Charlie No-Hustle

While they're his fourth team in as many years, it seems like the Mets may have found the right guy at the right time for right field in the form of journeyman Darren Bragg. The 31-year-old outfielder, who was released by the Rockies last July and spent the second half of the season out of baseball before New York signed him as a nonroster free agent over the winter, has impressed the Mets since his mid-May call-up from Norfolk. He's provided not only a potent, much needed left-handed bat, but the kind of hustle the Mets wish they were seeing out of last fall's semi-phenom, Timo Perez.

While there's no denying that Perez has been hampered by injuries at various points this season, more than once his play had us flashing back to his infamous baserunning blunder in Game 1 of last year's Subway Series. We were at a game recently when Perez sliced a ball down the left-field line that should have been an easy double for a runner of his speed—except Timo got a sudden attack of Rickey Henderson disease, loping down to first, watching to see if the ball was going to drop in fair, and he had to settle for a single. The next batter up promptly hit a grounder, and Perez helped make certain it was turned into a double play by leisurely trotting onto the infield grass and well out of the line of fire rather than trying to break up the throw to first.

Combine Perez's blasé baserunning (he hasn't stolen a single base through the first quarter of the season) with his sorely undisciplined hitting (a leadoff batter who walks once in his first 86 at-bats? That's worse than even Mookie Wilson) and you start to understand why manager Bobby Valentine's not exactly racing to get Timo back in the everyday starting lineup before he's totally "healed."

(Mostly) Metclips

• Baseball stat of the season so far: Mike Hampton has more home runs than Todd Zeile. . . . • Does anyone else think Mike Mussina looks like one of those goofy mechanical drinking birds when he does that deep dip as he goes into his stretch? . . . • Overheard recently at Shea: "If Robin Ventura was in a race with a pregnant woman, he'd finish third. . . . • Has anyone else noticed that the Mets' descent down the toilet really accelerated when they named John Franco captain and stuck that big ugly C on his jersey? . . .

Contributors: Stu Hackel, Paul Lukas, Billy Altman
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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