Three games into the postseason and on the eve of their second October series -- and with the Yankees already having settled on a manager for at least the rest of the month -- the Mets lead all of baseball in uncertainty.
The identity of their left fielder was undecided as they left Shea Stadium on Tuesday. The starting pitcher assignment for Games 2 and 3 evidently changed at one point during their workout, the Game 4 assignment went to Oliver Perez, himself a maybe and a perhaps. And whether the club would carry two or three catchers or 11 or 12 pitchers still was to be determined on the eve of Wednesday's Game 1 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series against the Cardinals.
Manager Willie Randolph, the final decision maker, sees no value in making any decision before he must. (See Orlando Hernandez last week.) And because the club need not submit its roster before 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, Randolph met with players and staff on Tuesday, listened, mulled and withheld judgment.
Almost all the decisions awaiting him are affected by the condition of Cliff Floyd's left Achilles tendon. If Randolph believes Floyd can play and not be a risk -- and that still seemed unlikely on Tuesday -- a number of issues are settled.
Randolph watched Floyd take fly balls Tuesday afternoon and though he offered no assessment, Floyd said, "It didn't feel as good as I wanted it to," and acknowledged the condition of his Achilles was more likely to deteriorate than improve the more he played. Floyd said he would communicate that to his manager.
If Floyd is excluded from the roster, Endy Chavez would move from understudy to left fielder, and Shawn Green would inherit Floyd's No. 6 slot in the batting order -- and the responsibility of protecting David Wright. The Mets would then add an outfielder -- veteran left-handed hitter Ricky Ledee or rookie right-handed hitter Lastings Milledge -- to fill the reserve role Chavez has filled so splendidly this season. Or they might add middle infielder Anderson Hernandez to the roster and have Chris Woodward, an infielder in 90 percent of his defensive innings in the regular season, serve as a reserve outfielder.
Woodward, told to work in the outfield on Tuesday, did so.
The reserve strength of the Mets, while important, isn't as critical as it might be with other teams, because the Mets regularly use the same seven or eight players, particularly in the postseason. They seldom, if ever, pinch-hit for their shortstop, second baseman, catcher or center fielder as other teams do. That tendency is one of the reasons the club may carry two catchers and not three as it had planned to do in the NLDS before the injury to El Duque made a 12th pitcher essential and a 14th position player impossible.
The presence of a third catcher -- Mike DiFelice -- would allow Randolph to carry Ramon Castro, not so much as a catcher, but more as a right-handed pinch-hitter. Castro likes the idea, because he knows he is unlikely to play -- even as a pinch-hitter -- if he is the lone understudy to Paul Lo Duca.
Project Perez to pitch: Although the name Dave Williams was mentioned several times by Mets personnel on Monday, and although Williams did have a pretty good performance -- two runs in 6 1/3 innings in a victory -- against the Cardinals on Aug. 24, Perez is the Game 4 starter. He was considered a project when they acquired him on July 31 and thought to be more likely to start the fifth game next season than the fourth game of a postseason series this year.
John Maine, who started Game 1 of the NLDS, will start Game 2 of the NLCS, and Steve Trachsel will start Game 3. But at one point on Tuesday, Trachsel was the Game 2 starter.
Trainer's room: Carlos Beltran strained an abdominal muscle during batting practice on Saturday. He said it doesn't affect his ability to reach with his glove and that it might be a beneficial restriction of his swing. "No big swings," he said. "It might help me like [Paul Lo Duca's damaged thumb ligaments] help him. ... Hernandez still believes the torn muscle in his right calf, the injury that has eliminated him from the first two postseason series, will heal enough by Oct. 21, the date of Game 1 of the World Series, to allow him to pitch in the Series.
A different kind of pain: Billy Wagner has a knot in the same location as Beltran's strain, but his is caused by emotions. It will go away some time Wednesday night as soon as he can begin to believe what he said Tuesday.
"You start to feel a destiny," he said. "That something's gonna happen, no matter how you screw things up."
Echoes of '82: Wright hardly is a Cardinals historian, but he has been exposed -- overexposed, he says -- to one facet of the Cardinals history. Ken Oberkfell, the third baseman for the 1982 Cardinals World Series championship team, was Wright's manager during the Wright's ascent through the Minor Leagues.
"And all he ever talked about was that team," Wright said, laughing. "Eighty-two this, '82 that. And I don't think that was the only year in their history."
This date in Mets history, Oct. 11: The '69 Mets lost for the last time. The Orioles won the first game of the World Series, 4-1, on this date, beating Tom Seaver in Baltimore. Don Buford led off the Orioles' first with a home run, and the O's scored three times in the fifth. Mike Cuellar pitched a complete game. The Orioles scored five runs in the remaining four games. They had losing streaks of four games in August and five games, after they had clinched, in September. But in no four-game sequence in their first 156 games did they score so few as five runs. The Yankees (three games) and Tigers (one) held them to five runs during a four-game sequence from Sept. 26-29.
A bunt and a bomb produced a 6-5 Mets victory on Oct. 11, 1986. Wally Backman led off the ninth inning with a bunt single. Two batters later, Lenny Dykstra hit a two-run home run off Dave Smith to beat the Astros in Game 3 of the NLCS. The Mets scored the decisive runs in Games 3, 5 and 6 in their final at-bats.
In 1988 on this date, David Cone, battered in Game 2, beat the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, pitching a complete game in the Mets' 5-1 victory. ... Twelve years later, Mike Hampton pitched seven scoreless innings, and Jay Payton and Todd Zeile hit home runs in the Mets' 6-2 victory against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS. The Cardinals scored their runs, both unearned, in the ninth.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.