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That Outfield

Byrderers Row lives. Was it worth the call from the governor?

The energized, fun-size Mets…the ones with an honest-to-god top of the order…the ones whose outfield is no longer a punch line but is arguably a strength…they remain as they’ve been for the past six or so weeks. These are the Mets on which Marlon Byrd anchors right field and the cleanup spot, the Mets who win slightly more often than they lose, the Mets who aren’t automatically fighting Sominex for market share.

They’re ours from now ’til year’s end, whether we want them as such or not.

The competent Mets of Marlon Byrd’s unforeseen heyday aren’t Byrd’s alone. On defense he flanks super rook Juan Lagares — maybe not super like Yasel Puig this year or Bryce Harper last year, but as scintillating as any frosh Met outfielder has been since, geez, Strawberry in 1983? Dykstra 1985? Ochoa 1996? Agbayani 1999? Maybe Jay Payton. Jay came in third for Rookie of the Year in 2000, but it was a light year in the National League; Rick Ankiel came in second. The point is it’s been a long while since the Mets have had anybody come up from the minors and show more than the briefest of Nieuwenhuisian flashes out there, even if it’s been only a short while since Lagares laid claim to center field. He could be Pat Howell or Jeff Duncan for all we know. For now, he’s close enough to Tommie Agee.

Lagares, in turn, flanks Eric Young, Jr., who almost homered in Miami (weird fence for a weird park) and has definitely transformed the leadoff spot and left field into assets, or things other than liabilities. Even when slumping, he seems a threat to do something besides slump deeper. We’ve gotten too used to guys who succeed for a moment but can’t convince us they’re worth a damn.

But we come back to Byrd because unlike Young or Lagares or any other Met, he was the one we thought might have some trade value for a team that’s inching rather than racing its way out of Mudville as the final third of 2013 approaches. Get something substantial for Byrd and maybe it bodes well for 2014. Get something of a “something — anything” nature for Byrd, and at least we’re not moaning a year from now, “Can you believe we just let him walk?” Or do what was done, which was stay put, stand pat and stick it out. The 2013 Mets with Marlon Byrd figure to be a better bet than the 2013 Mets sans Marlon Byrd. But a better bet to do what, exactly?

Most of my constructions end with question marks because I don’t know. The Mets didn’t kick Byrd out of the nest. I’m not unhappy about that. I’m going to assume the presence of his name amid the prevailing swap chatter didn’t elicit a stampede to Sandy Alderson’s hold button. I’m not thinking this is the start of a beautiful long-term relationship with the 35-year-old Byrd or anything like that. I doubt it should be. The Byrd-led Mets have played about as well as one can imagine them having played since June 16, yet for all that they are 24-18, hardly the stuff of Rays on a roll. The Phillies and Nationals have gone largely catatonic yet we have somehow failed to pass either of them. Perhaps finishing a hyperdistant second to Atlanta isn’t much of a goal, but as long as we’re nearby, it would be nice to get there.

Alderson suggested Young-Lagares-Byrd has been, over the last month, “maybe the most productive outfield in baseball [1],” which, on the surface, sounds camera-ready to join “skill set” “meaningful games in September,” “lobby” and, most recently, “what outfield?” in the Mets Executive Hall of WTF? Yet there is a touch of evidence [2] to back up Alderson’s assertion, as long as one accepts the terms of productivity as chronologically limited. Whether the Mets’ outfield is crushing it at a more consistent rate than its 29 peer groups is irrelevant. It’s better than what was expected out of left, center and right from the Mets, and the overall Mets experience has improved in accordance with the ascendance of our flycatching trio.

Doesn’t mean we’re set, and nobody said we are. This season has had a real “just go with it” quality from the start. There is no coherent executional philosophy in evidence, which is about par for an organization that doesn’t have enough pieces to set in place for such luxuries. Twelve pitchers? Thirteen pitchers? Four-man bench? Six-man rotation? No backup shortstop? This one sits for a week? That one plays for a week? “Momentum” is paramount? Just go with it. It’s only the 2013 Mets.

Yet it’s been kind of working. It didn’t work great in Miami Wednesday night [3], but did you really believe we could sweep the Marlins in the Loriatorium? Taking two of three there with one to go (guess what day it is…Guess What DAY [4] IT IS!) may be a sign that the antiapocalypse is finally upon us, that the Mets aren’t Chad Quallsing [5] their way to the end of the season. They may not totally fall on their faces as they have through August and September these past several anni. Shoot, they practically skated across July. Maybe they’ll finish second. Maybe they won’t. Maybe Terry Collins will be worth retaining. Maybe he won’t. Maybe all the Harvey Days and Wheeler Days and Días de Mejia will begin to pile up into whole weeks, then months of anticipation once the maturing starting staff is surrounded by position players we wouldn’t dare dream of desiring to trade just because it’s July 31.

We probably could’ve gotten a bag of balls for Marlon Byrd. But y’know what? This isn’t quite a bag of balls season anymore. I can respect that.