FLUSHING, NY – When Omar Minaya strolled over to former Met Darryl Strawberry for a chat before the Mets took on the Nationals, you had to wonder if he was there to exchange pleasantries or maybe to sign the 46 year-old to a contract.
The Mets are dropping like flies. Today Jose Reyes and Ryan Church went on the disabled list with Fernando Martinez making his big league debut. For those scoring at home, only two players tonight – David Wright and Luis Castillo – were in the opening day lineup. You have to wonder if the team built Citi Field on some sort of cursed ground.
But even with a M*A*S*H unit on 126th Street, the Mets have endured, posting a 25-20 mark and a half game out of first. Sure their starters have been pretty good, especially Johan Santana, but someone has to drive in the runs, and no matter how well Omir Santos plays, they need someone creditable to replace Carlos Delgado. Luckily Gary Sheffield still has something left.
To put is simply, Doc Gooden’s nephew has been a godsend for this club. Sheffield has come in and stepped up when Delgado went down. Since May 16th, when the first baseman went on the disabled list, Sheffield has hit .407 (11-27) with eight runs scored, three homers, 10 RBI and seven walks. Even at the age of 40, his bat still looks strong and obviously there’s some juice in the tank.
Actually Sheffield had some help. When the Mets were in Los Angeles, he had a chat with Carlos Beltran, who pointed out he was dropping his hands and had Sheffield look over some video.
“We were just talking baseball,” Beltran said. “And I pointed out that his hands were dropping, so we watched some tape. It was just two guys talking baseball.”
Whatever it was, it worked and Sheffield has been on fire. First he hit one out of Fenway over the weekend and then tattooed the Nats for two homers and six RBI in the first two games of the series.
All of this good work presents a problem for Jerry Manuel. At his advanced baseball age, Sheffield probably needs a rest in the next few days, but how can he if the outfielder stays so hot?
It’s a tricky problem to have but the Mets manager does have a unique solution.
“I’ll probably get him a recliner in the locker room and then get him a big soft chair and put it in there,” Manuel said. “I call him ‘pops’ every day and he gets a little upset. It is good to see a person at this point in his career still be able to do the things he’s doing, it’s really amazing.”
So Sheffield better get comfortable because he will be in the outfield for the foreseeable future. And Unless Strawberry makes a comeback, the Mets will lean on the man Manuel calls Pops to keep driving the middle of their lineup.