If Pedro Martinez were to retire today, what would his chances be of being elected to the Hall of Fame?
-- John O., Pinole, Cailf.

Quite good. My sense of it is that he would be automatic. Martinez has credentials in every way. He has been a successful pitcher and a dominating athlete. He has great distinction, charisma and charm. Those intangibles do matter. It is the Hall of Fame. And he has a postseason resume. The 3,000 strikeouts don't make him a more compelling candidate. He didn't need them. But they certainly don't hurt his candidacy.

Three Cy Young Awards make him a quite viable candidate, and the following is quite compelling: Martinez has produced an ERA at least two runs lower than his league's average in four seasons (1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003). There are merely 30 other comparable instances in big league history. The difference in his 2000 season was 3.17 -- 1.74 to 4.91 -- the greatest ever (minimum: 150 innings). The difference in his 1999 season -- 2.79, 2.07 to 4.86 -- is the second greatest.

And though the 3,000 strikeouts are a milestone, the following has more impact: Martinez's career strikeout ratio -- strikeouts per nine innings -- is the third highest, 10.20, among pitchers with at least 1,000 career innings. Of the 15 pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts, only Martinez, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson have more strikeouts than innings.

When Martinez finished his Sunday start, he had thrown 2,650 2/3 innings and had 3,002 strikeouts. Ryan, the all-time strikeout leader with 5,714, threw 5,386 innings, and Johnson, third in strikeouts behind Roger Clemens, has 4,616 in 3,855 1/3.

Six of the 100 highest, single-season ratios are his, including the second highest. He struck out 313 batters in 213 1/3 innings in 1999, a ratio of 13.20 that stands behind only the 13.41 Johnson established two years later.

Martinez's first outing was a success. Assuming he can continue to be at least a good starting pitcher through the rest of September, the Mets seem to have a good problem on their hands -- who starts in the playoffs? It would seem that Martinez and Tom Glavine are locks for a four-man postseason rotation. That means one of three -- John Maine, Orlando Hernandez and Oliver Perez -- might pitch out of the bullpen. But which one? I would pick El Duque, who has experience -- having done so with the 2005 White Sox. How do you see this shaping up?
-- Matt S., Bayside, N.Y.

It's too early to speculate. Too many things can happen. The Mets can conclude nothing about Martinez until late September.

The White Sox used El Duque in relief because they believed they had better options for starters. The Mets don't have that. He starts.

I wouldn't use Perez in relief. He's too erratic for the role. But I'd be quite curious about Maine in short relief. His first innings are usually quite dominating. I don't think the Mets would suddenly use him in short relief, especially because the NLCS may require four starters. But Maine may be a Dave Righetti-type -- so good in short bursts that relief may be his calling.

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Question:

I hear you've written the Mets likely will exercise their option for 2008 on Moises Alou's contract. But wouldn't it be wiser to pursue someone younger, such as Carl Crawford? It's no secret that Crawford is going to be available at season's end and could be had with the proper pitching package. What do you think about possibly trading Mike Pelfrey and Anderson Hernandez for Crawford?
-- Daniel B., Bronx, N.Y.

With Glavine likely to retire and El Duque a year older, the Mets can't go trading a starting pitching prospect, especially when their need for an outfielder can be filled from within with a genuine prospect. They believe their future outfield will include some combination of Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge and Carlos Beltran. Because of time lost to injury this season, Gomez probably won't be ready for full-time big league duty next season. Alou is a hedge against that as well as being a productive hitter. The club accepts the likelihood of Alou's missing time to injury.

With the club unsure of what will happen with Paul Lo Duca and quite aware of Luis Castillo's injured knee, I'd be surprised if they traded pitching for an outfielder.

What are your thoughts about Alou's Hall of Fame chances? He has quietly put together quite a career, with a lifetime average better than .300 and more than 300 home runs. Plus, I believe he is one of the nicer people in professional sports, although I don't know if that carries any weight with the HOF voters.
-- Jon G., Cortland, N.Y.

If niceness were a consideration, the Hall would be quite overcrowded. And I suspect if players with credentials comparable to Alou's were inducted, it would be overcrowded and no longer be a place for the elite players of the game. Alou has forged a brilliant career; he is an accomplished hitter. But my sense of it is that injuries have prevented him from accumulating the kind of resume required for legitimate Hall of Fame consideration.

He seems to fit in a group of some terrific players who have been excluded -- Joe Torre, Vada Pinson, Rusty Staub, Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez, Dick Allen, Tony Oliva and Jim Rice.

Castillo appears to be playing at 50 percent, if that, because of his ailing right knee. His injury is giving me flashbacks of Cliff Floyd and his Achilles tendon last year. With the Mets currently holding a fairly comfortable lead in the NL East, what are the chances of Castillo getting a week or so off before the possible postseason?
-- Ryan B., Conn.

The sooner the Mets clinch, or approach clinching -- let's say a magic number of six -- the sooner Castillo will get some time off. The Phillies and Braves played each other Sept. 25-27. Even if they're not already eliminated by then, I'd imagine Castillo would take a day or two. Right now, he wants to play.

You twice have written that if David Wright hits 30 home runs, it will be the fifth time in Mets history a player has produced a 30-30 season. It would be the sixth time. You have Howard Johnson doing it twice, in 1987 and '89. He also did it in 1991 to go along with the two times Darryl Strawberry did it.
-- Jonathan B., Brooklyn, N.Y.

The story from Thursday says: "If Wright achieves a 30-30 season, it will be the fifth in Mets history, and the first since 1991, when Howard Johnson produced his third 30-30 campaign. Now the Mets' hitting coach, Johnson stole 30 and hit 30 in 1987 and '89 as well. He and Darryl Strawberry produced 30-30 seasons with the 1987 Mets and, along with Dante Bichette and Ellis Burks of the 1996 Rockies, constitute the only two sets of teammates to reach 30-30 in the same season."

Strawberry had one 30-30 season, 1987. The Mets have had four.

I have some confusion over how the September roster expansion works. Joe Smith and Carlos Gomez were both assigned to the disabled list Sept. 1. Both were on the Mets' 40-man roster, but not eligible for the active roster. Now, Gomez is playing in the big leagues and Smith is pitching in Triple-A. Are they, like Martinez, eligible to play in the final month of the season? How is their playoff eligibility affected?
-- Jesse G. Levittown, Pa.

Each can play in September and in the postseason.

"From the dugout" interviews during a game are uncomfortable enough. Actually having John Smoltz and Glavine on the same line from opposing dugouts while the game is going on, in the heat of a pennant race, was just awful. Is this really necessary?
-- Steve K., Niskayuna, N.Y.

I can see your point. But Major League Baseball allows cameras in the dugouts now. At least neither was participating in the game being televised by FOX that day (Sept. 1).

Marlon Anderson has been a hot hitter for the last two weeks. Is he more valuable in the lineup or off the bench at this point in the season?
-- Jim M., Edgewater Fla.

Coming off the bench to bat is said to be the game's most challenging assignment. Anderson is remarkably effective in that role, and the Mets have defenders better equipped than Anderson at other positions.