In some parallel universe, Billy Wagner also jogged in from the bullpen for the 8th inning and retired the side in order. But in that parallel universe, the other eight defensive position were occupied by something other than surplus Buffalo Bisons, and we were thinking about October instead of about April.
I'd like to live in that universe. But I don't, and so I can't escape the unhappy truth that for all that I was thrilled to see Billy return, that return is merely a footnote in a dismal season. And tonight was a microcosm of that: a sticky, vile evening in which Johan Santana looked merely competent, the bats weren't even that, and the Mets' lackluster play on the field was overshadowed by yet another kerfuffle off of it.
Gary Sheffield has played far better defense than anybody could have expected (which is to say he's been slightly below average), generated more fear at the plate than anyone could have expected (which is to say he's been just fine), and been a model citizen in the clubhouse. I understand why he's angry to be serving out the rest of his sentence on this zombie team, and truth be told, I'm kind of on his side — not because I enjoy the bellyaching of self-absorbed millionaires, but because Sheffield's continuing presence is another reason to wonder if the Mets' baseball-operations people spend their days doing Whip-Its and defacing pictures of Adam Rubin.
With the season beyond repair, why on earth would you pull Sheffield back from waivers instead of working out a deal with the Giants? (Update: see below.) Now that it's too late to get something back for him, why not release him? Either way, put Nick Evans in left for an audition, while keeping Greg's warning about September mirages firmly in mind. (As for a contract extension, ha ha ha. Sorry, Gary. Though honestly, I'm surprised Sheffield didn't get one, given Omar Minaya's love of giving 41-year-olds multiyear deals.)
Yes, Billy Wagner came back, adding another chapter to a story that's a testament to his character and toughness. That's to be saluted and celebrated. But the Mets lost, as they will continue to do with numbing regularity for the next five weeks before the merciful end. In some parallel universe, Billy is the missing piece of the juggernaut, arriving just in time to join a celebratory crushing of the faint hopes of the hated Phillies. In this universe, the best reward we can think of is that Billy might get to go somewhere else while we finish going nowhere.
Update: Next-day story (via Metsblog) claims Sheffield never asked for a contract extension, Omar didn't make a deal because he wouldn't get enough back, and the Giants were blocking a trade, not trying to make one.
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