By Dave Mills
The mind-bending string of Mets injuries, which have been compounded by illnesses and a not-fully-ready-for-prime-time farm system, have altered the expectations of most dyed-in-the-wool Mets fans.
So, what's the real fan supposed to do with all the new information we are processing?
Sit back and take it all in stride because there ain't nothin' else you or Omar Minaya can do about it.
Should we listen to all the nut cases who want to deal from weakness and desperation? No way. Talkers talk because they have little insight.
A few observers, like the NY Times Ben Shpigel, are looking at the "BIG DEAL" of the past off-season, which looks a bit tilted to the Mariners since he left out Jeremy Reed out of the equation. He also left out a couple of low level minor leaguers that the Mets dealt away with Endy Chavez, Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith and Jason Vargas, who is pitching lights-out for the M's. Reed has been quite a revelation for the Mets and considerably better than the advance hype. In fact, Reed looks to this observer as a candidate for a regular spot in the outfield. He hits lefties (5 for 5 in his limited opportunities), can run balls down in the OF and has a reasonably good arm. More importantly, he plays all the OF spots well and can even play a credible 1B. No doubt, he is more of an extra base threat than Endy and is more than adequate defensively, though not quite Endy, who is as good as it gets. Not sure if the Mets gave up on Vargas or the M's wanted him, but he has a world of talent and is likely another one of those late-blooming lefties.
Face it, there is not much that can be done except sit back and enjoy seeing understudies, in the form of prospects and castaways, do the best they can under extenuating circumstances.
A look at the Mets roster reveals a pretty nice starting rotation, especially with a strong effort on Friday evening by Tim Redding. Maine is still weak from his recent bout with the flu. With the two lefties, Oliver Perez and Jon Niese, working through injuries and problems, neither is a real candidate for a trade and one or both could be a help during a stretch run. In order to pick up a Roy Halliday, Jake Peavy or Roy Oswalt, the Mets would have to unload Niese and Brad Holt (who is now their top pitching prospect) along with either Fernando Martinez or Daniel Murphy, plus a middle of the road prospect or two. Halliday will likely take Holt, Niese and Martinez. The others, perhaps a bit less. Peavy appears to be somewhat damaged goods and Oswalt is likely not going to be as effective as he was a few years ago. Trading the three top prospects for Halliday, the only reasonable scenario, is risky since it will strip the already depleted farm system. Would Omar trade Holt, Niese, Redding and Murphy and a couple of talented low minor leaguers for Peavy and Adrian Gonzales? Likely yes, but will Kevin Towers make that deal? If the Mets were to go out and get a frontline righty, where does that leave Perez and his $12 million annually?
The bullpen, while not quite as deep as expected, is very strong, with exceptional efforts being put forth by Frankie Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano and Brian Stokes. For the past 10 days or so, Sean Green can be added to that list. While Green sizes up as a ROGGY, he does seem to be putting together some quality stuff, with nice movement, that allows him to pitch to multiple batters and even multiple innings. Feliciano, his southpaw compliment, who rarely goes more than a frame, is challenged to face too many batters due to his workload, which includes warming-up. For lack of a better second LOGGY alternative, Ken Takahashi will likely stick around, although he is having trouble setting down left-handed hitters. Takahashi is, at best, a placeholder until Billy Wagner returns to the Mets pen in early August. At least that is the hope. Should Wags return come to pass, the Mets will have a unique lefty-righty tandem for the 7th and 8th Innings. Fernando Nieve will now have a chance to show his stuff, but if he doesn't, Minaya will reach out to Elmer Dessins, who is blowing batters away at AAA. There does not appear to be a better alternative for the bullpen than to stand pat, wait to see what happens with Wagner.
The infield may be of more concern than the outfield primarily due to the injuries to Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes. But for Met fans, there has to be some concern regarding the continued durability of Luis Castillo, who has really paid dividends this season with fine glove-work, timely hitting and clever base-running. Moving Murphy to 1B has turned out to be auspicious, as he is clearly a better natural infielder than outfielder. There is really little choice other than to have the game and talented Alex Cora share time with Wilson Valdez while Reyes mends. Tatis is an able platooner at the first sack and a terrific backup for David Wright.
The outfield is where the logjam has been created. It's a little puzzling to try to understand why F-Mart is trumping Jeremy Reed right now. Sheffield backing up both Reed and Church would get him in the lineup several days each week. Gary has clearly withered from overwork. Martinez has talent but still looks slightly overmatched at the plate and needs more seasoning in Buffalo.
Wasn't Ramon Castro was worth more than what the Mets got for him (plus they surrendered $1.3 million)?
Seems very likely that August will see the return of Reyes, Delgado, Wagner and perhaps Perez and Putz. If the Mets are can hang in there within five games of the Phillies, they can make it quite a final 60 days. If only one or two from that group returns and the Mets fall behind by more than seven games, the Phils will be tough to overcome, even with Lidge blowing saves.