It can be argued that injuries have played just as much of a role in the success of the 2010 Mets as they did in the failure of the 2009 Mets.
After all, without an injury to Daniel Murphy, there would be no Ike Davis at first base. Without an injury to Luis Castillo, there would be no Ruben Tejada at second base. Without injuries to both John Maine and Oliver Perez, there would be no R.A. Dickey starting -- the pitcher on pace to go 18-0 with a 2.33 ERA.
What is fascinating about these injuries is the role they have played in 2010 and beyond. Establishing Tejada and Davis as young, cost-controlled regulars at first and second base will provide a huge step forward for a contending team for years to come. Dickey is 35, but in knuckleballer years, that's more like 25. Even the recent back problem Rod Barajas has suffered through may open the door for Josh Thole to show that he is the long-term answer at catcher, too.
The injuries to Angel Pagan and Jenrry Mejia -- two players often mentioned in possible deals for Seattle's Cliff Lee -- fit in perfectly with this theme, even if they make the acquisition of Lee and the resulting improvement to the 2010 club more difficult.
Lee is a terrific pitcher. He's walked four guys in 86 innings. But a trade for him is a trade for three months of Lee. He's going to test the free-agent market, and be thankful for that. The type of long-term deal Cliff Lee will ask for -- and likely get -- seldom works out for the team providing it. Add given that it will start in Lee's age-32 season, and I'm even less optimistic about it.
So what exactly is three months of Cliff Lee worth? Is 2010 some kind of window-closing moment for the Mets? If anything, the development of players like Tejada, Pelfrey and Davis, paired with Reyes and Wright returning to form, argue for a far larger window than could have been previously assumed. Is it a good time, therefore, to be dealing a player like Thole (the only reasonable medium-term answer at catcher in the organization right now); or Pagan, who looks like he can be the team's center fielder for years to come; or Mejia, who represents a potential front-end starter, something the team simply doesn't have much of in its system.
Naturally, though, Mejia's shoulder injury makes him just another pitching prospect with an injury. Pagan's injury last week is a reminder that his fragility is the main reason it took until 2009 to see the type of player he could be on a regular basis.
The injuries, unfortunately, are a reminder as well that the Mets, for all the good fortune they have enjoyed so far, are playing with a collection of its fallback plans. Should anything happen to one of the starters right now, who would step in? Dillon Gee? The bullpen is in a similar state. Manny Acosta and pray for rain is the current backup plan.
And the same is true at practically every position on the field. It is easy to say that any team would have trouble weathering injuries. But in the Mets' case, a poorly conceived set of Plan A's left the team vulnerable. In essence, Castillo, Perez, Maine, Gary Matthews, etc., were the depth. The team simply used what most people would have considered talent worthy of backup plans to start the season.
Taken together with the unfortunate fact that as well as the Mets have played, and as poorly as the Phillies have played, just two games separate the two teams, I'd be reluctant to deal any significant part of the Mets' future for a rental of Cliff Lee. I am hopeful that the team continues to defy the odds -- and really, no team is owed more good luck following recent events than the New York Mets.
But hope is not a foundation for making decisions about the roster. It was hope that put Luis Castillo at second base, Gary Matthews in center field, and Mike Jacobs at first base on Opening Day. The Mets need to be thankful for the core of young talent forced upon them by poor play and injuries, and consolidate those gains for the future.
It appears that fate may be conspiring to make it so, whether the Mets themselves like it or not.