By Dave Mills
My last post commenced with "The Injury Bug Bites Again," and since that Aug. 7 piece, we have seen a further injury to Carlos Delgado, no progress for Reyes, Beltran and Maine, David Wright beaned onto the DL and Alex Cora down for the count with two thumbs to the wind, so to speak.
This is more than hard to fathom. It is downright ridiculous.
The only heartening items are the return of Billy Wagner and the TLC the Mets are showing toward Wright. It also appears that David will return this season, as well he should. The last thing anyone wants, is for a player to remember a beaning over the off-season rather than a month's worth of at-bats and hits. Of course, the caveat here is that Wright is right.
The DL now includes five pitchers (Maine, Niese, Nieve, Putz and Wagner, who will be activated later this week) and eight position players (Wright, Delgado, Beltran, Reyes, Cora, Fernando Martinez and Ramon Martinez. Cora is a grinder who put his performance and statistics at bay for the good of the team. That's character! A real positive clubhouse influence as well. He should have a job in the organization forever.
And lets not forget that Ollie Perez and Angel Pagan spent around 60 days on the DL each while Gary Sheffield and Brian Schneider each had brief stints there.
No way anything like this will ever happen again and certainly not next year. Yes, there will be injuries and illnesses, but this is a once in a lifetime for Mets fans. That alone should be a comforting thought in a disappointing season.
As I have stated previously, no general manager could have planned for this. No manager could have made the post season. The trainers and medical staff are not to blame. This was just rotten, stinkin', annoying bad luck in droves. The goal now should be a .500 record (which is unlikely, but possible) and to have a look at players who can be real contributors in the future.
In NY, there is always a lot of superfluous talk generated by sports talk radio and all the sports TV networks. We are hearing crazy persons demanding trades of Wright, Reyes and/or Beltran. We are hearing all sorts of repulsive drivel. It is fine to speculate, but get some folks have to learn a little about baseball. So many callers and observers are saying the Mets bench was lacking. Sure it was, with that many injuries. Alex Cora, Fernando Tatis and Reed/Sullivan/Pagan are all capable role players assuming they would be filling in rather than playing regularly. Omir Santos was a terrific pickup from the scrap heap. Who has a better bench? I am not saying the Mets have the best bench, but all of those outfielders play all three positions very well and can hit, Cora plays above average all around the infield and Tatis does a nice job everywhere.
Wright, Reyes and Beltran are going nowhere. They are core players and must redeem their physical presence and production to even get par compensation. You don't trade people from a position of weakness and frailty. And you do not trade 26 year old players who have been all-stars unless the deals fill their positions with gifted players. Their are a lot of good shortstops in The Show, but none with all the skills Reyes possesses. Some good third sackers out there as well, but Wright has special gifts and is very gritty.
The Mets and their fans will likely see a number of things over the last 44 games.
We will see the exciting Bobby Parnell (soon to be 25 years of age) have an opportunity he would never have had otherwise. Early indications are extremely promising.
We will see the slick-fielding, 26-year-old Anderson Hernandez play middle infield with aplomb. His defensive skills combined with an ability to switch hit could make him an ideal backup for Reyes and Castillo, especially if he can sacrifice and put the ball in play. He will never be a great hitter, but think of all the botched plays we saw in the infield from Berroa, Martinez, Cora and others. Even Castillo could use a defensive replacement with far more range late in games.
We will see if Nick Evans, Cory Sullivan, Jose Pagan and Omir Santos are the real deal. There is a lot of talent there and every one of this bunch could be a full-time starter, high-quality platoon player or a contributing reserve.
We will see if Adam Bostick and Eddie Kunz can be cogs in the pen. Along with Parnell, we already have a feeling that Nieve and Niese will be contributors next season. There is some talent in the pool.
Most Mets fans are reasonably convinced that Delgado, Sheffield, Schneider, Cora, Reed and Livan Hernandez will not be back with the Mets next year. Possibly Cora, but Hernandez gives the Mets far better defense and speed. For some reason, Manuel does not care for Reed, in spite of his being a pretty good line drive hitter and decent OF glove.
No doubt, the Mets WILL get much younger next season. And no one will be playing in the WBC, a stomping ground for injuries in the making due to lax conditioning. Remember, the Mets had more players in the WBC than any other team.
Believe it or not, I can even envision a roster with Pagan in LF and Murphy at 1B with Evans in the wings, but only if the Mets can sign Victor Martinez (a signing that is both possible and affordable) to platoon with Omir Santos behind the dish. A bench of Sullivan, Tatis and A-Hern would provide speed, excellent defense and a dusting of power.
The Mets can build a powerful and youthful pitching staff from the likes of Santana, Pelfrey, Perez, Parnell, Maine, Niese and Nieve (seven quality arms), but the bullpen will be center stage. If K-Rod can get enough work (like 14 appearances monthly), throw Putz or Wagner in the 8th Inning role, have Stokes and Feliciano reprise 2009, and find a few gems from Bostick, Misch and Kunz, the Mets may not need that much. Can Sean Green be a contributor or trade bait?
Forty-four games to evaluate the total roster. That's more games than spring training and in major league venues against solid rosters. Seems like a work in progress.
One last thing -- lower the outfield fences at Citi Field and give the team more chances to go yard. Sure, it will help the visiting clubs as well, but the Mets play 81 games there. No one else plays more than nine. There's no reason to expect less than 140 HRs even without adding a top-flight power hitter. Again, this year is an aberration. But a good question is, why did the Wilpons feel that Citi Field had to be even more of a pitcher's park than Shea Stadium? The first rectification is to lower the fences. Then, sign Victor Martinez and get the team healthy for next season. And no more WBC before the season. Mid-November to mid-December seems fine to this observer, or not at all is even better.