And Spring Training still has days to come and problems to create.
The Era of Ollie is at its euthanasian end. This current era of the Mets, a time that seems destined to remind us of the missteps of M. Donald Grant, Vince Coleman, Armando Benitez (with the bases loaded), Robbie Alomar and Daniel Murphy in left field, is approaching its third season.
My first impression of the 2011 Mets-in-the-Making was a one-word alert: duck. I'm not convinced I was wrong. But since then -- "then" being the first weeks of March -- I have been persuaded to cancel the warning.
That Perez has been Met-issoned is reason for a Queens "Hallelujah" -- not to be confused with a Bronx cheer. Perez's presence -- forget his performance -- was harmful. What player wants an everyday reminder that a selfish colleague with a work ethic worse than his command is stealing money at a rate that only Madoff could appreciate?
As Boss Steinbrenner once said about poor Tucker Ashford, Ollie Perez "has fooled us long enough."
Actually, three years too long.
That Murphy appears to have been eliminated from the competition at second base is another reason to shed a layer of despair. Murphy has an admirable work ethic and determination, and a productive bat, but he ought not to be allowed near the middle of the diamond unless he's running the bases.
The Mets were hoping for an overnight Joe Hardy miracle by playing Murphy at second base, but now it seems they are acting with conventional baseball wisdom in mind. A team that has no discernible strength can't give away games it is in position to win by compromising its up-the-middle defense for the sake of its offense.
The decision to remove Castillo is a hybrid of the other two strategies. His presence was a drag to the public, which had no qualms about expressing its displeasure. He was a better teammate and performer than Perez, but regardless of the Phillies signing him, his time as the right man for the second-base job in Queens clearly had passed.
* * *
After conversations with other folks around the Mets and with former colleagues, I've concluded that Perez is the worst-equipped player I have covered in nearly 40 years. A lack of command, subpar velocity and the backbone of an invertebrate made him susceptible to all that has happened. But his utter lack of baseball intellect should have made him a hands-off no-sign before former general manager Omar Minaya bestowed $36 million on him.
Repeat: Randy Wolf was a cheaper and wiser investment. But the SS Wolf long ago left the harbor.
This is neither ridicule nor sarcasm: I don't believe Perez had the wherewithal to learn what was presented him by his tutors. Forget his moments of effectiveness, his lack of conditioning during the World Baseball Classic, the knee injury that subsequently -- and mysteriously -- developed and his inability to identify which knee pained him: Perez couldn't apply what he was taught.
Of course, now Rick Peterson will resurface, place his hand on Ollie's shoulder and squeeze an 11-8 record out of the stone. And some foolish GM will take the Scott Boras bait next winter.
Ollie won't be the Mets' headache then, or now. So praise be to GM Sandy Alderson for doing what needed to be done and putting together what might become a representative rotation. It will be a five-man grouping with neither a No. 1 nor a No. 2 starter. But in the unlikely event that the rotation of Mike Pelfrey, Chris Young, R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano and Jon Niese makes 100 to 110 starts before the possible summer return of Santana, and in the unlikely event Santana is all he was, the Mets might have enough to win 75 to 80 games.
With lingering questions about Santana, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, second base and the left-handed relief, and the possibility of selling off talent come late July, a break-even season or something slightly less should be welcome.
But will it appease those who have claimed to be waiting for the exiles of Perez and Castillo before forming lines at Citi Field ticket windows? Most ticket sales occur before Opening Day, but not quite so close to Game 1 of 162. And despite Alderson's well-conceived approach, a strong sense remains that no one hates the Mets more than a Mets fan.
Malcontents aren't readily satisfied.