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Justin Time

Less news flash than point of fact: On Monday night, Justin Turner, a largely anonymous utility infielder with perhaps the most generic ballplayer name to grace a Met roster since 2004 catcher Tom Wilson arrived and departed, became the team’s 141st third baseman Monday when he replaced David Wright in the seventh inning of an eventual 13-2 loss at Chase Field.

It used to be a big deal tracking Met third basemen given that nobody could hold down the position for more than five minutes. Wright happily placed that particular meme into cold storage six years ago tomorrow [1], yet the third base count is still a staple of the Mets Media Guide; it’s appropriately on page 141 this year. They’ll have to be sure to add Justin Turner to the next edition, just as they added the immortal Andy Green [2] and Wilson Valdez last year.

Oh, you know what else used to be a big deal? Mike Pelfrey. He used to be a great Met pitcher, back in April, May and select portions of June 2010. There was a time when you heard Big Pelf was pitching and you felt pretty comfortable predicting a competitive evening for the Mets.

Hmmm…doesn’t feel so competitive lately when Pelfrey pitches. Mike claimed a stiff neck got the best of him on the flight to San Francisco, which is why he pitched Monday against the Diamondbacks instead of Saturday against the Giants. His neck couldn’t have improved much watching Diamondback hitters and Diamondback baserunners do their Diamondback worst to his many, many pitches in his short, short outing. The Mets didn’t improve much, either. If anything, they, like their starter, just kept getting worse and worse.

I could go on about how bad Pelfrey’s been; how tenuous our rotation appears two of every five starts; how frightening it was to learn Oliver Perez will likely be reinstated for active duty in a couple of days; how our extracurricular concern is swiftly shifting from how the Braves are doing to how umpteen potential Wild Card rivals are doing to whether there’s any point in monitoring the out-of-town scoreboard; or how downright shaky this team has looked since accepting the Marlins’ invitation to briefly summer in San Juan. They’re 6-12 since alighting on Thunder Island, and the American Southwest is so far no more welcoming a venue for these Mets than was picturesque Puerto Rico.

I’m neither psychologist nor physiologist, so don’t ask me what the hell is wrong with Pelf. I’m no Jon Heyman scoop artist wannabe, so don’t ask me who the Mets can get to bolster their moundsmanship on the nights that quality early innings are suddenly up for grabs. I’m no legal scholar, so don’t ask me how the Mets can slither out of their contractual commitment to employ Perez no matter how large a detriment he proves to their bottom line. Most of all, I’m no soothsayer, so don’t ask me to tell you whether the Mets will emerge healed and whole from this disheartening morass in any kind of contending shape or come home limping as anything more than a barely .500 team. I sure hope they will, though, as it’s way more fun worrying about keeping pace with the Braves than it is looking up at the Diamondbacks.

Feel free, however, to ask me about the 141 Mets who have played third base, a list that began with Don Zimmer and has now pulled up at Justin Turner. I know it’s not a subject that’s top of mind for most Mets fans, but after 13-2 drubbings that are too horrible to contemplate for too long [3], it’s the sort of thing that gets me through the night.