New York Baseball: Is Pagan The Answer For Mets In Lew Of Alou?

Brian HegtCorrespondent IApril 30, 2008

It can be argued that much like their cross town rivals, the New York Mets have been greatly underachieving.

At 14-11 the Mets stand half a game behind the surprise Florida Marlins. With the addition of the game's best pitcher in Johan Santana and another year of maturation for David Wright and Jose Reyes, many envisioned the Mets running away with the division out of the gate and not looking back.

However, since the Mets broke camp there have been some unexpected twists and turns to the young season; some for the good and some not so much.

The first blow the Mets suffered was on the second day of the season when their number two man in the rotation Pedro Martinez went down with a hamstring injury. However, the next day Oliver Perez went out and delivered seven strong innings against the Marlins. 

As the season progressed, the Mets were pleased with the acquisitions of Ryan Church and Brian Schneider from the Nats. Schneider provided a calming leadership from behind the plate and Church proved that he can not only hit left handers, but hit for power in general. 

To continue further into the season, the Mets needed to find a fifth man in the rotation and so they turned to Nelson Figueroa. Figueroa, born and raised in Brooklyn, grew up as a Mets fan.

After playing his college ball at Brandeis University right outside of Boston, Figueroa embarked on an up and down major league career. Prior to his first start with the Mets, Figueroa had not won a major league game since 2002. In this first start with the Mets, Figueroa threw no-hit ball over the first five innings. Ultimately, Nelson got his win and has continued to pitch well thus far. 

Through all of these twists and turns, one of the greatest surprises for the Mets has been the play of replacement outfielder Angel Pagan. Pagan was brought over from the Chicago Cubs after struggling greatly last season.

Even Pagan himself has acknowledged that he has always had the physical capability to play the game at a high level but he never had the mental toughness that goes with it. This spring with the Mets, Pagan seems to have figured it out. He has shown the ability to hit from both sides of the plate for both power and contact. 

With aging outfielder Moises Alou set to return to the lineup possibly as soon as this weekend, manager Willie Randolph has a dilemma. While Alou is quite capable of batting .300 and hitting 20-25 home runs, he is often on the disabled list more than in the lineup.

While everyone knows that Alou is capable of this when he's in the lineup, many fans are not sure that they want him to be the starting left fielder upon his return.

Pagan as a young, switch hitting, former center fielder adds another dimension to this team, potentially similar to that of Jose Reyes. This leaves Willie Randolph in a tough place.

Should he leave Alou on the bench and use his ability to hit any fastball over the wall in pinch hit situations? Or should he leave Pagan on the bench and take a player who needs to be in a rhythm in order to succeed out of his comfort zone?

Only time will tell as Alou is set to return this weekend.