For the first time all season, I have no complaints about the New York Mets.
For some reason, the Mets are in first place. By a strange coincidence, Carlos Delgado is hitting as well as he did in 2006. As it turns out, Oliver Perez may be the Mets’ best starting pitcher right now. And, by an act of Providence, the decision to replace Willie Randolph with Jerry Manuel actually paid off.
Two days ago, I gave up on the season. It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. But today, the Mets are what we thought they were going to be. The starting pitching has been solid, and has gobbled way more innings than they used to. The bullpen has at least been effective every now and then, as opposed to never. Billy Wagner is back to being automatic in the ninth. And the lineup is producing runs.
Carlos Delgado is the difference maker in this lineup. Yes, Jose Reyes needs to get on base, which he has to a tune of a .360 OBP. Yes, David Wright has to be the Mets’ best hitter. But when Delgado is producing, the Mets suddenly have a legitimate cleanup hitter. That takes pressure off both Wright and Carlos Beltran.
So, on July 24th, the Mets are in first place. Be sure to expect a horse race the rest of the way between the Mets, Phillies, and maybe the Marlins, if their starting pitching can hold up. The Mets need to fend off both teams, and Father Time, if they want to be in it until the end.
We haven’t seen this look in while. This is how Carlos Delgado looks when he is locked in. It’s a look of restrained victory, as if he is admiring his work, but at the same time, remembering the hardships along the way. It’s the same look a Great White has on its face just before it bites its prey in half. It’s the look he had in 2006. And it’s no wonder the Mets of 2008 are looking more and more like that team, when it circled its opponents like a deadly predator.
In Game one of the day-night doubleheader on Friday, the Mets scored 15 runs. All 15 were driven in by the middle of the order; the 3-4-5 hitters. David Wright went 4-5 with 3 RBI, Carlos Beltran hit a home run and accounted for 3 more RBI, and Carlos Delgado had an entire season in one day.
For one game, at least, Delgado looked like the Delgado of 2006. The Delgado who terrorized American League pitchers in the late nineties. He hit two home runs, including a grand slam, en route to a 9-RBI game – numbers that would rival any big game he ever had in his prime. Let the speculation begin about Andy Phillips pushing Delgado.
Jose Reyes (2) and Luis Castillo (5) scored a combined 7 runs, while getting on base a total of 8 times.
The top of the order was on base? The RBI guys got RBIs? What’s up with that? That’s how a lineup is supposed to work. Maybe now that it has been demonstrated, the Mets will figure out how to do that a little more often.
Remember 2006? Way back when, when Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgado, and Paul Lo Duca joined an already strong lineup headed by Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran? Remember the walk-off wins, grand slams, and automatic bullpen? Remember the
champagne, Lo Duca hosing off the fans, and Gary Cohen saying, “After running roughshod over the National League, the Mets are NL East Champions,” as Cliff Floyd ran the final out in from lef field? Remember the reunion of the 1986 Mets, and how that ceremony at Shea seemed like the passing of the torch to the new can’t-miss champions from Queens? I do. And I miss those days.
It seems like so long ago. Maybe because since then, the Mets were upset in the 2006 NLCS, have blown a seven-game lead with seventeen to go in 2007, endured the sudden, Titanic-like decline of Delgado, and are now struggling to tread water at the .500 mark like many other National League teams with half the Mets’ payroll.
In 2006, they would have never lost two straight one-run games to the Padres while scoring a grand total of two runs. They would have never let their momentum run out against a last-place team. And they would have never been 5.5 games behind the Phillies in early June.
The time to blame Willie Randolph has passed – he can’t do anything more for a team that is aging, injured, and inconsistent. The scary chill running up your spine is the nagging notion that this team is simply past its prime, and can’t win with its current roster.
Reyes and Wright are hitting, Beltran is streakier than a window cleaned with motor oil, but will probably get on a tear before all is said and done, but the supporting cast is clearly subpar.
