Imagine if, say, Johan Santana went down with an injury, and the Mets, out of desperation, gave the ball to Oliver Perez and said, "Go get 'em, Ollie. The start is yours."

Then imagine if Perez went and pitched a shutout.

The Mike Lowell situation is not a perfect comparison, but it's not a terrible one, either. And last night, Lowell - playing only because Kevin Youkilis is out with what could be a serious injury - homered to help the Red Sox beat the Indians, in an entertaining game featuring a bench-clearing brawl.

It's hard to come up with a precise Lowell comparable. The Red Sox, uncharacteristically, probably got caught up in some of the emotion of Lowell winning the 2007 World Series MVP award (even though Jonathan Papelbon might have deserved it more), and re-signed the free agent to a three-year deal.

He wasn't terrible offensively in 2008 and 2009, but his physical deterioration (he had the same hip surgery as Alex Rodriguez) dramatically decreased his value, so much so that the Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre last winter to play third base. With David Ortiz enjoying a renaissance at DH, there was no place for Lowell, who wound up back on the disabled list.

We know now that the Red Sox thought so little of Lowell that they were even willing to trade him to the Yankees, through Texas, as part of a three-way trade. But again - it's not like Lowell was ever thought to be completely useless. The situation spoke to Boston's roster depth as much as it did to Lowell's situation himself.

Lowell has essentially been a replacement-level player this season. Maybe, playing more often now, he'll show that he has nothing left. Or maybe, while not matching Youkilis' production, he'll exhibit himself as a nice DH option for other teams in 2011. Or maybe he'll actually stick to his word and just retire.

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It's one thing for a guy to become a financial/roster albatross because he's just done, like Perez. It's another because a guy to attain that status because he can't quite give a high-aiming team what it wants. You could do a lot worse than Lowell for an "In case of emergency, break glass" guy. 

--The Mets picked up a huge victory in Atlanta, and it'll probably prove to be ephemeral, and my goodness, if Jeff Francoeur is somehow a Met next season, then they might as well light the Citi Field seats on fire. They'd be just as likely to draw fans that way.

But goodness...again, how about R.A. Dickey? He sure seems to have figured out something, hasn't he?

You'd write this season off as a statisical anomaly, except that Dickey has changed dramatically as a pitcher. If you look at Dickey's FanGraphs page, you see how much more he's throwing the knuckleball this year. It's not outrageous to wonder whether, at 35, Dickey is such a different pitcher that his track record doesn't amount to much.

In any case, Dickey has one more season before he becomes eligible for free agency, so the Mets can enjoy him next season at what should be a relatively reasonable price. It's going to be difficult for Dickey's representatives to come up with a comparable guy in arbitration, since Dickey's case is so unique.

@NewsdaySports

--Jason Bay reported improvement.

--The Yankees lost again, falling out of the American League penthouse for the first time since June 12. They just haven't hit much these last few days, and as River Ave. Blues pointed out on Twitter, both Derek Jeter and Francisco Cervelli have been struggling for a very long time. It's not just Alex Rodriguez - who, by the way, missed the team photo. Which is not a huge deal, but will certainly draw attention as he's stuck on 599 homers.

--Curtis Granderson rested against Toronto lefty Ricky Romero, and you wonder whether he'd function better strictly as a platoon player. In any case, we're a long way away from last winter, when the Yankees expressed optimism that they could Granderson to hit lefties much as they once did Paul O'Neill.

--This Rangers auction today should be utterly fascinating. 

--OK, I'm at Yankee Stadium today - hence the tardiness - and I'll check in with an update after the game.

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