Can Wilmer Flores turn out to be a success story at shortstop for Mets?

Anthony Rieber

Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998

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In the final scene of the 1989 film "Say Anything," actress Ione Skye's character turns to her boyfriend, played by John Cusack, and says about their star-crossed relationship, "Nobody thinks it will work, do they?"

Cusack's character replies: "No. You just described every great success story."

And then they lived happily ever after.

Or maybe they didn't. We just have to assume they did because the movie ended.

The Mets are trying their own "nobody thinks it will work" gambit by playing Wilmer Flores at shortstop every day. It's unclear if anyone will live happily ever after when this movie ends. But with the situation the Mets are in, it's worth a shot.

On Saturday night, starting his 10th consecutive game, Flores looked like Ozzie Smith mixed with Cal Ripken Jr. in the Mets' 7-3 win over the Cubs.

Flores went 1-for-3 with a two-run single and a walk. He made a diving play on a grounder to his right and made a one-hop throw to first for the final out of the second inning. He was the middle man on two seamless double plays. He went into the hole and made a tough play look easy in the eighth.

This is the time for the Mets to find out about Flores, who is batting .233 with one homer and 13 RBIs. He started in the organization as a shortstop in 2008, was moved off the position in 2012 and ended up back there this spring.

The script is this: Flores will never be a great defensive shortstop, but the Mets hope the 23-year-old will hit enough for his bat to carry his glove.

Or, as manager Terry Collins put it Saturday night: "You're not going to make Wilmer Flores into [Andrelton] Simmons. He's not going to be that kind of player."

What kind of player can he be? Can he be as good as Asdrubal Cabrera, Stephen Drew, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie or Hanley Ramirez?

Maybe not. But he's younger and can come cheaper than those potential free agents. He is a lot cheaper than Troy Tulowitzki, who is ending another season on the disabled list, this time with a torn labrum in his hip, and is owed $118 million over the next six seasons.

Trading for the fragile but immensely talented Tulowitzki is a gamble the Yankees can afford to take. Not the Mets.

So the Mets give Flores a look.

"He makes the routine play," Collins said. "If he hits the way everybody thinks he can hit and he can make the routine play, yeah, he can play every day in the big leagues at shortstop."

There's a great chance this experiment will fail. If it does, at least the Mets can move on from Flores and the monumentally buried Ruben Tejada and start fresh next season with a free agent or trade acquisition.

We're on record as saying we believe the Mets are on the cusp of being a contender. The pitching is young and exciting and players such as Lucas Duda, Travis d'Arnaud and Juan Lagares have shown necessary growth.

But the holes at shortstop and leftfield are gargantuan. Platooning Matt den Dekker and Eric Campbell is nothing to get excited about. Both are 27 and without significant power. If they were going to be regulars at the major-league level, it already would have happened.

The Mets are going to have to spend to upgrade that position. (We hear Chris Young will be available. Kidding, kidding.) If Flores can handle short, that gives the Mets a better shot to use their small-market checkbook to sign or trade for a pricey, big-bopping outfielder.

So give Flores a chance. Be pleasantly surprised if it works out, if it turns into a great success story. Maybe they'll even make a movie out of it.

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