None of the Mets emote much, not even the once-ebullient catcher Gary Carter. Carter, 34, who's mired in a long ball-hitting slump, hasn't had much to get excited about.
Some Mets are hoping that the team will come alive again when Hernandez returns on Friday. "When he gets back in the middle of the lineup, we'll be a different offensive team," says Strawberry. "Keith makes things happen. He always has. The problem is that there has been no leadership out there."
The front office pooh-poohs the notion that the Mets are suffering because Hernandez has not been around. "To say that we got fiat due to his absence is a crutch," says Mets G.M. Frank Cashen. "It's a ready-made excuse."
For his part, Hernandez doesn't like to think his absence alone is the cause of the Mets' listless behavior. "I don't think one player should make that much difference," he says. "Suppose I come back and hit .450 and we do the same thing, play the same way. We'll find out, I guess." He shrugs. "We're not getting any clutch hits. When we get behind, we don't come back. We just lay down."
It remains to be seen if Hernandez can provide the emotional charge to drive the Mets through September. But he knows that's his mandate. "We need a spark, and I'm going to try to provide it," he says. "I'm going to try to be energy personified."