(Endy Chavez stealing the first of two bases in the first inning earlier today — apparently, he can’t do this everyday)
In the wake of the Mets taking all 3 from the Padres this week — this afternoon’s 7-3 win featuring the sort of lineup (Tucker, DiFelice, Chavez, Valentine) that would’ve prompted suicide plans back in April — Newsday’s Wallace Matthew scoffs at the notion Paul Lo Duca’s personal life is of any concern (“as if the airheads who play games for a living were capable of being distracted by anyone’s problems other than their own”) , while cranking up the anxiety in Flushing.
The worries begin with the foolish and impulsive trade of Xavier Nady, a competent professional rightfielder, for a 41-year-old middle reliever and a young pitcher with a bum arm.
That trade flew under the radar in light of the Yankees’ acquisition of Bobby Abreu, and seemed justified to some because of the loss of Duaner Sanchez in a taxi accident.
But the impact of that deal won’t be felt until October, when the games become real and the Mets, and their fans, realize Lastings Milledge is a fake.
The fans already know it, judging by their reaction to his outfield and plate misadventures Tuesday night against the Padres. It has become clear to the people in the stands that Milledge can’t hit anything that is not a straight fastball and that his route to most fly balls is, to put it kindly, circuitous.
The other day, I asked Omar Minaya if he would feel comfortable with Milledge in the outfield at Fenway during the World Series. He looked at me for a moment and then laughed. “Not if he’s in leftfield,” he said.
He doesn’t do much better in right, either.
Endy Chavez is an improvement but still not an everyday player, nor is Ricky Ledee. So right now the Mets, the class of the National League, are planning to head into the playoffs with an outfield cobbled out of part-time players.
Then there is the pitching. How many more games is Steve Trachsel going to win while allowing more than five earned runs? Not too many in pitching-dominated October baseball.
And how will Willie Randolph fare when his in-game decisions, which mean little now, mean everything in the playoffs?
What about Aaron Heilman, a once-promising pitcher who now seems shaken by his manager’s and GM’s apparent lack of faith in him? Early in the season, when John Maine and Brian Bannister went down, we were told Heilman was too valuable in the bullpen to return to the starting rotation. In the ultimate show of disrespect, Jose Lima got a couple of starts before the Mets would even consider Heilman. Now, he rarely gets into a game at all, and when he does, he looks lost.
Compared to those very real problems, the questions about whom Paul Lo Duca is dating or what he is betting on seem rather silly, don’t they?
Though Matthews is paid to stir shit up, he might be wrong in presuming Heilman won’t have finally settled into his current role by the end of September. Much as Endy Chavez might well be Xavier Nady’s equal in right field, if not his clear superior.
Assuming the Mets enter the playoffs with a rotation of Pedro, Glavine, El Duque and Maine (flip Maine and Hernandez if you wish), Steve Trachsel’s shortcomings don’t scare me nearly as much as those of Billy Wagner.