On Monday, the Braves had to sit and watch the Pedro Martinez love fest, as he picked up his 200th win in a party atmosphere at Shea. The crowd was going crazy, Pedro was going crazy, and the scoreboard was going crazy. Then, they had to answer questions from the New York media about these 10-2 Mets. Bobby Cox downplayed the importance of the series, while Andruw Jones pointed out which team still had an active streak of 14 division titles.
Suddenly, the sound of a sleeping giant rolling over and wiping the drool from its mouth could be heard.
The Braves are alive. The Mets still hold a 4 game lead, but anyone who thought they could run and hide this early in the season were mistaken.
Atlanta came out on Tuesday like a team that was angry. A team with something to prove. Their offense has been high-powered all year, scoring a major league leading 89 runs in their first 13 games. Although, their pitching staff has surrendered 83. Behind Jones’s 2 bombs, the Braves scored 7 runs against the increasingly hapless Victor Zambrano.
The Mets must make a move for a starting pitcher by the deadline. Zambrano has great stuff – a live fastball, sharp slider, and good changeup – but he will never learn how to pitch. He’s wild in and out of the strike zone, and just doesn’t seem to know what to do with what he has. Pitching Coach Rick Peterson has shown his mettle. The Mets have had solid pitching for the past 2 years under the guidance of The Jacketed One. But even he hasn’t been able to turn Zambrano around. And it seems no one can.
Besides Zambrano, one doesn’t know what to expect of Steve Trachsel, coming off a back injury that benched him for most of 2005.
If Oakland is out of the race in July, the Mets may renew their pursuit for Barry Zito. The A’s just might ask for Lastings Milledge in a deal. Would it be worth it? Depends on how sore Zambrano’s neck is by then, and if Zito is still the pitcher who won the Cy Young in 2002.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Mets’ lineup looked shockingly weak with the absence of Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd. Kyle Davies made it look even weaker.
The Braves prospect righted his personal ship by firing a 3-hit complete game. He struck out Carlos Delgado 3 times, with the aid of a couple of ankle-high strike calls by home plate umpire Marty Foster. Maybe Delgado should stage a sit-in next time Foster is behind the dish.
David Wright continued to struggle in the series, and Jose Reyes looks like an impatient, over matched rookie again. Logic suggests that both will get a hold of themselves and turn it around. They have too much talent not to.
And Jose Valentin looks like he’s swinging a Slinky out there.
But one must give credit to Davies. The Braves like this kid, and he could be another in a long line of successful Atlanta starters.
The Mets made a statement on Monday. The Braves made one right back. They are not going away. And we could be in for another wild race for the NL East title.
It’s Glavine vs. Hudson in the rubber game. For further musings, see metsfanintexas.mlblogs.com after the game!
Well, another opening day in the books. And it was an interesting one. OK, the game wasn’t perfect, but the average Mets fan had a lot to be happy about.
Tom Glavine kept Washington hitters off balance most of the time, and picked up career win number 276. Pedro who?
Aaron Heilman struggled through 2 innings, but the bottom line is, he held the lead. And Billy Wagner slammed the door with a little help from his friends. Particularly the one in center field. Carlos Beltran looked eerily similar to a cross between George Foster, Bobby Bonilla, and Mo Vaughn at the plate (The Overpaid Trinity), but at least he ended the game with a nice assist. Vidro probably should have stayed put at first anyway, but we’ll take it.
Speaking of assists, Cliff Floyd, Jose Reyes, and Paul LoDuca combined for a nice play at home, retiring erstwhile second baseman Alfonso Soriano at home. Only one problem. It appeared that LoDuca dropped the ball at home plate. The drop came after the tag was made. The home plate umpire called Soriano out, but was he really?
I believe that LoDuca had grasp and control of the ball long enough to make the tag legitimate. Could you imagine if baseball had instant replay? Doesn’t everyone think the games are long enough already? The crew chief would have spent twenty minutes under the hood trying to determine whether LoDuca had possession while his knee was down, or if he made a baseball move before fumbling. Finally, the play would have been ruled inconclusive, and a series of shrill "Coors Light" commercials would have followed.
Otherwise, Xavier Nady certainly opened some eyes with his 4 for 4 performance. Especially the casual Mets fan who saw him for the first time. "Xavier who?" "Who Nady?" "X Nagy?" Wouldn’t it be nice if a promising young player, who was given up by another team, flourished as a Met? That would be a switch.
I heard Mike and the Mad Dog bash Billy Wagner for coming to the mound to "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, which is known as Mariano Rivera’s signature theme. Wagner has been using that song since he was in Houston, and has been around as long as Rivera. So lighten up guys!
Finally, congratulations to Mike Piazza who homered in his San Diego debut. If his playing time is managed properly, he could be a factor for the Padres.
So a workmanlike W in the books for the Mets. Hey, every one counts. And there are only 161 games to go.
So, another season is upon us. The golf clubs are packed away, the grass is as green as it’s going to get all season long, and Shea Stadium vendors are getting their sales pitches ready. Like the mini-bat vendors. "You ride the LIRR, the IRT, the MTA? You need Mr. B-a-t." Seriously, these guys are artists.
Most of all, this time of year, every team believes they have a shot. Except maybe the Rockies. They just like the schools in Denver (right, Mr. Hampton?). Maybe they should build an outfield fence that makes the green monster look like a speed bump.
So, the big question is, do the Mets have a shot? I really don’t know. I never know what to think about these guys. But here are some things to think about.
Things to like
Billy Wagner – He could throw underhanded this year and still be an upgrade from Braden Looper. If he were closing games for the Mets last year, 90 wins wouldn’t have been out of the question.
David Wright and Jose Reyes – 2 exciting, young players who are the future of this team. Just imagine what Reyes could do if he ups his OBP anywhere north of .320? Maybe Willie Randolph could tie his hands together every 5 plate appearances or so.
Cliff Floyd – He made it through Spring training without his legs crumbling, so he appears to be healthy again. Plus it’s his walk year (No pun intended).
Carlos Beltran – There’s nowhere to go but up, right? Even 16 HR and 78 RBI would seem better since he has help in the lineup in the form of:
Carlos Delgado – Beltran’s countryman and friend. He produces 30 HR/100 RBI seasons like GM produces SUVs. Hopefully Shea doesn’t swallow up too many of his long fly balls. Pitchers like facing this guy as much as he likes "God Bless America." But I’ll stand every time he comes to the plate, if he puts up those numbers again.
Things to be nervous about
Pedro Martinez – Really, did we need to hear about this guy’s foot for two months? He’s a step behind the other pitchers right now, but hopefully, he’ll toe the rubber without getting kicked around (Pun very much intended).
The rest of the rotation – I had a brief moment of optimism, when the Mets decided that they were SO deep in the rotation, that they sent Aaron Heilman to the ‘pen. This was shortly after Victor Zambrano threw 6 shutout innings. Well, now Zambrano got shelled in his last outing, and they have a guy who’s thrown as many pitches in the majors as I have scheduled to be the fifth starter. And I can’t help but think "15-2" when I think of Tom Glavine starting on Opening Day.
Things that make you wish you were a soccer fan:
– Kaz Matsui
– Shea Stadium parking
So, here we go into the great unknown of another baseball season. As Bob Murphy used to say: Fasten your seatbelts!