Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No Beltran, no problem as Mets continue to man up

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying Wednesday was the pivotal day of this season, perhaps the most pivotal in the Mets' last few seasons.

The day began with intensifying reports that a Carlos Beltran trade was imminent. By the afternoon, word was out that Beltran was traded to the Giants for 21-year-old pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, with the Mets throwing in around $4 million to pay most of Beltran's remaining salary.

Beltran reportedly took his teammates out to dinner Tuesday night in anticipation of the deal, and said his goodbyes in the clubhouse an hour before Wednesday's game against the Reds. Lucas Duda started in right field, and after saying he was most comfortable in left and at first base than in right, manager Terry Collins responded, "He better get comfortable real fast."

So what happened? The Mets responded the way they have responded to adversity all season. Duda homered, a laser to right. Daniel Murphy, batting third, had four hits. David Wright, batting fourth, homered and drove in four. Angel Pagan, Beltran's protege, doubled in two runs in the first to give the Mets the lead. Jose Reyes had two hits and two runs. And Mike Pelfrey tossed a complete game, his best start of the season, helping the Mets win their third straight in a four-game series in Cincinnati that ends Thursday afternoon.

Man up. That's what Collins has preached all season. The bullpen has an example in Jason Isringhausen of how to bear down. R.A. Dickey is a bulldog. Justin Turner brings the grit. The four relievers who closed out Tuesday's win did so in blue-collar style.

It's old school. Mex loves it. I love it. The Mets draw walks, hit for average, steal bases. They don't get a lot of home runs but they score. They win on the road. If they can figure out how to win at home again — and here's where the fans can help by, you know, showing up to support them — then maybe we've got something here, Beltran or no Beltran.

Anyone criticizing Sandy Alderson's performance so far is an idiot, plain and simple. He quickly defused the K-Rod situation and got a top-40 prospect with top of the rotation talent for a rental player. You can't argue with that. Suddenly, the Mets' farm system has a bunch of future starters in Mejia, Familia, Wheeler and Harvey, not to mention Gee and Niese.

A few words about Beltran. He's one of the best players the Mets have ever had, hands down. Best center fielder, no question. Effortless. A great hitter. Clutch — look up the numbers. Unfortunately, some people remember only his slow start his first season, the called strike three in 2006 and the injuries that derailed 2009 and most of 2010. That's unfortunate. The guy was a professional and classy and in his last seasons a mentor. He will be missed.

But I don't expect the team to roll over. Collins won't allow it. Wright and Reyes and Bay and Murphy and Dickey won't allow it. It's a tough assignment, what with the Braves staying hot and getting ridiculous calls in their favor. But the Mets are still in it and this team will continue to fight. Lots of home games left to make things interesting.

Wednesday was a good day for Beltran, a good day for the Mets and a good day for Mets fans. A win-win-win, which is exactly what the Mets have done to the Reds. Hopefully, it continues.

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