Saturday, July 07, 2007

OLD Timers Day

Do not be fooled. The Yankees time honored annual tradition, where they parade in a cavalcade of stars from teams of the past, is not the reason today is “Old Timers Days” in New York. The real reason, today’s starting pitchers for the Mets and Yankees, 44-year-old Roger Clemens and 41-year-old Tom Glavine. With 43 years of combined Major League experience, each pitcher carries the weight of struggling teams and heavy expectations into the last start before the All-Star game.

Rocket comes off by far his best start of the season, major or minor league, when he shut down the Twins over eight strong innings to collect his 350th career win, stopping a 2-9 skid for the Yanks. While he was vintage on Monday night, it marks the first time it pitched 8 innings since August 2005. How will his 44-year-old body bounce back from the outing? Another major question is how long he can hold up in the hot weather. The Stadium should be a steamy 90 degrees this afternoon. Clemens exhibited difficulty maintaining stamina on a warm Baltimore night last week, and on a muggy afternoon in the thin air of Colorado the start before, hitting the wall hard in each start.

Every game is important as the Yankees continue to try crawling out of the hole they dug. With Pettitte struggling again last night, matching up against the Angels ace, trying to reach .500 before the All Star break, the spotlight on Clemens magnifies. Los Angeles is a tough matchup for Rocket. They have a fast lineup and like to run, playing right into Clemens biggest weakness, holding runners. If the top of the lineup gets on base, the Angels can run wild on Clemens. It could turn into an interesting chess match, and a fuin matchup.

Across town, the Mets, and Tom Glavine, try to right the ship on this painful road trip, in the middle game of a three game set in Houston. Glavine’s struggles enroute to the elusive 300th win are no secret. After posting a 5.83 ERA in 5 June outings, Glavine started July on the wrong foot, getting tattooed for six runs in Colorado. Then again, every Met struggled in the Colorado debacle.

With two starting pitchers heading to the DL last week, veterans like Glavine and Orlando Hernandez, need to buckle down and pitch well. The Mets young pitchers, Pelfrey and Vargas, have proven unreliable, while the bullpen continues to be spotty outside of Feliciano and Wagner, so Glavine needs to step up next to John Maine and carry the pitching through this part of the schedule. On the season, Glavine’s ERA is almost two runs higher on the road, another obstacle he must overcome. The Mets are bleeding right now, however the Phillies and Braves have failed to capitalize in the standings, allowing the Mets a chance to get back on track without major damage. They need the veteran leader to put the bandaid on, especially with the uncertainty surrounding tomorrow’s starter, Dave Williams, making his 2007 debut coming off an injury. A losing streak, and prolonged bad road trip is not how the Mets want to hit the All-Star break. And, oh yeah, did we mention that elusive 300. Do you think Glavine would prefer to get that over with?

In 2007, it is Old Timers Day every fifth day, and its more than a glorified exhibition game.


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