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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Mets have a problem with roster going backward

Kirk Nieuwenhuis of the Mets strikes out to

Kirk Nieuwenhuis of the Mets strikes out to end a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. (June 11, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Back at Citi Field, otherwise known as the place where Ike Davis is no longer working on his swing, the Mets had another game to play Tuesday night. But those of us who showed up -- and again, there weren't many -- were a little confused.

What was more important? A Mets win? Or that Jordany Valdespin performed capably at second base?

In Season Three of the Sandy Alderson regime, we're not sure what to think about a rebuilding process that feels like it's going in reverse. The plan itself was logical -- wait out a few bloated contracts, stockpile some promising arms, hopefully tread water in the meantime.

But the stalled development of a few youngsters wound up blindsiding the Mets, and without the cash to fortify some obvious weaknesses, the team has drifted off course. It doesn't feel like a plan anymore. With Sunday’s six-player shuffle between here and Las Vegas, a purge that claimed Davis, it feels more like the Mets are making this up as they go along.

Listening to Terry Collins describe his pregame chat with Alderson, it had a definite back-to-the-drawing-board vibe. While June 11 is a bit late for a total reboot, it’s also too early to roll over on this season, and that’s making life increasingly difficult as Collins tries to follow some ambiguous mission statement.

"Are they getting better?" Collins said he discussed with Alderson. "Are they buying into the program? Are they performing up to their capabilities? I'm not sure they are."

That’s a dangerous remark to come out of a manager’s mouth, but Alderson already has declared Collins and his coaching staff to be safe. The GM knows this is a woefully undermanned roster, and before very long, Flushing is going to have even more of a Vegas feel to it.

The fan base already is clamoring for a taste of the future, and they’ll get another one Tuesday when Zack Wheeler makes his debut in Atlanta. But what if that transition doesn’t go as swimmingly as Matt Harvey’s a year ago? Or Travis d’Arnaud – once his foot heals – experiences some lengthy growing pains? Or Wilmer Flores isn’t the next Edgardo Alfonzo? And things get worse.

"I told the coaches, at no time in the years we've been here are we facing a bigger challenge than we are right now because we've got 100 games to play," Collins said. "That's a lot of games."

He’s right. With what’s going on at Citi these days – too few fans, too many minor leaguers, too much rain – it only feels like late September. And the best strategy the Mets can come up with is changing the conversation to everything else but what happens after 7:10 p.m. each night.

Shipping Davis to the Strip helped deflect some of the attention to points west, and Alderson stirred the pot some Monday during his 40-minute radio summit with WFAN’s Mike Francesa. To think people believed that Alderson slighted Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada by saying they weren’t part of the Mets’ core just shows how out of whack things have become.

Has the product been so watered down in Queens that those two should be regarded as unimpeachable players? Beyond David Wright, Harvey, Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese (when healthy), no one else deserves amnesty here.

Even the way Davis has been treated is sort of a head-scratcher. The Mets, apparently out of affection for Ike, showed more patience than any of the 29 other teams would have before punching his ticket to Vegas. Not only that, but Collins said they didn’t move Duda to first base – his natural position – in fear of upsetting the guy who’s now manning that position for the 51s.

"We didn't want to send a terrible message [to Davis] that the job's taken," Collins said.

Terry, Terry, Terry. Davis is in the minors, nearly 3,000 miles away, and in desperate need of a swing makeover. He has no timetable for a return. There are currently 25 players on the Mets, and Davis is not one of them – his job is taken.

For how long? No one could answer that question. But Murphy will be the regular first baseman for the immediate future as the Mets give Valdespin a chance to show them something. No one was exactly sure what. And if Valdespin was able to do that, then what? What would the Mets do when – or if – Davis returned?

“We’re going to have a nice problem on our hands,” Collins said.

That doesn’t sound like a plan.