mets system--Murphy/Carp/Evans/Davis/Duda/Jimenez--are likely much more in play for 2010 and beyond. If Murphy and/or Evans play exceptionally well between now and the end of the season, there will be far more to go on, but right now it appears that this resurgent Carlos Delgado may well be worth a one-year overpayment to man the first sack in 2009.
WILL BELTRAN, WRIGHT AND DELGADO EVER GET HOT AT THE SAME TIME?
Who knows? But what a fantasy! We have seen two get hot a number of times, but it sure seems like the other is always cold as an arctic winter and coming to the plate with runners in scoring position and two outs.
BELTRAN IN THE TWO HOLE
Why not? This is one reason why Manuel appears to be a good manager. He will take some risk at the risk of offending "star" players. This is a better move with Church in the lineup as Reyes, Beltran, Church, Wright, Delgado, Tatis, Schneider/Castro, Easley seems to be the best lineup the Mets could put on the field.
WHO COULD THE METS HAVE MOVED?
We will never know, but wouldn't the Bucs have been better served to have received Aaron Heilman and Nick Evans, with three other "B" prospects from this group: Collazo/Tim McNab/Caleb Stewart/Shawn Bowman, than what they got for Nady/Marte? Those two players were just what the Mets needed. Kunz would have replaced Heilman. Marte would have replaced Muniz. Endy (the lefty) would have been backing up right-handed swingers Tatis in LF and Nady in RF (better positions for both). Could've, should've, would've, but wasn't!