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May 09, 2003

Mets should gel, not cut
By Rob Dibble

Having played seven years in the major leagues, I've seen my share of strange clubhouse happenings during games.

The Mets have lots of talented, quality players. They've struggled thus far mainly due to injuries and because they've yet to gel as a team.

In fact, it's not all that uncommon for players to wander from the dugout to the clubhouse to stretch, rehab or whatever. But considering the Mets' poor start, there is no good reason for Rey Sanchez to be getting his hair cut during a game -- especially one they're losing.

The Mets have lot of talented, quality players. They've struggled thus far mainly due to injuries and because they've yet to gel as a team. Sanchez, who's hitting .179 and has struck out 12 times, isn't helping matters. In the media capital of the world, across town from the always-polished Yankees, this situation only serves as good fodder for the press to pounce on.

Certainly, there are circumstances when it's reasonable for a guy to leave the bench. I've actually had first-hand experience.

When I was playing with the Reds, we were at the old Houston Astrodome and I had gone in to pitch a couple of relief innings. In the top of the ninth we broke the score wide open. We were not in a save situation and there was no need for a closer. I thought they would pinch-hit for me, so I went to the clubhouse and did what I would normally do -- strip down to my skivvies, grab a beer and put my arm on ice.

Just as I was getting comfortable, our pitching coach called, "Hey Dibs, you're on deck."

Everyone was waiting on me while I dug through the dirty laundry and put my uniform back on. I went out there, struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth and no one was the wiser.

On another occasion, during the 1990 the World Series, my teammate Tom Browning had to leave because his wife was having a baby. The only person who knew he left was equipment manager, Rick Stowe. The game went into extra innings. I pitched into the 10th, but when Lou Piniella called on Tom, no one could find him. Luckily, we had a deep bullpen and we won the game, so it was never made into a big deal.

Those kind of freaky things happen all of the time.

But there's a big difference between a circumstantial situation and a carefree approach to losing. If your team is winning, it's not a big deal. But if your team is losing, you better have your butt on the bench during the entire game.

The major-league lifestyle is one in which you're committed seven days a week for eight straight months, but there is plenty of down time between workouts and games to do what you've got to do.

At 13-18 the Mets are only seven games back from the Atlanta Braves. Art Howe is a great manager who will certainly help this team come together. I know a lot of Mets' players and I know that losing is killin' them. And when they do start playing to their capabilities, they'll be a force in the National League. Now is not the time to be messing around.

Former Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble is an ESPN baseball analyst and a co-host of "The Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN Radio. Dibble, who was co-MVP of the the 1990 NLCS, contributes regularly to

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