David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
The Mets have operated lately as if Sandy Alderson, or should we say @MetsGM, takes requests on Twitter. Hungry to see Kevin Plawecki? On his way. Pushing for Dilson Herrera? Done. Want to take a flyer on Johnny Monell? Heck, let's carry three catchers.
Alderson has had little choice, obviously, with key injuries to Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright forcing him to dial up Vegas earlier than he'd prefer. But he also went a step further by shifting Daniel Murphy to third base once Eric Campbell's hot start reached its expiration date.
And at the nucleus of all this next generation stuff remains Wilmer Flores, Alderson's great leap of faith -- or biggest folly, depending on how the shortstop performs moving forward after his three-day break to clear his head. Put Tuesday night in the plus column after Flores doubled during the Mets' three-run fourth inning and looked solid at short.
"This is game is 70 percent mental," Flores said afterward. "Everyone has talent."
With Alderson already reaching to Vegas early and often for prospects, that mental side comes more into focus as the GM tries to avoid squandering the Mets' impressive April. Before last night's 3-2 victory over the Orioles, the Mets had lost three straight series, dropped three of four games to the Nationals and hadn't scored in 18 innings.
Not quite desperation, but enough to make people antsy, and for what it's worth, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon had a lengthy on-field chat with Terry Collins during batting practice. We won't say it's time for a Terry Watch, but with Alderson buzzing through the depth chart -- of supposedly respectable prospects -- a few wins would make sure the manager conversation stayed on the back burner for a while.
The lineup's recent funk isn't Collins' fault. The Mets ran into some high-caliber pitching against the Nats and they're also showing the strain of not having d'Arnaud and Wright, two big bats that won't be back anytime soon. In Wright's case, his return date from a hamstring strain keeps getting delayed. He's not expected to play in a rehab game until this weekend -- at the earliest. Collins has no clue when Wright might actually suit up again for the Mets.
And there's really not much offense left down at Vegas, unless Alderson wants to play the Matt Reynolds card at some point. As long as he's sticking with Flores, that's not likely to happen soon.
"As far as changing the lineup, we don't have a slew of options," Collins said before the game. "It's not five guys -- it's nine. It's the nine guys you put in the lineup that have all got to contribute."
Enough of them did last night. Murphy's RBI single in the fourth snapped the Mets' 21-inning scoreless streak before they also got back-to-back doubles from Flores and Plawecki to take a 3-0 lead. We'll couch this offensive explosion by pointing out that Bud Norris entered yesterday with a 12.18 ERA, but hey, he's the guy the Orioles chose to start.
For Flores, it didn't matter if Mr. Met was throwing. After a much-publicized stay-cation in Flushing during the weekend, Flores just needed a reason to feel good about himself again. Once you get a few mental health days, a team doesn't have many options left to try with a young player. Soon after, jobs can be lost.
"You've hit it right on the head," Collins said. "You can't have too many speeches. You can't come in, sit on the couch in my office, have me pat you on the head and tell you everything is going to be OK because you've got to go out and do it."
What Collins failed to say is the Mets don't want to give up on Flores -- not yet anyway. They see in him what they see in all of these recent call-ups, the potential to keep the Mets a winning team. And they can't have them fail, especially with the prolonged absences of d'Arnaud and Wright causing so much strain.
Collins told Flores that yesterday would be a "fresh start" and the shortstop responded with one of his better performances in a while.
"Every time you do good out there, it gives you confidence," Flores said. "It makes you think you can do this."
Flores was speaking for himself, but that applies to the rest of these Mets, too.