Turns out Gerald Williams is good in the clubhouse. Doug Mientkiewicz said so on Mets Extra, pointing out how Geriatric Gerald was exercising all kinds of great influence on Jose, which obviously paid off in Philadelphia Tuesday night. Well, I thought, maybe that's worth something, if not an entire roster spot.
Ed Coleman, who likes to agree with whoever's talking into his microphone, concurred with Minky. “Right,” said Ed. “Last year, Gerald was riding Floyd and Cameron all the time.”
And that worked to what end exactly? Remember that play in this very same park last September when Cliff pulled a Benny and tossed away a live ball because he thought there were three outs? (There weren't.) Come to think of it, where was Gerald Williams last night at the Cit when Cliff had no idea where the ball was or little feel for how many outs there were in the first? Why wasn't Gerald influencing Cliff before the game? Surely someone who's that good in the clubhouse can be a positive influence on two Mets simultaneously.
Why am I picking on Gerald Williams? I'm sure he's a swell guy. I mean that I'm really sure. Peter Gammons had it several years ago that Gerald was “a man who didn't own a car until  — nor even looked into buying a house, which he now [has] — because he used his money to help his 13 brothers and sisters and 26 nieces and nephews who, like Gerald, grew up poor in Louisiana and didn't have his gifts or determination to make the kind of money that baseball players do.” Hard to get down on a guy like that.
So make him a coach. Twenty-four years ago, Joe Torre brought in Bob Gibson as his “attitude coach”. It wasn't to much avail as the only Met pitcher with any attitude in 1981 was Dyar Miller (he slugged Joe Pignatano in a hotel bar), but let's give Gerald a clipboard and a whistle, and let Gerald give Cliff and Cammy and Jose and the whole bunch of 'em a truckload of attitude.
But find somebody else to hit and throw and catch and such.
I'll let you in on a little secret: I haven't given up on this team. Not just because they won a game they needed to win, but because they can't be as bad as they've played of late. The 2-9 stretch of recent bad baseball is inexcusable, but do you really think those are the Mets we'll see for the rest of 2005? We can play with numbers all we want, but I have some that I believe are relevant.
Eliminate (though they count) the first five games of the season. And hold in abeyance the last couple of weeks. Whaddaya got? Ya got a team with a 31-22 span in its portfolio. That's just about one-third of a season completed at a clip of roughly 95 wins when extrapolated across the entire slate.
The Mets were playing at that pace as recently as two weeks ago. That's a sample you can trust to a certain extent. That's evidence that the 2005 Mets are pretty good. That's cause for just a little patience.
The West Coast swing (Dirty Thirty to Date: 1-5, 24 to go) was dreadful as was the latter half of the homestand that preceded it. But what caused that shortfall? Injuries and a slump. Slumps don't last forever. Injuries are part of the game; if you can't overcome them, you're screwed anyway. But let's assume that injuries heal within a reasonable timeframe.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us with six legitimate reasons that the 2005 Mets won't descend into Howeville:
Carlos is better than he's shown. We know that. We know he popped up more than Orville Redenbacher's corn in Oakland and Seattle. But we're seeing a little better Beltran the last couple of games. Do you really think the Beltran who's been hobbled is the Beltran we're stuck with for the next three months let alone six-plus years? Do you think Wright, save for some inevitable bumps in the road, isn't unstoppable? That Reyes, under somebody's (Williams', Willie's, Wise's) tutelage won't keep evolving? That Cameron once healthy won't be a player? That Floyd isn't sound as long as we keep him out of Philadelphia? That Minky's gonna be any more godawful than he's already been? There's such a thing as bottoming out, you know.
That's six positions where the Mets are too strong to go down for the count like they did last year. Avoid that ignominy, and it's a good season right there. Ignore the comparisons between this juncture in 2004 versus now. We had a better record a year ago? Great. Want to take last year? Want Wigginton at third, Hidalgo in right, McEwing at all? You can have 'em. The real tipping point will come in the middle of the next Washington series, specifically after 83 games. After 83 games in 2004, the Mets were 43-40. That was the high-water mark. If we're scuffling after 85, 95 games this year, well, we're not much better. But I think we are.
Where are we not better? Mike is in inexorable decline. Can't do anything about that. Mike makes a ton of money. Even half a season of Mike costs $8 mil. Nobody's gonna wanna touch him at that price or trade a prospect of note for him. If he doesn't get it together like a No. 5 hitter should, nobody will be interested. And if he does, if he shows a sustained flash of vintage Mike, why would we want to get rid of him? Personally, as long as he doesn't bat .102 and field .201, I'm content to ride it out with him for the rest of his contract. He's Mike. That's gotta count for something in this life.
Second base is a mess. Somebody's bound to come off the DL sooner or later. No easy answer at the moment. But no team is perfect.
Lotta talk the last coupla days about whether the Mets should be buyers or sellers. Here's a third way: Stand pat. Have just a little more patience. This is a decent to maybe better team that's been put together for 2005. If you can patch a hole, wonderful. But why the perennial need to move this guy for that guy? (Unless it's to drop DeJean, an event to which I add my BRAVO!) I swear I don't understand baseball fans, ours or others, sometimes. We wait all winter for this game we love to rise from the ashes. We navigate through spring to get to Opening Day. And then when the season is in full bloom, most of us are angling to do trades and worry about signings with next year in mind. Next year can wait. The 2005 Mets ain't so bad and ain't so dead.
There's a lot that needs to go well the rest of the way. Limit stupidity to acceptable levels. Take nothing for granted. Like Floyd in the first inning Tuesday night. Or Mike on Saturday night. Egads, Piazza lollygagging his way to home plate as Wright was being tagged out at third has to be the inverse of Marlon Anderson's trip around the sun. What do you call it — an inside-the-park nap? It was a bizarre play built on a bizarre carom, but where is it written that it's unbecoming for a player to keep running until he touches home plate?
And for gosh sakes, set your watches back or ahead or laterally three hours when the next distant road trip comes along. No kidding. Those games were practically season-killers and they cannot be repeated every time we leave the Eastern time zone.
Proof of our current undeadness at the present time lies in the best part of the paper: The National League standings. Put aside the first-place clubs and examine the best of the rest. Four teams have 33 losses. Two more, including us, have 36. Two others have 37. And it's June. That's eight teams within four games of one another for the final playoff spot with three months and change to go.
That's a scramble. Only St. Louis is a gimme for October. Only Cincy and Colorado are prohibitively done. Thus, we're not out of it by any means. We've got some starting pitching and a bullpen that is morphing into something mildly trustworthy. Nobody will give Omar any credit for this because GMs are to be scorned (immediately) for their team's drawbacks and not praised for their assets, but whatever became of Mike Matthews, Felix Heredia, Manny Aybar and Mike DeJean? They have been quietly molded into Royce Ring, Heath Bell, Aaron Heilman and Danny Graves — four depressing journeymen are gone. In their place stand three vital, improving, young arms and one project worthy of a flyer.
Is there, despite the presence of Gerald Williams on the 25-man roster, hope? Enough of it to get by on. And real fans need only hope and a pocket schedule. Everything else is presumptuousness.
(Note to unsated readers: Six, seven days a week of me here not nearly enough? Really? Then check out Gotham Baseball every Tuesday for even more.)