Evans! Murphy! Kunz! The future is now!
Some of it anyway.
It may not have been planned this way, it may not have been conceived as a winning strategy for 2008, but three Mets prospects, if such entities exist, walk, talk, hit, catch, run and throw among us. In the last two days, Nick Evans has gained big-time seniority within the kiddie corps. In the last two days, a kiddie corps has formed: Evans and Murphy and Kunz.
Evans, 22, and Daniel Murphy, 23, are the co-starting leftfielders. Eddie Kunz, 22, is the closer. These arrangements may be temporary or they may be a harbinger of what is to come. Either way, it's going on right now in the midst of what is still, despite recent evidence to the contrary, a pennant race.
It could be short-term disastrous because kids have to learn the ropes and rope-learning can be a lengthy process. It can start, as it did for Murphy Saturday night, with a base hit and an Endylicious catch at the left field wall. It can start, as it did for Kunz this afternoon, with a bunt tossed high of Delgado's head. It will probably continue for both of them as it has for Evans, whose unforeseen Rocky Mountain High debut in May was more aberration than indicator where his immediate 2008 fortunes were concerned.
But this may not be about 2008 anymore. We're at the Elmer's Glue-and-stamp hinges stage with this team. Maine's on the DL. Wagner's in for an MRI. The Mets admirably burrowed through July without more than (by Jerry Manuel's admission) two authentic outfielders and perpetually short a starting pitcher. The bullpen gave us their all and it appears they have little left to give. Luck — illustrated by Saturday's bizarre anti-Double Tag play in which Mark Loretta and Hunter Pence came out winners in a three-legged race whose finish line was Ramon Castro's ankle — seems to have been placed on irrevocable waivers. The Mets have lost six of eight. First they were losing heartbreakers. Now they're losing every way and everybody.
So it's pre-2009 a little. It's Evans and Murphy platooning in left because Manuel can't keep rotating old infielders out there. It's Kunz en route to closing because Billy's left forearm's feeling the strain of all the innings it's thrown and all the saves it's blown. It's potentially Jonathon Niese, 21, come Friday if the Zephyrs don't overwhelm his pitch count Monday. It's Fernando Martinez, 19, you've gotta figure, sooner rather than later if he stays out of harm's way.
It's the real Citi Field Preview Center at Shea in August and September should there be a protracted shortage of Maine and Wagner and Church. It's not impossible to win some games that way if the veterans who are still standing don't fall apart. It's not utterly implausible that the Mets — 2½ out pending the ESPN action tonight — can ride the Youth of America to continued contention. But recalling past Augusts when injuries mounted and neophytes were inserted, I wouldn't rush to get my hopes up.
For 2008, that is. For 2009 and beyond, with Kunz and Murphy and Evans and maybe Niese and Martinez on display, getting our hopes up early might be the wise move to make.