Elster's World

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Boys Of Summer

9-2 through eleven games. Wow. Say that again, it sure sounds nice. 9-2 through eleven games. And we aren’t dreaming. The “other” New York baseball team has the best record in baseball.

Sure, it’s early. Sure eleven games is a pretty small sampling of what is a very long season, but you can’t take away from what has been a very promising start for the New York Mets this season. With the pitchers pitching, the hitters hitting and Willie Randolph allowing facial hair, the season is starting to look promising. Now without jinxing the whole shebang (and without getting our hopes up too high too early), here is a look at ten reasons to be excited for the Mets 2006 baseball season.

1. The Yankees are sucking early. Sure this has nothing to do with the Mets but as any Red Sox fan can tell you, when the Mets are three games above a .500 Yankee team that alone is cause for some serious celebration. And when the team owners, the Wilpons, are making a big splash with the new stadium, it will only be a matter of time before Mt. Steinbrenner erupts, starts bulldozing the House that Ruth Built and constructs something to get the press buzzing about the Yankees again. This, in turn, will only make us Yankee haters even happier. It’s a hilariously vicious cycle.

2. The new acquisitions are fitting in. Remember how people were very nervous about Carlos Delgado? Remember this is the guy who was openly critical of Omar Minaya for using the Latin American connection to try and sign him last year. He said he thought Minaya was unprofessional for talking to him in Spanish. He’s also the guy who was critical of the war in Iraq and refused to stand during the National Anthem. He was going to be a disruption in the clubhouse. Oh, and he had achy knees and was a defensive liability at first whose poor glove would affect Jose Reyes and David Wright. Instead, he’s batting .356, 4 and 12. Throw in Xavier Nady and his .366, 3 and 6, and Paul Lo Duca’s over .300 average and defense and you have got yourself some guys who are fitting in just fine. After Delgado smoked his three run insurance job in the eighth inning of the win over the Brewers this afternoon, there he was doing some weird five-step handshake with Reyes and taking a curtain call from the Shea faithful. Not exactly what we would call a clubhouse cancer.

3. So far, so good with the starters. Sure, they are old and brittle, but the starting pitchers are holding true. Tom Glavine has been fantastic. He is 2-0 with a 1.50 era through three starts. His 21 strikeouts in 18 innings, gulp, lead the team. And yes, Pedro still pitches for the Mets. Glavine has been mowing guys down like Jack Bauer running through extras during a 24 shoot-out. Rookie Brian Bannister has been a find. He is 2-0 with a 2.50 era through his three starts. Pedro and his bad toe bounced back from a horrid first start to throw a gem the other night and he’ll toss against the Braves tomorrow. The bottom of the rotation need to pick it up a little but the guess here is that Victor Zambrano will be gone by the all-star break if anyone in the minors shows that they are MLB ready or if the Sanchez/Oliver/Bradford trio can step up enough to allow for Heilman to move to the rotation. Also, if the starters don’t start going seven innings with some regularity, the reliever’s arms are going to start flying off during games.

4. Ditto the relievers. With the exception of Jorge Lugo (whose era is so bloated, it’s beginning to look a little like Hurley from Lost), the pen has been tighter than Ebenezer Scrooge. Heilman has one bad outing but has otherwise been solid (though if you ask me, he has the “I wish I was starting” sour puss on his face whenever he goes out there and it’s wearing a little thin already -either that or he’s always constipated, in which case I take back everything I said), and Duaner Sanchez hasn’t given up a run yet this season. Billy Wagner is rounding into form and the other pitchers are filling their roles as well as the cast of (fill in your favorite show). Minaya spent big to fix this weakness (Wagner was overpaid and two rotation starters [Benson and Seo] were shipped away for players) to they really need to come through for him and the team.

5. The hitters are hitting. On paper this preseason, this lineup was going to be either really good or really not. Reyes still doesn’t walk enough (three so far this season) but he’s batting over .300 and looks more patient at the plate. He also has 5 steals and causes general havoc whenever he’s on the basepaths. LoDuca is a gift from the baseball gods in the number two slot and Carlos Beltran (3 hr, 10 rbi, 10 walks and 13 runs scored) seems reborn in his second year of the Mega Contract. We all hope and pray that the hammy injury is not serious and that Beltran’s sour reaction to the early season booing doesn’t derail what could otherwise be a special year. Delgado is a true number four, Wright (see below) is, well, see below. You can’t ask for better 6 and seven hitters than Cliff Floyd and Nady and Anderson Henrnandez’s glove more than makes up for the weak bat.

