At this juncture, there are not many of us that would trade places with Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
His team has been decimated by freak injuries and lingering illnesses to the point where they are out of major league-level players. The lineup these days looks like one out of an early March split-squad game.
Manuel has lost his cleanup hitter (Carlos Delgado) for probably the season. His star shortstop (Jose Reyes) is out indefinitely with a calf strain, and his best all-around player (Carlos Beltran) has been diagnosed with an unidentified strain of the flu, which has sent off all types of bells and whistles, considering Queens is Swine Flu Central.
Through it all, the Mets have somehow remained competitive, but now injuries to the replacements and the part-timers who have been thrust into the lineup are leaving the cupboard bare.
Outside of the big three that are out, starting rightfielder Ryan Church and his replacement, Angel Pagan, have both been placed on the disabled list. The Mets current outfield consists of the very green Fernando Martinez, fifth OF Jeremy Reed, and the hobbled, 40-something Gary Sheffield.
Those three, and the occasional Fernando Tatis or Daniel Murphy appearance, has worked fairly well, but the Mets are asking too much. They have lost two straight winnable games in Pittsburgh, and with no help on the horizon, they're in danger of losing sight of the division lead.
Last night, Ramon Martinez, brought up to backup Reyes at shortstop, dislocated his pinky sliding into home. That leaves journeyman Wilson Valdez as the lone option at shortstop. Alex Cora is back from his stint on the DL, but it is unknown how his injured thumb will continue to hinder him.
Those are just the injuries. There are other issues that the Mets have had to confront this season as well. They traded lethargic backup catcher Ramon Castro when starter Brian Schneinder returned from the DL last week. Castro told the team earlier in the year that he did not want to play every day.
Here is a quick rundown of the Mets by position and what may lie ahead:
At first base, Tatis and Murphy are both out of position and neither has shown that they can hit consistently enough to play every day there. Second baseman Luis Castillo started off like a house on fire this season, but has recently slowed down.
He's healthy, so that's good news. Third baseman David Wright is hitting .321, but only has three HRs and has 54 Ks in 50 games (ouch!). He has also left more men stranded than Shackleton.
In Wright's last 25 at-bats, he's had two hits. The Mets have needed him this week, and he has not answered the call. OK, Yankee fans, here's your chance...
I'm not going to lambaste Jose Reyes (apparently he's paying a lot of my readers' rents) anymore. The Mets need him back, focused and ready to lead. That's all I'll say...
What's next: Willy Mo Pena. Yes, it has come to that.
Without Beltran and Church, the outfield has lots of holes, although Reed has shown that he can play. Martinez is overmatched at the plate. Sheffield was not brought here to play everyday, and now we're seeing why. Pagan, once again, came up, played well, and then got hurt. Murphy and Tatis should never play the outfield, if possible.
Beltran will be back this week. Church has never been the same since his double concussion last season. Martinez will be sent down as soon as this unit gets staffed up again—whenever that is. The team activated recently-acquired veteran Emil Brown, but if he had any value, he'd be on someone else's roster right now.
What's next: A trade, that's what. Washington's Adam Dunn and Oakland's Matt Holliday are possibilities. Dunn is a whiffer who leaves legions on base, and he's the last thing the Mets need considering the circumstances.
Holliday is a pending free agent who is represented by Scott Boras, plus the Mets would have to deal with A's GM Billy Beane, who loves to fleece his former employer. Holliday has also been accused of being a Coors Field hitter, and one wonders how he would fare in spacious Citi Field.
Johan Santana is snake-bitten by a lack of run support. John Maine has come around, but now he has the flu. Livan Hernandez has pitched as advertised. Mike Pelfrey has stepped up after a shaky start. Tim Redding is here because Oliver Perez is on the DL. The two of them are just awful, by the way.
What's next: Redding has to go. What a bum. Perez has a knee injury and his return is still way off, since the team just shut him down again. The minor league options aren't very appealing, so a trade may not be out of the question.
Who is better than Francisco Rodriguez? Not J.J. Putz, that's for sure. The pen is no longer the typhoid ward that sunk the Mets' ship the past three years. The only familiar face is Pedro Feliciano, and he's had to develop two more pitches in order to be retained.
What's next: Bobby Parnell will soon be moved to the 8th inning role. Putz has a bone spur in his elbow. His sinker doesn't sink, his slider doesn't slide, and his fastball is flat. Parnell can hit 100 MPH on the Juggs gun, so make the switch and get Putz righted.