Even when people actually thought Oliver Perez could offer the Mets something worthwhile as a member of the Mets rotation, it was generally understood that Bad Ollie would make himself known every now and then. Bad Ollie was the guy who would fall apart in the middle of an inning, he was the guy who would walk everyone in sight and he was the guy who made it extremely hard for his team to win when he appeared.
As time went on, Bad Ollie came out more and more often until, finally, Good Ollie essentially ceased to exist. That's why Perez was forced out of the rotation earlier this year in favor of Hisanori Takahashi. There must be something about that spot in the rotation or maybe lefthanders are predisposed to having split personalities because Takahashi is exhibiting the same kind of Jekyll and Hyde business as Perez.
He's had eight starts now and four of them have been brilliant. The other four have been abject disasters, including Tuesday night in Puerto Rico. Takahashi didn't pick up the loss because the Mets rallied later, but the six runs he allowed in the third inning were devastating to the chances of beating the Marlins. There is absolutely no middle ground with Takahashi and there's no obvious way for us to guess which one is going to show up on any given night.
There are no such worries with Cliff Lee. He threw his third straight complete game in the Bronx on Tuesday even though he clearly had less than his best stuff. Outside of two Nick Swisher homers, Lee remained beyond the reach of the Yankees until the ninth when things got a little wobbly before he shut the door and won the game.
It's hard to imagine anyone needed convincing that Lee would help the Mets but Tuesday night's performance should have done the trick quite nicely. When Takahashi or R.A. Dickey or even Johan Santana can't find their Grade A stuff, the Mets get shellacked. When Lee can't find it, he still shuts down the Yankees.
There are plenty of reasons to talk yourself out of a Lee trade, from the prospects he'll cost to the lack of certainty that you'll hold onto him after the year is done. Balanced against nine innings of reasons why the Mets should make such a trade -- 10, actually, if you count Takahashi -- on Tuesday, those things fade into the background.
The NL East is up for grabs with half a season to play and the Mets are right in the thick of it. Grabbing the brass ring takes a confident leap and, for the Mets, that leap is named Cliff Lee. Tuesday night couldn't have made that any clearer.