Ron Darling was on WFAN this morning and delivered some bad news to anyone who thinks Carlos Beltran will be back to help the Mets continue their recent surge. The broadcaster said that the Mets aren't expecting Beltran back "anytime soon."
That's vague, obviously, but it doesn't take much to read between the lines and see that hopes of him patrolling center at Citi Field before the All-Star Game are awfully slim. Beltran will need a fair amount of time to ramp up once he's actually given the green light to start baseball activities, something that hasn't happened even though the initial diagnosis was that he'd be back by mid-May. In the best case scenario, that's when he'll start his Spring Training and, being realistic about things, that's going to take the Mets until the start of July.
So the Mets need to rush out and get themselves a center fielder, lest they let this current wave of good play go to waste, right? Far from it. If anything, the news that Beltran is out can be spun into a positive if Omar Minaya has been paying attention to what's going on so far this season.
The Mets won six games last week because of pitching. Yes, Jose Reyes finally looks like himself and Ike Davis mashed a massive homer, but they won because they got good starts almost every night of the week and because the bullpen turned in several fine performances. If the Mets are going to make any moves this season they should be focused on making sure they get those kinds of outings on a regular basis. Beltran's presence, whenever he shows up, isn't going to be the factor that determines the Mets' fate this season.
Don't misunderstand, the Mets would be a better team with Beltran. Thing is, they haven't had Beltran for most of the last two seasons and have spent a lot of time pining away for him instead of just going without considering him as part of their plan going forward. If he's there, great, but the Mets need to build a team that can without getting a single contribution from Beltran
Crazy as it sounds, that's not impossible in the 2010 National League. Philadelphia is the only team that could dominate their peers and everyone else is on, more or less, equal footing. Given that landscape, having the best pitching possible is going to take you farther than having mediocre pitching with a slightly better offensive attack. And it's certainly better than spending prospects to upgrade from Angel Pagan whose defense plays right into the need to outpitch the opposition.
Even if it doesn't work out this year, the Mets should be learning the lesson taught through the first month of the season. Pitching, especially in Citi Field, is always going to have them in the mix of the National League.