Friday, May 05, 2006

The Good Times Are Killing Me

Game 28 - Mets

Mets 6, Pirates 0
Record: 19-9

. . . and by "me,"I mean a certain husky outfielder who's spent the last few years being a day late and a buck short of locking in an everyday role for the New York Mets.

Take the case of Victor Diaz, if you will, a young outfielder who'd played in spots over the past two seasons with the Mets. Diaz had been unable to crack through an outfield roamed regularly by Cliff Floyd, Carlos Beltran, and especially Mike Cameron, who played Diaz's natural right-field position. Cameron's skills stood in direct contrast to Diaz's, and to some the two players complemented each other. Mike Cameron's stellar defense and speed on the paths were juxtaposed by Victor Diaz's plain lack of either. They did, however, both sport some pop in their bats without spending nearly enough time on base. In the end, Victor got the short end of the stick, notching regular starts in 2005 only when Cam leaped into Beltran's face and out of the lineup.

Last winter, I can only imagine Diaz was thrilled to hear that Cameron was dealt to San Diego, even if an outfielder was coming back in the trade. After all, the new Met was Xavier Nady, a guy that couldn't manage a starting role on a club with some of the weakest offensive numbers in baseball. Statistically, the two players had nearly identical '05 stats. Victor Diaz had to figure that as the semi-incumbent, it would be at the very least a platoon situation with an opportunity for him to win the job outright.

Wow, has the early-going unfolded in a vastly darker way for Mr. Diaz. Nady has been tearing the cover off it since his arrival, delivering timely hits and dramatic homers here and there as the starting RF for the Mets. Somewhere decidely south of there, Victor Diaz has been languishing for the AAA Tides, providing equally ineffective support during his scattershot visits to the bigs. It's just not working out the way he had to envision it so far in '06.

Last night in Columbus, Diaz sparked a rally with a leadoff home run in the sixth. The solo shot propelled his International League average up to .200, nearly 20 points higher than his National League figure. It was a start -- just back from his latest unproductive venture to The Show, it would be nice to think that he could get it in gear and make a run; as documented here, the Mets' bench could use a hand.

Then three things happened -- three things that were good for the Mets and bad for Victor Diaz.
In the seventh inning in New York, Xavier Nady turned a tenuous 2-1 lead over the Pirates into a 5-2 coast by crushing a pitch over the center field wall. Nady's 1-for-4 night produced four ribbies but lowered his average to a team-leading .310.

Next, Jose Valentin produced a pinch-hit. If Valentin continues his slow, calculated commando crawl uphill towards mediocrity, the woes of the reserves may not demand Diaz's promotion quite as desperately.

Finally, new Tide and longtime big-leaguer Michael Tucker homered, doubled, and singled, adding another wrinkle to the outfield picture, not to mention Diaz's furrowed brow. Victor needs more OF competition like a hold in the head; hoping against hope that it inspires him to play his best baseball is the straw at which we're left to grasp now. (Oh, and just to pile on, Lastings Milledge homered last night as well.)

And so goes the tale of Victor "V.D." Diaz, who, unlike his initials, can't seem to catch on and stay for the duration, but who does, however, respresent a painful tale that leaves the man scratching his head and wondering how it happened.

The story isn't through, though; a baseball season is an eternity, and we/he can expect many a twist and turn in the road before it's all played out. Victor, the time is now to bear down, keep the energy high, and think positively that a few will fall in for you before long. May your grounders have eyes, your liners have tails, and your flies have legs.

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