Wilmer Flores has thought of it, you know. That alternate reality in which he is shipped off at the trade deadline, leaves the only team he's known since he was 16, and spends his days as a Brewer.
In that universe, there are no bright lights right now and no chants of "Wil-mer Flo-res" when he takes the field. The clip of him crying during a game becomes an amusing side note to the season rather than a boilerplate moment for a team and a fandom that, in past years, had forgotten that being a Met could be desirable.
"I started thinking like I was going to play in Milwaukee and what would have happened," he said before the Dodgers' 3-1 win in Game 4 of the NLDS Tuesday night. "But it didn't."
It certainly did not, and that's done a world of good for Flores, who is getting a chance to experience a New York postseason run. But after Ruben Tejada's season-ending injury in Game 2, it became obvious that this alternate reality -- the one in which the Mets trade Flores and Zack Wheeler for Carlos Gomez and maybe miss out on acquiring Yoenis Cespedes -- is also the stuff of front-office nightmares. Flores, who was somewhat extraneous at the outset of the Division Series, has turned into a pivotal cog -- a starting shortstop who is a safer bet than call-up Matt Reynolds.
Tuesday night, he struggled against Clayton Kershaw like everyone else, but made a nifty play in the first inning on a slow roller to get Adrian Gonzalez.
"I think Wilmer said to himself, 'I gotta be the guy, I've got to come through,' " Terry Collins said.
Flores, one of the vocal leaders in the "Win it for Ruben" brigade, said as much. When Tejada hobbled out during pregame introductions in Game 3, Flores got emotional, he said (no, he did not cry).
Another motivation? The fans that have embraced him since the trade deadline. "I really appreciate what they did for me," he said. "We really owe them."
That type of talk gives Collins confidence in Flores, despite his dwindling playing time down the stretch because of a balky back and a case of strep throat. Collins believes he'll see the relaxed, post-trade deadline Flores, and not the early season player who made a few errors at shortstop "and the world was crashing in."
Though second base is his preference, Flores hasn't looked uneasy in two playoff starts at short. When he talks about being emotional now, it's with the wry smile of someone who's comfortable.
"What happened at the trade deadline was crazy, but it happened for a reason," Flores said. "And this is the reason."
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