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Howard Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and Dan Haren - and there's a live chat today

Live chat at 11 this morning. What does the MVP of the Trade-Deadline Week Live Chat get? Additional cachet, that's what.

In the interest of time, a lightning-round entry...

--Brutal end to the road trip for the Mets, and the front office will huddle today to assess everything. My first guess: No changes to the staff. My second guess. Howard Johnson gets axed.

Given how well the team has played at home this year, I wouldn't be surprised if ownership gave the Mets this homestand to turn their fortunes back around. With one tough opponent in St. Louis and then a purportedly easy one in Arizona, that's certainly feasible. After all, as we've discussed, the Mets now have what should be a competitive lineup, given the players' track records.

Does HoJo deserve to be fired? Well, if he were canned at this point, he'd be a scapegoat for the past 11 days. That's not necessarily fair, yet hitting coaches pretty much exist to be scapegoated. I wouldn't rank Johnson in the upper tier of hitting coaches - along, say, the Cubs' Rudy Jaramillo, the Yankees' Kevin Long or Tampa Bay's Derek Shelton - so the Mets could very well give their lineup a better chance by getting someone else in there. The obvious replacement candidates, internally, would be Lamar Johnson, Tom McCraw or Jack Voigt.

Jerry Manuel? For all of his refusals to bring Francisco Rodriguez into a tie game on the road - or intentionally walking Garret Anderson on Saturday - I wouldn't dismiss him at this juncture if I were Mets king. Partly by choice (benching Jeff Francoeur) and partly by luck (Rod Barajas' injury), Manuel is putting the best lineups on the field at this point. It's in the players' hands.

--I spent the weekend at Yankee Stadium, waiting for Alex Rodriguez to hit number 600. But yesterday evening, for that one instance, we wondered whether we'd be waiting quite a while for number 600, when A-Rod hit the ground after Blake Wood's 95-mph fastball hit him in the left wrist.

It looks like he's all right, and while A-Rod has looked overanxious in some of his at-bats at 599 homers, in many others he has looked perfectly fine. He seems to be dealing with the pressure pretty well. I don't think it's a stretch that, given the other sorts of professional pressure he has encountered in the last couple of years, this seems relatively easy by comparison.

--I wrote my column about the Yankees and the trade deadline, again, in light of Dan Haren getting traded to the Angels. The Yankees were honestly surprised at some media reports that they were close to getting Haren - as opposed to, say, the Cliff Lee talks from earlier this month, when the Yankees really thought they were getting the lefty. In their minds, the Yankees had a couple of conversations with Arizona about Haren and not much more than that.

--All right, see you at 11. And stop by all week, as we'll be cranking out trade-deadline/Mets in turmoil stuff as much as we can.


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