It hasn't been a banner couple of years in Flushing where roster management is concerned, but the Mets moved with rather un-Metsian determination and dispatch tonight, sending Ramon Castro to the Chicago White Sox for 25-year-old pitcher Lance Broadway even as Omir Santos was still raising his fists toward the klieg lights.
Of course, Santos helped make their decision more straightforward, lining a home run into the left-field stands at Citi Field for the Mets' first run and driving in their second and final run six innings later. (Would someone explain to me why the Marlins didn't walk Santos to load the bases and pitch to the immortal Wilson Valdez?) That was enough to support Mike Pelfrey and a parade of lights-out relievers, with Gary Sheffield serving as young Omir's supporting cast on the offensive side. Who knows how Sheffield will hold up in the summer heat, but right now you'd think it was 1999 — balls are leaving his bat blue-shifted, prompting third basemen to call their insurance companies. The mortar shot Sheffield bounced off the Acela Club set the crowd murmuring even if it was just a strike with 410 feet of asterisk attached to it; the single he whistled to start the 11th was a lesser liner but ultimately of greater import. (And meanwhile, David Wright continues to grind his bat to sawdust with games on the line. Nice to have that particular worry be the parenthetical, isn't it?)
Emily and I took it in from the Excelsior level, in a section that had apparently been reserved for feral children. But being in a “Lord of the Flies” outtake was the lone blemish on the evening: The ominous weather forecast had left us agreeing that this time we might actually see quite a bit of the Caesar's Club, instead of looking around it in brief bemusement on the way to and from the bathroom, but the skies yielded a couple of spritzes of subway-time rain and then remained peaceable for the balance of a very nice late-spring night. Meanwhile, down there on the field, the Mets did their part, surviving a pretty good-looking young lefty in Sean West and dodging Met killers Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross and Hanley Ramirez (in an unasked-for cameo).
On the 7 train back, your bloggers were exchanging rapidfire SMSes, celebrating all things Omir. A sampling:
GP: Santos has Godlike tendencies.
JF: He is an LES Artiste. (Hipster ref?)
GP: Brian Schneider to the white courtesy phone, your bus out of town is waiting.
JF: If only. He has many more Toyotas to sell, I fear.
GP: So did Bill Sudakis and we chased his sorry ass out of here. Santos 4-Ever!
(You see, we can be brief.)
What we didn't expect was that the other catcher would be the one to be paged in the clubhouse.
Ah, Ramon. The Round Mound of Pound arrived as a nice surprise, a Marlin castaway with surprising pop and a light touch in a clubhouse that could alternate between deadly serious and snoozingly vanilla. (What will Saturday matinees be without the bubble-stuck-to-the-hat trick?) But he was given several chances to claim the catcher's job for his own, and flubbed all of them because he could never manage to stay on the field long enough to put minds at ease. Granted, I also just described Schneider — but the demand for catchers who are lead-pipe cinches for repeated trips to the DL is rather limited, Schneider was due $4 million this year compared with Castro's $2.5 million, and that was more or less that.
Santos? Yeah, I know he's 28 and now has exactly 86 big-league at-bats on his resume. But he's got a short, sharp swing (that pinch-hitting farce was ridiculous, but Jerry was on to something), a pretty fair arm and calls a good game. And, of course, he has the flair for the dramatic that's made him a cult hero, from his first career homer to his undressing of Jonathan Papelbon to his lightning-quick second tag to tonight. You know what? Let's go for it and see if he can also move a Toyota or two.
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