Mailbag: A damaging 10-game road trip

Mailbag: A damaging 10-game road trip

Q: Very simply, should we be surprised by what happened to the Mets on the their trip to Florida, Atlanta and St. Louis? -- Jack S., Teterboro, N.J.

A: Well, perhaps there is surprise in just how poorly they played at times and how damaging the 10 games turned out to be. Even before this trip, the Mets rarely had prospered on the road. Now they were going to face three series against teams with superior records with no days off. Pedro Martinez seemed to be wearing down, and Victor Zambrano still was in the rotation. And as it turned out, the Mets were to face formidable pitchers -- A.J. Burnett, Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett, John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Chris Carpenter in the first seven games.

And of course, the Mets were nowhere near full strength without Mike Piazza, Mike Cameron and, until the Atlanta series, Doug Mientkiewicz.

Should a 2-8 record have been anticipated? No. But anything better than 6-4 may have been unrealistic. And no one who was realistic would have argued with 4-6 as likely and 5-5 as acceptable. That said, 2-8 was worse than expected.

Q: What was Willie Randolph thinking when he brought in that new reliever they picked up [Shinjo Takatsu] to face Miguel Cabrera in the Sept. 3 game? -- Dennis M., Watkins Glen, N.Y.

A: There are several factors to consider, not the least of which was soreness in the right elbow of Roberto Hernandez. But even if Hernandez were available to pitch in that circumstance, Randolph might not have summoned him to face Cabrera with the bases loaded. Cabrera has hit Hernandez well. And the manager liked the idea of bringing in a pitcher with a different "look." Takatsu's ultra-offspeed pitches are quite different.

Q: When will Randolph give up on Kaz Matsui? -- Sam B., Washington Township, N.J.

A: He had essentially, even before Matsui's extended assignment to the disabled list, but the demands of playing regularly seemed to undermine the offensive and defensive performance of Miguel Cairo. So Randolph resumed using Matsui at second base, especially when the offense became less productive.

Chances are Matsui will play more than Cairo as long as the Mets are mathematically alive in the Wild Card race and the offense struggles. The one thing that will change will be the promotion of Minor League second baseman Anderson Hernandez. Randolph is intrigued by what he has heard about him.

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Q: Is there some reason David Wright isn't moved to the No. 3 spot in the batting order? Carlos Beltran has been a disappointment. But Wright has come along faster than expected. Get him in the third spot and let him get more at-bats. -- Rick H., Newark, Del.

A: Randolph likes Wright batting fifth, the primary RBI position in the order, and isn't sure Wright would prosper as much in the third spot as he has batting fifth. A case probably can be made that Wright is best-suited among the Mets to bat first, second, third, fourth or fifth. Their greatest need is for hits with runners in scoring position. Fifth is the best place for Wright.

Q: Do you think the Mets will trade Victor Zambrano now that they have removed him from the rotation. -- Chuck M., Towson, Md.

A: Can't say for sure right now. The club has to see what happens with Steve Trachsel, a potential free agent. But Zambrano's move to the bullpen does suggest Randolph is more comfortable with another pitcher starting. The reliability of Trachsel seems to trump Zambrano's potential.

Q: Will Yusmeiro Petit begin next season in the Major Leagues? -- Sharon N., Lansing, Mich.

A: That's quite unlikely. But no one would be surprised if he were in the Major Leagues at this time next year. Pitchers come quickly, particularly power pitchers. But Petit isn't one. The Mets like him, but they have starting pitching they need to know more about -- Kaz Ishii, for instance.

Q: Who was the first Mets player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season? -- T.R.S., West Palm Beach, Fla.

A: Howard Johnson beat Darryl Strawberry to that distinction by a few weeks in 1987.

Q: Do you think David Wright will get some support for MVP? -- Terry M., Burlington, Vt.

A: Perhaps near the bottom of some ballots. The Mets' last-place standing will hurt him and any Mets candidate. Moreover, Cliff Floyd clearly was the Mets' most valuable asset in the first half for the season. Had the Mets made a move with Wright continuing to hit as he did in the first seven weeks after the break, he probably would have challenged any candidate other than Andruw Jones and Albert Pujols.

Q: Are either Dwight Gooden or Darryl Strawberry in the Mets Hall of Fame? -- Chuck K., Somerset, N.Y.

A: No.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.