Jose Reyes continues to make mistakes, but it seems manager Jerry Manuel does everything but call him out. He makes excuses for him. Yet Ryan Church, who plays as hard as anyone on this team, gets the wrath of his skipper for whatever reason Manuel had at the time. Should Manuel be treating Reyes differently? Has anyone in the clubhouse talked to Reyes and delivered the message that what's he doing is unacceptable and selfish? Or does this team miss that type of edge as well?
-- Robert N., Archbald, Pa.

Manuel tried in Spring Training to instill a sense of responsibility in Reyes. If a change has occurred, it hasn't been visible to the naked eye. Reyes is still prone to moments of mindless play. Witness his baserunning last week. I don't know what to make of it, and the Mets are befuddled as well. It's not as though he's 22 with a half year in the big leagues. He is standing up to a degree after game in which his flawed play is questioned; that is a positive sign. But I know of no situation in which a teammate, coach or manager has addressed his misplays with him in any way that demands improvement. I get the sense that, with Reyes, the Mets tread on eggshells.

Manuel seems to be unnecessarily blunt when he speaks of Church, for what reason I don't know. Batting him eighth and having him pinch-hit against left-handed pitchers doesn't seem to jive with what a manager is supposed to do, i.e., use his players in situation in which they have the best chance for success.

For some reason, whenever Jose Valentin is around, Reyes' statistics increase dramatically. Shouldn't the Mets consider bringing Valentin up as a bench coach to keep him around the team?
-- Anthony V., Boston, Mass.

Valentin no longer is in the Mets' employ. He was released by the club in Spring Training and decided against playing in the Minor Leagues.

With Carlos Delgado out for a while, shouldn't Gary Sheffield be considered as a replacement at first base? He used to be an infielder and now is a below-average outfielder. Jeremy Reed and Fernando Tatis are better outfielders than Sheffield, so shouldn't the Mets place him at first to keep him in the lineup and have better fielders in the outfield?
-- Tommy P., Linkoping, Sweden

Sheffield won't be confused with Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand or the Andruw Jones of 1999, but he has acquitted himself fairly well in the outfield. And I dare say he would be less of a first baseman. Moreover, Reed looked quite comfortable at first base. Delgado saves throws in the dirt, but mostly, he is what used to be a prototypical first baseman, a player the team tried to "hide" at first base. Off first impressions, Reed has more natural ability at first than Delgado. Reed also is a superior outfielder, but as long as he's not going to be playing the outfield regularly, he might benefit the team most as a first baseman, especially when Mike Pelfrey pitches.

Do Joe Morgan and Jon Miller read the standings? The Mets are the hottest team in baseball and they're in first place. And the two ESPN announcers spent most of Sunday night's game pointing out what's wrong with the Mets -- lack of leadership, Carlos Beltran isn't that good, Jose Reyes makes mistakes. What about the bottom line? They're winning the National League East.
-- Chuck F., Allendale, N.J.

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I suspect they were looking to the ultimate bottom line -- the final standings -- and providing their take on how the race will turn, given what the Mets have done and have not done. Morgan addressed the comments made weeks ago by general manager Omar Minaya, regarding the club's lack of an edge. I think he confused edge and leadership.

Judging by how the Mets performed in each of the past two Septembers, they do lack an edge, not completely, but they don't appear to be a team that handles adversity as well as it might. Leadership is part of that, but not all of that. The link between leadership and having a team with an edge is indirect.

When Pete Rose moved to the Phillies, he didn't necessarily make Mike Schmidt or anyone else a tougher out.

I have thought for two years that what Steve Phillips said Sunday is true -- that it is impossible, or least difficult, for David Wright to assert himself in a clubhouse of players who have more playing time than he does, players who were his "superiors" when he broke in. Even though Beltran is a quiet player with few conspicuous leadership qualities, and even though Delgado has stepped away from the leadership role, Wright defers to them. I don't think he can be blamed for showing respect for more accomplished players.

What do you see the Mets doing long term with Bobby Parnell? It is obvious he can more than get by in the bullpen with just his slider and fastball, but he was groomed as a starter in the Minors and if he had a decent changeup or splitter to keep hitters honest, he could be really effective there. I remember hearing that guys used to spend a season or two doing mop up work in the 'pen before becoming starters (see Nolan Ryan with the Mets, John Santana and Francisco Liriano with the Twins). Any chance the Mets start doing this with their young guys?

They have drafted quite a few young promising guys the past few years, and if they could be effective like Parnell out of the 'pen then it would save the Mets from having to give guaranteed contracts to guys in their 'pen and allow them to move those not performing well to the Minor Leagues, giving others opportunities.
-- Brian P., Atlanta, Ga.

First off, Parnell was given the opportunity last year and again in Spring Training because he throws strikes and has swing-and-miss stuff. The Mets needed both qualities; they acquired J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez to address the need. Only Billy Wagner and the 2006 versions of Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman provided that in recent seasons. Not all young pitchers have that ability. From what I can see, a dearth of pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff and the ability to throw strikes exists throughout the game. I suspect Parnell is destined to pitch in short relief.

What has happened to Nick Evans? He had a tremendous spring and now he's been demoted to Double-A? Is Fernando Martinez going to make the club this year? Why isn't Reed getting more starts? He too had a great spring and seems capable of being a breakout player.
-- David B., Vero Beach, Fla.

Evans batted .093 in his first 75 at-bats at Triple-A Buffalo, hence his demotion to the Double-A Binghamton team. He has yet to the play for Binghamton. He is in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in the extended spring training program. Fernando Martinez still is learning at the Triple-A level. After a spring lost to injury, he is playing regularly with Buffalo. He leads the low-scoring Bisons in RBIs with 20 in 135 at-bats, his first at-bats at the Triple-A level. He hasn't mastered his skills in Triple-A. Give him some time.

Reed may -- and probably should -- play more now that Delgado is unavailable for what appears to be an extended period. But remember, Reed's role was as a reserve outfielder, and his big league resume doesn't suggest he will be a productive hitter with additional opportunities.

And, generally, don't believe what you see in Spring Training. "Tremendous" spring and "great" spring are oxymorons. Good results in Spring Training games don't mean that much. Poor results do, however.