David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
As Terry Collins put it, the Mets got themselves a pair of "quality major-league bats" with Friday's acquisition of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. For a team that had relied far too long on Triple-A stopgaps, both are welcome additions, and Johnson made an immediate impact with two hits -- including a Pepsi Porch homer -- in Saturday night's 15-2 stomping of the Dodgers.
The offensive upgrades had been overdue, but we're more interested in something else the Mets imported from Atlanta, which arrived at no extra charge. That's the heaping dose of accountability as soon as Uribe and Johnson got their own lockers at Citi Field.
Uribe, 36, who didn't start Saturday night, is primarily a third-base option, but when you combine him with the versatile Johnson, the other Mets begin to feel a little more vulnerable. They feel as if hitting .170 won't cut it anymore. That trying isn't enough. Not when the manager has someone better to replace you, a luxury the Mets didn't have for much of the first half.
"They've been put on notice," Collins said. "It's time to pick it up."
For one night, the Mets listened. Lucas Duda homered twice, Michael Conforto had four hits and each member of the starting nine reached base multiple times, including Matt Harvey, who had a double, a single and two RBIs.
It would have been better if Collins' message had been delivered May 25 rather than July 25. For too much of this season, the Mets have been operating as if being the worst offensive team in baseball somehow was acceptable. The occasional slump happens. But contributing zero on a daily basis is not worthy of a major-league uniform, and that woe-is-me mentality seemed to spread through this roster like a virus.
Sandy Alderson, however, may have indirectly discovered the antidote. His goal was to get capable run-producers, but he might have lit a fire under the Mets' subpar hitters. Perhaps a few will try a bit harder, maybe sharpen the focus, knowing their jobs could be at stake.
"I'm hoping that we keep everybody fresh and involved," Alderson said. "But at the same time, those that produce are going to play. That's typically the way it is."
It hadn't been that way around the Mets, who until Saturday night constantly bemoaned the shortcomings of a deficient roster as well as the gridlock of a trade market that had yet to defrost. We kept seeing too much of John Mayberry Jr. -- who was DFA'd after the trade -- and too many Mets ill-suited for their roles, such as Wilmer Flores in the cleanup spot.
Now Collins can arrive at the park, check the matchups each morning and fill out his lineup card accordingly. On Saturday night, Johnson replaced Flores at second base, and Collins refused to say any player is locked in at any position. When he was asked if he plans to stick with Ruben Tejada at shortstop for defensive reasons, Collins bristled, suggesting that everything will be constantly evaluated.
"I'm just telling you," he said, "day after day, we're going to put the people out there that we think are the right guys. We're going to figure out who the best guys are on a nightly basis and we're going to run them out there."
That's a bold reversal for the Mets, who spent the first half trying to convince everyone of the importance of keeping players in familiar positions, that shuffling them around the diamond or among different spots in the lineup would cause irreparable damage to their fragile psyches.
With 64 games to go, the Mets are showing some urgency, facilitated by the two new faces. And don't be surprised to see one or two more before Friday. Alderson still is on the prowl for additional bats.
In the meantime, the Mets may have stumbled on to something. Hit or sit. A little accountability can go a long way.