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These are better days for Scutaro

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  December 4, 2009 10:57 AM

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Today is a good day for Marco Scutaro, who is expected to complete a two-year deal with a mutual option that would pay him a minimum of $12.5 million to play shortstop for the Red Sox.

But I can't help but think back to Aug. 10, 2002 at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Scutaro was a 26-year-old rookie that season with the Mets, a quiet guy from Venezuela who was just happy to be in the big leagues. But for a few days, he was at the center of a tug-of-war between manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Steve Phillips.

Valentine and Phillips were mortal enemies at the time, vying for control of the team and currying favor with two owners Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday who didn't get along, either. It was a toxic situation with both sides using the media to make their points.

The Mets were doing their annual summer fade and had fallen 18 games out as they arrived in St. Louis. A roster move was needed and Valentine wanted an outfielder. Phillips called up Scutaro, an infielder who had a few games of outfield experience.

Valentine pinch hit Scutaro in the fifth inning and sent him out to play left field. In a 4-4 game, Scutaro butchered a line drive off the bat of Eli Marrero in the sixth inning. It was ruled a double and Marrero scored what proved to be the winning run,

Left field was a sun field at that Stadium and it was 87 degrees at the start of the game. Poor Scutaro had no chance and Valentine knew it. Afterward, Valentine just shook his head. "Steve told me the kid could play the outfield. Not much I could do," he said.

Scutaro sat at his locker and tried to answer questions afterward. I remember him looking terrified as a pack of New York beat writers descended on him. It was probably the first time he had been interviewed in the majors.

Valentine was fired after the end of the season. Phillips got canned by the Mets in 2003 and subsequently his wife a few weeks ago after pulling a Tiger Woods. Scutaro hit .216 with the Mets over two seasons and was traded to Oakland.

Now he has a good contract from the Sox, a starting spot and doesn't have to worry about the sun in left field. On a quiet day in Fort Myers, I'll have to ask him if he remembers that day in St. Louis.

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