Though the Mets are trailing Houston by 5 games, this morning it feels like it might as well be 50. And if you’re without a home run in your big league career, you could do worse than have to face Braden Looper, as was the case with former Yankee prospect Dioneer Navarro (above) last night in LA.

The New York Times’ Lee Jenkins details the serious conditions of Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran.

Cameron and Beltran, two of the Mets’ best and most influential players, are out indefinitely, and the organization has no one of similar caliber to replace them. Beltran does not need surgery and went to the team hotel in Los Angeles on Friday night, but the Mets were deciding whether to place him on the disabled list. Cameron told Manager Willie Randolph and left fielder Cliff Floyd that he would play again this season. Doctors, however, are reserving judgment and will keep him in Southern California for at least a week.

“He said his face felt like it broke apart,” said Floyd, who spoke on the telephone with Cameron for about 20 minutes Thursday night. “I know he’s looking forward to getting his face right because he’s a pretty boy.”

Floyd added, “We’re in California, so you know they’ve got the best plastic surgeons here.”

The Mets are among several teams flirting with a pennant race. They are one winning streak from contention, one misstep from a long fall. They had suffered relatively few bad breaks this season before sustaining this most severe blow. The Mets may look back on Thursday’s head-to-head collision as the moment their 2005 season crumbled. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to pick themselves up from the grass in right-center field at Petco Park.

In a sense, Randolph’s managerial career starts now. The Mets, already an emotional group, were visibly shaken to see Cameron being carted off the field on a stretcher and Beltran hobbling off with a trainer. Cameron, one of the most outgoing players in baseball, could barely speak; Beltran, one of the most graceful players in the game, could not stand up without falling back down. How the Mets fare from here will be viewed through that prism.

There’s not much of a silver lining from last night’s collapse, though it is encouraging to see Victor Diaz continue to make the most of his opportunities. And as the season progresses, David Wright looks more and more like an MVP candidate of the future. Though unless you’re Andre Dawson, winning such an award while starring for a last-place club is pretty tough to pull off.