6. Take Jeter, add power and a slightly better glove and you have…MVP! Is it too early to hand David Wright some post-season hardware right now? Do we really have to wait for the post-season? In any event, Met fans are getting a look at something they have not had in many years; a homegrown guy with enough talent to be one for the ages. And unlike Gooden and Strawberry, he seems grounded enough to not get derailed by the external factors that destroyed those two. And will there be some sort of ceremony to commemorate the passing of the torch from Jeter or do we all just kind of acknowledge it? Can we get A-Rod to present the award with Mariah Carey to perform the music? And does Wright need to officially change his name to The Next Derek Jeter? So many questions. Like Wright used to say in the goofy commercials for FoxSportsNet last season, “if I had my way, I’d be manning third base for the Mets for the next ten years”. We all totally agree with you David.

7. The Julio Franco Factor. There he is breaking up a brawl. There he is getting Beltran out of the dugout and accepting the curtain call. There he is talking to the young players at batting practice. Is that Methuzelah? No, it’s Julio Franco. What a pickup by Minaya. Franco is just the type of steadying clubhouse type that great teams need. I had heard the Braves wanted to keep him but the Mets made a better offer. Now I believe it.

8. The new ballpark buzz. Sure it won’t be ready for another three years, but THE METS ARE GETTING A NEW PARK! AND IT’S GONNA LOOK LIKE THE POLOGROUNDS AFTER MAJOR PLASTIC SURGERY. Good times for one and all. Imagine, a new ballpark and a successful team. That’s even better than a new ballpark with a crappy team. Or a good team and a crappy park. But I digress.

9. SportsNet NY’s announcing teams. Sure Gary Cohen is a radio fixture, but he’s calling games in the booth now and he’s good. I personally am a fan of Keith Hernandez and as the weather warms up, I will certainly be missing that Walt Fraizer-esqe leather jacket with the fur collar, but what can you do. Ron Darling make some good points, but I’m not loving him.

10. Pedro. The Mets feature one of the best personalities in the game. The great Pedro Martinez. Sure, he’s not even 75% of that guy who may have been the best pitcher in baseball for a stretch of time around 2001, but even this version of Pedro (canny and wily instead of overpowering) is amazing to watch on the mound. When they talk about pitching versus throwing, they are talking about this guy. He is a master. Throw in the zany sense of humor, the fat neck and the wacky hair and he is the ultimate package.

Sure it’s early. There is plenty of time for the wheels to fall off of Glavine and for Pedro’s toe to become too painful to go on. Sure Beltran’s hammy can rip in two and Delgado’s knees can ache to the bench. But it just doesn’t feel like that kind of year for the Mets. And we all need to get on this ride early lest the bandwagon fill up on us.

5 Comments:

  • 1. Remember those who hated trading Cameron for Nady? Oops, that was you!

    2. For the third and hopefully last time, it's Jorge Julio, not Jorge Lugo.

    3. The Polo Grounds? 512 feet to center? I sure hope not. Might you mean Ebbets Field?

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 10:16 PM  

  • 1. Yes, I was against the Cameron trade. But at the time, i had no idea that Nady had the second highest slugging percentage in minor league history behind non other than Jose Canseco (or so I've been told). And in retrospect it was better for Beltran to get Cameron out of town/. So yeah, looks like I goofed on that one.

    2. When your era is over 15, you don't get to have your name right.

    3. I mean in terms of how it would look from the exterior, I think they were going with the Polo grounds, but I may be wriong. i'll have to double check.

    By Blogger Elster, at 11:02 PM  

  • You are confusing the Polo Grounds with Ebbets Field. It's too bad that even a sports fan like you is ignorant about our city's great sports history.

    One day, your grandson will think that Shea was the long-time home of the Yankees.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 10:33 AM  

  • I hate you Joe.

    By Blogger Elster, at 11:17 AM  

  • And yes, It was Ebbets field to which I was referring

    By Blogger Elster, at 11:32 AM  

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