Clubhouse Confidential: Collision Course

When the paths of Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran intersected violently on Thursday afternoon, with both players lying pained and shocked on the outfield grass, it was hard not to think that the Mets' season had just reached its end (Premium Column Content).

When the paths of Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran intersected violently on Thursday afternoon, , with both players lying pained and shocked on the outfield grass, it was hard not to think that the Mets' season had just reached its end.

With two of the club's cornerstone producers sprawled out at San Diego's PETCO Park, and a paramedics crew en route to help a dazed, immobile Cameron, one of the ugliest collisions in baseball history – not an exaggeration – also seemed to have dealt a lethal blow toward the Mets' postseason hopes.

In case you missed it, it all unfolded this way: with San Diego's David Ross batting in the home half of the seventh inning, Beltran and Cameron both raced in pursuit of a one-out flare to short right-center field.

Carlos Beltran, left, and rightfielder Mike Cameron hit the ground after colliding while trying to catch a fly ball Thursday Aug. 11, 2005 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Both players, aggressively chasing the ball like the centerfielders they are, launched into full-speed diving efforts and smashed faces with each other, littering sunglasses and caps on the outfield turf as Ross rounded the bags for a pinch-hit triple.

A delay of 13 minutes followed, in which Beltran eventually stood and woozily walked off the field under his own power. Beltran was cheered by the San Diego crowd, a strange reaction considering Cameron was still sprawled lifelessly in right-center field, barely responding to teammates or medical staff.

"I feel like I got hit by a train," Beltran – who suffered a sore left shoulder and a cut near his left temple – told reporters.

And he got the better of it. A bloodied and dazed Cameron was wheeled to nearby Mercy Hospital, where he was diagnosed with multiple fractures of both cheekbones, a broken nose and a concussion.

"It choked me up for a minute," Cliff Floyd told reporters. "We were laughing, giggling one minute. The next minute my man was laying on the ground - both of them."

With just 48 games remaining in the Mets' schedule, Cameron's season could be over. Beltran will attempt to play, but judging by the way he clutched his shoulder in anguish Thursday, his productivity could be severely limited.

The beautiful San Diego afternoon became even more ugly in the eighth inning, when Floyd was hit in the left kneecap by a pitch by Padres reliever Akinori Otsuka.

Laying face-down at home plate, the irony in Floyd's injury was unbelievable: not only were the Mets going to lose this game (they did, 2-1), but they'd also lost their entire starting outfield.

Luckily for Floyd and Beltran, it didn't work out that way.

But what the Mets have lost is a little bit of their swagger and presence – could this be a second straight September featuring 38-year-old Gerald Williams, the symbol of the Mets' white flag, as a regular performer in the outfield? – and four games out of the Wild Card race with four teams to jump, they might have lost a good chunk of their chances to continue play in October.

Should Beltran need to go on the disabled list, a leading candidate for a taste of the big leagues would likely be Triple-A outfielder Angel Pagan, a speedster who can pick it in center field.

Williams and Chris Woodward could fill in there as well; calling up Double-A outfielder Lastings Milledge is not an option at age 20, for fear of making fans view him as the team's savior (on a related note, Jeff Duncan - 2003's version of that situation - asked for and was granted his release from Double-A Binghamton this week).

***

Unbelievable, but Tom Glavine pitched well enough to win again on Thursday and the bats didn't come through for him.

It's a running, tongue-in-cheek joke inside the Mets' clubhouse that the team has cost Glavine his shot at 300 victories, and with the lefthander 30 wins shy at age 39, there may be more truth to it than some think.

Naturally, there's no concrete statistic to quantify what should be a winning performance based solely upon earned runs, runs allowed and innings pitched, but the quality start (six innings, three or less runs allowed) is thought of as a decent indicator, even though a pitcher who turned in the minimum quality start every time would have a 4.50 ERA.

Based upon Thursday's effort, we'll temporarily change the rules of the quality start to an even more readily winning performance – seven innings or more and two runs or less.

How many times has Glavine met these qualifications and failed to earn a victory, solely based upon his lack of run support or the implosion of the bullpen? About as often as you'd think, some quick research showed:

Tom Glavine starts with 7+ IP and two or less runs allowed

2005: 2 losses, 1 no-decision
2004: 2 losses, 4 no-decisions
2003: 1 loss, two no-decisions

That's 12 potential victories down the tubes, which would potentially have left Glavine with just 18 wins left to reach baseball's hallowed plateau.

***

23-year-old Victor Diaz, who re-joins the Mets Friday in Los Angeles, has been worthy of a call-up while toiling at Triple-A Norfolk.

Since July 1st, Diaz has hit .328 (44-for-134) with eight home runs and 27 RBI. In 33 games, Diaz has scored 25 runs, driven in 27, mashed 11 doubles and stolen six bases; six of the doubles have come in just eight games in August.

Diaz has been especially hot with runners in scoring position at the Triple-A level this year, hitting .362 (17-47) with four homers and 26 RBI.

If you'll remember, the Mets started working Diaz out at first base earlier this summer when Doug Mientkiewicz went into an extended hitting slump and subsequently was injured; now, ironically, the Mets need Diaz back to play right field.

***

The New York Post reported Friday that the Mets have signed reliever Shingo Takatsu to a minor league contract, assigning the righthander to Triple-A Norfolk for what agent Joe Urbon called a "2-1/2 week tryout."

It would appear that strong performances by the soft-tossing Takatsu, 36, would likely have a target on 40-year-old reliever Roberto Hernandez, who has been very hittable of late and appears to be wearing thin as the summer drones on.

Takatsu was 1-2 with a 5.97 ERA in 31 games for the White Sox this season, losing his closer's job to Dustin Hermanson in April when his ERA never dipped below 8.00. He'd later lose his roster spot to rookie Bobby Jenks, prompting manager Ozzie Guillen to tell . reporters: "This is one of my toughest days. I fell in love with the man. I fell in love with that kid. He was a great teammate and did a lot of good things for us, for me especially. It was hard."

Inside Pitch managing editor Bryan Hoch appears every Friday with 'Clubhouse Confidential', an inside look at the Mets organization. Bryan can be contacted at metsinsidepitch@aol.com.


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