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Kicking Them While They're Down Department: Jose Valentin

Last week, the Mets lost their starting second baseman, Jose Valentin, to his second leg injury of the season. On cue, the New York press went into panicky hand-wringing mode: "They're doomed! They need a reliable guy, a guy who remembers the Reagan Administration! Quick, trade Pelfrey and Heilman for Biggio, stat!"

As attractive as Mark Loretta is - in every way, mind you - not everyone had the same reaction to Valentin's injury. The bloodsucking number crunchers who are the enemy of every post-Moneyball book welcomed the opportunity to get Ruben Gotay more playing time. My reaction was more pragmatic: I destroyed my Valentin voodoo doll and emptied the browser cache of all those "hex an aging middle infielder" Google searches.

Call me an ogre, call me an ass, call me a moronic jerk - others have beaten you to the punch. I'm tickled to death to see Valentin off the team, by any means necessary. Not one to wish physical pain on anyone, I'd have preferred for Gotay to win the job on merit alone, or for Valentin to get bounced via a failed drug test or a bribery / gambling / male prostitution scandal. But the broken leg works too.

"You bastard! How could you!" Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you think I'm not showing the proper respect to my elders, I'll give you five reasons why there's no need to shed a tear for Stache:

He's not that good. Let's leave aside his lame-duck 2007. Even at his best, Jose was a mistake hitter, the king of the meaningless bases-empty homer. Sure, he'll hit a couple solo shots in the clincher against the Pirates. He can hit a bases-loaded double when you're up 8-3 and you've already knocked Anthony Reyes out of the box. But is he the guy you'd want up in a big spot? Like, with the bases loaded, one out, in the bottom of the sixth inning in the seventh game of the 2006 NLCS?

He's not Tom Seaver. Just because Valentin is old doesn't mean he's the glue that holds the team together. This time last year most Met fans still barely knew who he was; they were just glad he wasn't Kaz Matsui. Valentin is not the franchise. This isn't the Jose Valentin "era." He's had four good months in a Met uniform. Let it go.

Selfless he's not. Valentin tore his ACL at the end of April; he should have had season-ending surgery then and there. Instead, he chose to come back with a knee brace, knowing he'd be a shadow of his former self. We admire athletes who tape it up and play through the pain, like when George Brett sweated through hemorrhoids in the 1980 World Series. (Don't ask how he taped it up.) But if you're flat-out wounded, your continued presence is a disservice to the team. You can't spell "mustache" without "team," Jose.

Double Indemnity. Valentin admitted that he bypassed surgery because he was trying to rack up the 400 plate appearances to guarantee his $4.3 million option for 2008. Were we meant to be cheering him on, hoping that he'd "win" and become deadwood for two years rather than just one? We're supposed to be smarter than Willie Randolph. Keep in mind that for his contributions this year, Valentin is already getting $3.7 million - more money than 99% of the planet's inhabitants will ever see in their lives.

There's no crying in baseball. These guys aren't looking to cure AIDS or bring peace to the Middle East. They take a round bat and a round ball and try to hit it square. They're entertainers. We pay for the tickets and hot dogs, we subscribe to, and if it turns out we're getting NCIS instead of 24, well, somebody gets cancelled. Last year it was Kaz's turn, this year Jose's. If it's any consolation, Team Valentin is welcome to stick around long enough to see Gotay get replaced. Maybe that'll help.