When are the Mets going to give up on John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez? Together, what are they -- 18-19? They could get kids to do that. Maine's always hurt, Pelfrey has "issues" and Perez has been less than stellar. They ought to move on and bring up some kids with a chance.
-- Terry M., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Your solution lacks specificity just as the Mets' system lacks candidates ready to pitch in the big leagues. I won't defend Perez. He has had a poor season. But Maine and Pelfrey still have potential and value. Remember all three have pitched for a team with a lacking offense and a tendency to make mistakes on defense. None of the three has pitched particularly well. But an 18-19 record yields a higher percentage (.486) than the Mets' record, 45-62, in games in which the three were not involved in the decision, .421.

I know the games the Mets are playing now don't mean anything, but if the manager expects the players to hustle and play the game right, shouldn't he be expected to do his best, too? Jerry Manuel's use of Carlos Beltran as a pinch-hitter in the first game of the doubleheader Sunday was a bad move. I heard the guys on TV call it interesting and surprising.

Did he even know they were down three runs, and if he did, why would he send up the best power hitter on his bench with one runner on base? He had Luis Castillo on the bench, and all he's done is reach base 40 percent of the time for two months. You let Castillo get on, then you let Beltran bat.

What's your take on that? Or did Manuel explain why he did it? Managers always say they forgive physical errors, but they don't forgive mental errors.
-- Phil G., Bloomfield, N.J.

The circumstance you have cited occurred in the ninth inning of the first game on Sunday. The Phillies led, 5-2, after scoring once in the eighth. Jeff Francoeur led off the ninth with a single against Brad Lidge. Manuel had Beltran pinch-hit for pitcher Lance Broadway. And you're right, Castillo was available. It didn't make sense to me either. I asked Manuel, and his response was, "I wanted to use his [Beltran's] bat with a man on base regardless of the score."

Unless Castillo batted and grounded into a double play, Beltran could have batted for either of the next two batters, Josh Thole or Wilson Valdez. I didn't find logic in Manuel's reasoning.

The Mets spent $36 million on Perez. But they won't pay Billy Wagner for the rest of the season. Now he's helping Boston in its American League Wild Card chase. He couldn't have finished the season with the Mets? With J.J. Putz out, the Mets could have used Wagner to set up and reduce the load on Pedro Feliciano. I miss Wagner and wish him well.
-- Alex M., Syosset, N.Y.

The Mets have Frankie Rodriguez as their closer now. Wagner didn't want to be a setup man next year, so he wasn't going to return unless the Mets exercised their option in his contract for 2010. The day last summer when Wagner learned he needed surgery, he said he was certain the Mets wouldn't exercise the option -- not for $8 million. And when the club signed K-Rod, he figured he might be traded by the end of this season if he made good on his comeback. The Mets saved $1 million -- the buyout for 2010 -- and the remaining salary for 2009, about $3 milllion, when the Red Sox took Wagner.

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In this case, I'd say, the Mets acted wisely. Wagner wasn't going to help the Mets win anything, and he knew the club didn't want him for next year anymore than he wanted to be anyone's setup man.

Do you think the Mets regret not signing Pedro Martinez? He showed them what he still can do. With all the pitchers they've used this year, they have one -- Johan Santana -- who could do what Martinez did Sunday night.
-- Alex T., Maspeth, N.Y.

My sense of it is that the club knew Martinez still could pitch if he remained healthy. But the Mets had enough compelling evidence that suggested he could not. The extended time off undoubtedly helped Martinez refuel this year. I'm not surprised he's pitching and pitching well. I am surprised he is as strong as he appeared Sunday, and I marveled at how well he performed for 130 pitches. Do the Mets regret not re-signing him? I doubt it. They had to move on, and I believe they thought then what I believe now -- that 20-25 effective starts were beyond his ability and stamina.

Why do the Mets keep playing Anderson Hernandez at shortstop? He's looked better lately, but he's obviously not a shortstop. Let the Valdez kid play. He's a shortstop. Neither one's going to play next year when or if Jose Reyes comes back.
-- Roland F., Cherry Hill, N.J.

I agree with all you say -- except Wilson Valdez is 31. I like him as a reserve shortstop. But if Reyes is healthy, the Mets won't pinch-hit for their shortstop as some teams must. With playing time for Reyes' understudy so limited, they're better off bringing back Alex Cora.