Friday, July 23, 2004

Too little, too late

Over the last four months, the Mets have played some surprisingly good baseball at times. Leaving behind the torpid legacy of overpaid, underperforming laggards (Mo and Robbie, we hardly knew ye), they've managed to assemble a group of dedicated, hard-working players who compete harder on the field than they do in contract negotiations.

Wednesday night's debut of 21-year-old third baseman David Wright was another breath of fresh air for the Mets, who are already relying heavily upon another neophyte, Jose Reyes, to lift them to contending status.

Yet with all the talk and media attention on the positive storylines of the Mets' youngsters, there is an equally large spotlight shining on the team's NL East playoff race. The story goes that the Mets' starting pitching, held together by duct tape and melted Skittles, needs a boost to keep the team in the hunt.

So along come the rumors about Kris Benson. Fans, energized by pennant fever, soon begin tossing out names like Scott Kazmir and Ty Wigginton as possible trade bait. They know that this annual time of madness in baseball can provide the lift a team needs to win a pennant.

But the Mets are 47-48. They are locked in a race against three teams that are all probably better than they are. They have a shaky pitching staff and a shakier bullpen. That's hardly something that can fixed by a band-aid.

Kris Benson, a good pitcher and no doubt a fine gentleman, is not the caliber of performer to patch up the Mets' shortcomings. Agonizing as it may be, the Mets are a young team learning how to win by losing in some pretty excruciating ways. There's no reason to believe that that will change with the addition of one decent starting pitcher from Pittsburgh.

Slowly, guys like Wright, Kazmir, and Reyes have the potential to be the backbone of something exciting at Shea. But first, a little patience would serve the Mets well.

Now is not the time to panic; now is the the time to watch the youngsters rise and fall and rise again. Now is not the time to dump homegrown talent in favor of hired guns; now is the time to make sure the Mets fans have a reason to come back next season.

Read more on David Wright's debut: Click here.
Newsday's Jon Heyman on the Mets: Click here.
Photos from Wright's debut: Click here.
Ask Newsday's Bob Herzog for his thoughts: Click here.

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