"It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."Having recently reviewed the cause for cautious optimism for the prospects of the Mets pitching staff in 2008, we now turn our weary eyes to the dilemmas facing us in the field and at the plate.
Catcher and Outfield
When perusing the Mets potential starting lineup in the field let me make one thing abundantly clear for the 1000th time. Yes, brilliant job getting Santana, Omar but I'm still picking the shit sandwich out of my teeth every time I see Brian Schneider and Ryan Church running around in a Mets uniform and Lastings Milledge in a Nats kit.
I've put this unusual combination first because considering the vacancy in right field (ok, the Jesus Freak is out there when he isn't concussing himself but that's only to provide cheap entertainment on windy day middle outfield pop-ups and an easy bull's eye for the Army when frustration sets in - let alone the fact that he's a near-invisible bat), the vacancy in left field (Moises Alou: I'm good for at least 50 games this season and none of the outfielders off the bench should be starting on a regular basis) and the bird-boned fragility of Carlos Beltran (sorry, Charlie but you ARE just a tad too hamstrung and knee-prone to be a franchise player) I just don't see how you trade Milledge away knowing the outfield depth is heavy reliant on utility players rather than every day superstars.
The degradation of the outfield with the departure of Milledge is the highlight of a difficult season of holes to plug day in and day out that Willie is going to have a trollying headache trying fix. Milledge, away from the disgraceful Johnny Goody Two Shoes cult that helped drive him out of New York, will thrive and prosper in the meaninglessness of a Washington National's season. Ryan Church is not an answer but a prayer, the punchline to the question: Which pair of useless idiots did the Nats trade to get a superstar like Lastings Milledge?
Worse still, every where you look, Endy Chavez is the thumb-in-the-dyke answer to injuries and incompetence in the outfield, regardless of the position. But Endy, even if healthy, can only fill in one position at a time. Do the Mets have a serious chance at the NL East with Damion Easley? I think as much as we will all love Damon, none of believe this is the sort of championship calibre outfield we were dreaming of: Chavez-Beltran-Church, or Chavez-Chavez-Easley. And let's not forget, Easley is old enough to be Milledge's father and isn't going to thrill and amaze us with his durability either. There is a real hole in the outfield. Unless you're willing to concede the Mets will be smart enough to keep Angel Pagan on the roster. Pagan isn't the guy you want to have to succeed in order for the Mets not to fall flat on their faces but on the other hand, somebody's got to play and an up and coming up from nowhere former reject now happily re-embraced is just the sort of thing we could be writing about in June with gushing accolades. Or not.
Meanwhile Schneider, whilst perhaps an adept but ageing backstop who can inspire pitching staffs if he ever gets around to healing his middle aged aches and pains and muscle pulls, well , IF. The only consolation is no more of Lo Duca's baggage and injury since he left Queens means one less smug little bastid to kick around.
The trade isn't something to carp on about all season but jesus, Omar, what the fuck were you thinking?
Now if you want another season of irritable bowel syndrome to ponder, imagine whether or not you'd purposely select Carlos Delgado for your fantasy baseball team. Of course you wouldn't. Old and rapidly ageing faster, breaking down and losing his hitting stroke is no way for a dignified closure to an otherwise decent career.
Now just imagine how painful it's going to be having to watch him create a huge black hole in the middle of the batting order every night. I mean striking out with the bases loaded, grounding into inning-ending, rally-killing double plays night in and night out just waiting to be moved down to number nine in the order or permanently replaced by the likes of who? Damion Easley would appear to be the correct answer, yet again. So, a rapidly fading Delgado or Easley at first base - and this isn't even accounting for the lack of power Delgado accounts for - no one, let me rephrase this: NO ONE on the Mets is going to make up the power missing in Delgado's presence, not unless they make a move for someone else before the end of spring and with $20 million owed Delgado you can be sure we are going to have to be very sick and tired, as will Willie and Omar and the entirety of the Metropolitan area, very sick and tired of Delgado before a solution reveals itself. The only answer has to come from Delgado. Stop being hurt and regain your former lustre. Don't count on it.
Now, the good news is Jose Reyes and David Wright are still here, shoring up the order and the infield. Frankly, I'm rather surprised that the same muppets clamouring for the departure of Milledge due to his allegedly bad attitude, weren't clamouring to get ride of Reyes as well this offseason. I mean after that late season meltdown, those refusals to run out a few choice outs and the taunting of the Marlins (which I think was completely appropriate given the odds of the effin Marlins of all teams to rely on humiliation and wounded pride to send Tom Glavine out of the Metsosphere and back to the Hillbilly Jug Band and Tomahawk Chop apathy of the Brave Old World,) it is rather encouraging that not even the collective minority of knee-jerk moralists among the Shea hordes were dumb enough to want to get rid of Reyes.
But that's it for the good news. There's Luis Castillo at second base and batting second when he's batting at all, yet another ageing, injury-prone cog re-signed to an almost unfathomably lucrative deal which will see him play out 40-50% of the games the Mets are involved in.
So what you see is: best case scenario, blah.
A mixture of bench players, oft-injured stars and downright idiots fumbling around in the outfield.
A mixture of bench players, oft-injured stars and a man who is seeing his prime sail beyond him at light speed, relegated to a dodgy hip and what will likely be venomous cat calls and hatred sailing in his direction at every home game once the collective Shea patience is exhausted some time around mid April.
A bunch of crap middle age catchers, a pair whittled down from a foursome, Omar's catcher fetish of the offseason.
And the bench? Well there won't be any bloody bench because the likes of Ruben Gotay, Chavez, Easley and company will likely be spending the majority of their time filling in for the injured starters. I think this might spell a little late-inning inflexibility which might even be a good thing in a way considering it gives Willie less chances to screw up or make utterly imponderable decisions that leave everyone cursing and scratching their heads the following morning.
So there you have it Mr Bright Scenario. Age and injury getting in the way all season in a batting order dominated by ineptitude and replacement players. The only hope is to pray some sort of Billy-Ball inspired speed and smarts on the base paths, guts and skill in the bunting box, the wisdom to sacrifice and maybe a helluva lot of stolen bases are the only way to keep those low scoring games the starting rotation looks promising to maintain from becoming an ugly series of 3-2 or 4-3 or 2-1 losses that drive us all slowly insane. Those of us not there already, that is.