The Mets don’t need an overhaul, just a tune up. But it just doesn’t seem that one new part here or there will get this jalopy firing on all cylinders again. That means there is plenty of hope for 2010. That also means there is little hope for 2009.
Ohm. Ohm – say it with me – Ohm. Ohm.
The Mets had a rough week. They lost three of four to the Washington Nationals. Their closer called out their position players. Mr. Met suffered a concussion. Well, OK, I don’t know about that last one, but when you have a head like that, any injury is a big injury.
But, this Saturday and Sunday, they swept the New York Yankees – THE NEW YORK YANKEES – in the Bronx in a rain-shortened two-game series.
Johan Santana pitched 7 – 2/3 solid innings to pick up his fifth win of the season on Saturday. And Billy Wagner came up with a huge four-out save to slam the door. And a note to the poorly educated caller who called WFAN after the game on Saturday – Johan has pitched a “decent” game as a Met. In fact all of his games have been “decent.” No, he hasn’t been the “ace” every single night, but he has given them innings, strikeouts, and a chance to win every night. Who can possibly question the impact Santana has had on this team?
Meanwhile, Oliver Perez turned in his best game of the season on Sunday, mixing his fastball and slider with masterful precision. Why he was taken out with two outs and none on in the eighth is beyond this blogger. But that’s Willie for you. And why wasn’t Willie thrown out instead of Jerry Manuel following the worst call of 2008 – no home run on Carlos Delgado’s blast off the foul pole in left? Willie was clearly jawing at Bob Davidson, Bob Davidson cleary told Willie to shut up. Woudn’t that get you fired up? Instead, it was Manuel who lost it, barking lots of well-earned colorful adjectives at Davidson, resulting in his ejection.
And what was with Jon Miller saying the ball was foul, when it was clearly fair? Miller tends to take the opposite position of his color man, Joe Morgan, whether he is right or not. Fortunately, as the game went on, Miller saw the error of his ways. Let’s see, black paint missing on the foul pole, black paint on the ball? Two plus two equals what, Jon?
In any event, the 2008 Mets looked like the 2006 Mets this weekend, pounding the Yankees in a convincing series sweep. This is the kind of series that should propel the Mets forward into the next month and the rest of the season.
It’s shocking, yet it’s so predictable. Carlos Delgado busts out of a slump, hits two impressive home runs to lead the Mets to a solid win over the rival Braves, and what are the headlines today?
- Newsday: Delgado (2 HRs) snubs curtain call in Mets win
- Post: NO CURTAIN FOR CARLOS
- Times: Delgado Homers Twice but Isn’t Taking Any Bows
And while the Daily News and The Record didn’t emphasize the phantom curtain call as much as the above papers, they did dedicate plenty of space to it.
The big news should be Delgado’s home runs, and the fact that he may not be washed up just yet. I’m not deluding myself, I know he can’t get around on a good fastball anymore, but yesterday, he at least proved that he can contribute.
Delgado patiently answered questions about his decision to stay in the dugout following his second home run by saying, “The way I look at it, I hit a solo home run in the seventh inning. I’ve got a great deal of respect for the game. I don’t think that’s the place for a curtain call. I’ve been playing for quite a few years and I think I came out for two curtain calls.”
A politician’s answer for sure. But there is more to it than that. It’s bad enough that impatient fans boo their players in April. It’s bad enough that they make it harder for their team to play at home than on the road, but when a crowd boos, what you don’t hear are the angry remarks made close to the field. Some fans choose to be insulting, and they are not afraid to get personal. Whether he admits it or not, that had to play a role in his decision. In light of that, I don’t blame Delgado one bit for not acknowledging the fickle Shea crowd after his second home run.
Yes, Delgado can be arrogant. He can be an elitist snob. One thing he has never been is classless on and off the field. Whether or not he took a curtain call had nothing to do with the game. What should be emphasized is the glimmer of hope finally displayed by our first baseman.