Apr 23

April 23.10: Chat Room, Game #17 vs. Braves: Reyes hitting third.

I am not a second guesser and won’t start tonight. So let me go on record now – and again – before the game to denounce the move of Jose Reyes to the third spot in the order.

It will be the first time since 2005 Reyes will bat anywhere other than leadoff.

I don’t care if Reyes gets on four times tonight, I believe in the long term this move will inevitably backfire because eventually it will force the speedy shortstop outside his game.

Reyes, arguably the game’s premier leadoff hitter, is being asked to take his skills to the third slot under the guise of getting more fastballs for the struggling Jason Bay.

You see, explains Manuel, Bay’s problems stem from not getting enough fastballs, and putting a base stealer ahead of him theoretically will get those fastballs. Just out of curiosity, who was the great base stealer ahead of him in Boston? Was it David Ortiz?

For years, the Mets have been telling anybody who would listen Reyes is their offensive catalyst, that him at the top of the order is what gets the team going. So, naturally, when Reyes is just starting to feel comfortable they move him to a position with the high potential of inducing bad plate habits.

However, Reyes insists he’s not going to do all the things when one plays outside himself after being moved to a run-producing slot in the order. There will be no poor pitch selection, no trying to loft the ball and pull, no trying to hit home runs.

Throughout his career Reyes has fallen into these habits after hitting a home run or two. Willie Randolph used to cringe whenever Reyes homered.

“I’m going to be me,’’ Reyes insists. “I’m going to take it like I’m going to be leadoff. He explained it to me. I said, `I don’t have a problem Jerry.’ ’’

Easier said than done. When thrust into an unfamiliar role it is human nature to want to live up to the dynamics of that role. The No. 3 hitter is supposed to be your best hitter, one with the combination of average and power. It is not a speed position.

For the Mets, that player is a healthy Carlos Beltran, and in his absence, David Wright.

But we’re going to get Reyes, who even under ideal circumstances sometimes swings too long.

It will be very easy to fall into bad habits in this role.

A less dramatic solution would be to move Bay out of the clean-up slot, perhaps to No. 2, or maybe temporarily sixth. Instead of moving the player with the problem, the Mets’ solution is to juggle the entire line-up. Not only will Reyes move, but also Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan.

There are other options, but none would fill the leadoff slot as well as Reyes. So, in essence the Mets are weakening two slots in the batting order with this gamble.

The Mets’ offense hasn’t been doing well, but the team had won three of its last four games. Most of the Mets’ problems when they lose have been pitching related.

If John Maine spits the bit tonight, it probably won’t matter what Reyes and Bay do.

Nobody with the Mets – not just Bay – failed to hit against the Cardinals. So, why didn’t Manuel do this then? Oh yeah, because Reyes said he was uncomfortable in that role.

Here’s tonight’s line-up for the Mets:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RP

Apr 16

April 16.10: Paging Carlos Beltran.

General manager Omar Minaya gave us a projection early this month that Carlos Beltran would be back around late May, which was four to six weeks after resuming baseball activities.

Well, that time frame is right now and Beltran hasn’t even begun running. Based on what’s going on, we might be looking now at June if not July and the All-Star break.

Fact is, Beltran, if he hasn’t started running, doesn’t have any real timetable. They can say four to six weeks from baseball activities all night, but they have no idea when that will be.

Would it surprise you if we didn’t see Beltran to the second half of the season if at all? Wouldn’t shock me.

Part of the fallout of Beltran’s absence is the issue of Jose Reyes batting third.

Here’s what Jeff Francoeur has to say about it: “I don’t want to see that. Not at all. He’s the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the game, and I want to see him there. Who knows what we’ll do? But I’m just saying, he’s never been really a run producer. He’s been more of a guy to score 150 runs. … I’m just saying, I think he’s the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the league… Reyes has always hit leadoff to me for a reason. He’s the best. He gets on base, steals, makes things happen.’’

Jerry Manuel says he wants Reyes to maintain his same approach in the three hole. It will never happen because the demands and job description batting third differ from batting first. Reyes gets into trouble when he plays outside himself and attempts to loft the ball instead of hitting it on the ground and line drives into the gap.

You will see a definite change in Reyes’ approach if they go ahead with this.

The No. 3 hitter should be the team’s best hitter, which is to say the best combination of average and power, and that’s David Wright.

There is nobody who comes close to being able to do what Reyes does as the leadoff hitter. For years we’ve been hearing how Reyes is the catalyst to the Mets offense. Why would they want to tinker with that?