Okay, okay.  I kid because I love.

In case you’d not heard, Jerry Manuel had a family chat with the team on Tuesday night, and the team rode over to Miller Park together Wednesday morning.  Then Mike Pelfrey pitched a gem, and the Mets beat the Milwaukee Brewers 1-0 to avoid the sweep.

In reply to a commenter on the previous post, let me say that it appeared by the encore presentation of the game that the Mets DID play some baseball.  There is the notable exception of the seventh inning, wherein Mike Pelfrey, like Bono and Alexander Haig before him, forgot a key nuance of his day job and committed a balk.  But they played ball, and I thank you for your words.  I like to think we had some part in it.

John Franco spoke some nonsense about David Wright not being a clubhouse leader, and David Wright retorted in quite fine fashion before going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. You can read about it from Metsblog here.  (UPDATE: Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News presents a transcript here.  Despite openings and closings not transcribed, I get the sense it’s otherwise complete.)

I’m a supporter of the idea that the Mets need a team captain.  I also think they need to trade Oliver Perez and bid a heartfelt farewell to Fernando Tatis.  But in all those cases, what does a team do if an injury takes that guy out?  Mark DeRosa went over to the Cardinals, sprained his wrist after three games for them, and will be out for the next three or four games.

And if the Mets trade Brad Holt and Bobby Parnell for Adam Dunn, and Adam breaks his hand trying to open a jar of pickles?

And if the Mets sell half of the Acela Club, Mr. Met, and his kids for Roy Halladay, and Halladay breaks down like a ’77 Dodge Dart? …Though I’d almost do that deal.  Swap Mr. Met for three minor-league mascot prospects, and make the call.

Any Mets captain would have to be resilient and magnetic enough to draw attention even if on the bench.  These attributes are not quantifiable; Mr. Franco was right about that.  But what he has wrong is not the need, but the reason for the need.  The Mets need a captain for our sake, not theirs. 

David Wright is right: we don’t know what goes on in the clubhouse behind closed doors. All reports are that Carlos Delgado is still at home recovering and Gary Sheffield’s a model citizen, so John Franco’s further afield than most.  They need to play as a team, and pick themselves up in times of trouble.  Playing coherent baseball as a team will keep the crew from air-mailing balls and throwing to the wrong bag and all that nonsense.  I think the 2009 Mets are working hard at playing as a team, with some glaring goddamn missteps.

But we need a captain because on any given day during this injury crisis, we’ve seen half this lineup play a few handfuls of games.  Argenis Reyes; Fernando Martinez; Nick Evans?  To the masochistic Mets fan, these names are familiar if not battle-tested.  To the casual observer, they’re nobodies.  The captain fills the gap in crowd confidence with his captaincy, like so much *Great Stuff.

Gratuitous link.

And when the captain goes into the locker room, he controls the message to the media hordes who demand to know just what they’re gonna do about all these injuries and do you think Omar should trade for a bat or some rotation help and oh my gosh oh my goodness gracious the 2009 Mets are a step away from 1962! 

(Ah, Suzyn Waldman.  When digital photo frames can reliably play downloaded video, I’m hanging that Clemens bit in my bathroom.)

When Delgado comes back and Jose Reyes comes back and Carlos Beltran and J.J. Putz and John Maine come back, we should see these guys as a team with a colorful history.  The captain can continue to control the message, but we really should hold no illusions that, when the door closes on the clubhouse, David Wright is going up to Carlos Delgado and telling Carlos how to play the game.  Carlos would be well within his rights to take an aluminum bat to the man.

The captain frees the rest of the team up to coalesce and do their job.  The captain takes the heat for the other veterans and the rookies.  For that, he’s awarded a slightly larger percentage of the glory and the pain.

From this perspective, the reason Mr. Franco believes the Mets need a captain is because he needs to hear a player voice of authority account for what’s going on at the park.  But to extend that to be the reason for the shoddy play is false.  The Mets have not played at their best because they are not at all at full strength.

A team in better shape, DL-wise, would be the Philadelphia Phillies.  They got blown out by Atlanta yesterday, no-hit all the way through to the seventh, and the Mets are now two games behind first. 

I’m sure David Wright wants to lead the Mets, Mr. Franco.  Tell me if anyone wants to lead this division.

*Great Stuff is a registered trademark of The Dow Chemical Company.  If you’re going to use it, WEAR GLOVES AND EYE GOGGLES AND CLOTHES YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT EVER WEARING IN PUBLIC AGAIN. 

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