Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Still a Two-Team Town

Do two teams still play in this town? Is one of the 11 wins better at the first unofficial measuring stick of the baseball season, Memorial Day? If you picked up a local paper, or browse an espn.com, and have been sleeping under a rock for the past two months, you may be surprised that the Mets, yes the Mets, do still play, and are in fact much better than the Yankees.

While the best team we thought money could buy was busy responding to team meetings and owners threats by limping to a pathetic three-game sweep at the hands of the Angels, the Mets were busy posting a ho-hum three-game wipeout of the Marlins. Despite missing half their outfield to injuries by the end of the series, the Mets received solid starting pitching, flawless defense, and more than enough hitting. Florida is a team the Mets should beat, and like good teams do the Mets beat them, not even giving the Marlins a glimmer of hope over the weekend.

Friday was Senior Citizen discount night in the visitors clubhouse, as El Duque made his triumphant return to the mound, and Pedro Martinez made an out-spoken cameo in the clubhouse. On the field, Hernandez was vintage, twirling breaking balls, keeping batters off balance, and looking sharp as ever in tossing six shutout innings. Then after the game he spoke more like someone in need of a month off, not a pitcher returning from a month off. El Duque Who else returns from the DL, throws a shutout, then tells reporters the next day was important and could determine if he makes his next start. Next start? The Mets can already pencil El Duque in for at least one more prolonged DL stint, with an ailment to be named later, but if he shows up October 1st with the stuff he had Friday, Willie and Omar will live with it.

Pedro missed Spring Training, has yet to throw off a mound, but his mouth was in mid-season form. He already has himself coming back throwing high-90’s, claims he can pitch better than Clemens right now, and delivered some crazy quote about walking under the bridge, reminiscent of his mango tree reference from years past. Like it or not, Pedro will provide a lift in the clubhouse, at the very least. If he is anything close to Pedro, circa 1999, the Mets become heavy favorites to win the title. One guarantee, there will be no shortage of quotes.

….this Mets team looks, feels, and smells, more and more like the ’96 Yankees. They find a new and exciting way to win every night, they have a deep bench and every time a player goes down someone fills in and plays better, the bullpen is almost automatic (yes, that is 30 straight for the new Sandman, as painful as it is for me to say), and the defense is flawless. Right down to the star pitcher returning from injury to carry the team down the stretch, ala David Cone. Will the ’07 Mets finish in the Canyon of Heroes?

…looks like Carlos Delgado got the message. Instead of complaining about being dropped in the lineup, he is responding, a few multi-hit games, and a multi-homer game. Wright is back, now here comes Delgado. Beware NL pitchers.

..As if they needed any help, how about the two division competitors both losing key bullpen members within days of each other. The Phils Brett Myers and the Braves Mike Gonzalez are both out, Gonzalez for the year, and those two injuries could directly lead to losses for each team. I thought they would each hold their own with the Mets, and I still like the Braves team, but its becoming clear the Mets are the team to beat.


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