Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not Just Like Old Times For Mets (Thank God)

I read an article today about how Hank Steinbrenner wants the Yankees to play harder. Having watched them lose to the Rays in 11 on Tuesday, and then watched the Rays celebrate taking over first place like they'd won the pennant, he was frustrated that his (now sub-.500) team wasn't that emotional. Maybe he should pay them more. Or less, what do the Rays' make? $20 an hour? They were celebrating after the game because it went to extra innings and they got an extra $20!

Another article talked of how the Mets need to be jumping all over crappy teams like the Reds and Nats (3-2 in the last five games against those two) to prove that last year's collapse was an anomaly. While that is true, I think winning 95 games and making the postseason is enough pressure, let alone the fact that they are allegedly the NL favorite. I don't think dumping the added weight of last year's collapse is a good thing. It happened. It doesn't affect tonight's game...go win.

Thankfully, they are doing some things that Mets teams of late have been unable to. For instance, after Roger Clemens earholed Mike Piazza and Jay Payton in 2000, the team did not respond. Later that year in the World Series, Clemens went on a (alleged) steroid induced rage and threw a broken bat at Piazza. The Mets did not respond and Clemens threw an 8-inning gem (though the Mets scored 5 in the ninth to lose 6-5). Two years later, Clemens came to bat for the first time against the Mets. It was all over the news: will the Mets plunk him? Shawn Estes was the starter that day and the bastard missed.

It was one of the more embarrassing moments for me as a fan. All that built up frustration with at (alleged) cheater and Estes (who wasn't on the Mets in 2000) missed. Yesterday, a day after a Mets pitcher felt he was disrespected by the Nationals' bench, John Maine opened the game with a first pitch fastball right and plunked the Nationals' lead-off man. That's how it's done. There were no other distractions for the rest of the game and everyone knew where they stood.

In related news, the day after Nelson Figueroa called out the Nationals, calling them a bunch of cheerleaders, he was let go by the Mets. I think it had to do more with his pitching than his mouth, but you can't help but wonder. Kris Benson's wife was an embarrassment and he got canned. Lastings Milledge's "music" was an embarrassment and he got canned. I don't think what Fig said was all that bad but he was dumped a day later.

Players who try to hit through a defensive shift make me so mad. Carlos Delgado gets the lefty-shift nearly every time at bat and he just swings away. This is a guy who is a 3-time Silver Slugger award winner - he is good with the bat. But he just tries to power through the defense despite that the entire left side of the field is wide open.

Why not bunt to third? Sure, Delgado is paid for power. But he is also paid to get on base, score runs and win ballgames. If he bunts every time they put the shift on, two things will happen: he will have an on-base percentage of 1.000, and they will stop shifting. Which will allow him to swing away and find twice as many holes on the right side of the field.

Yesterday, he had a bunt single in the second inning. The inning resulted in the Mets' first run.

Does John Maine plunking a guy, and Carlos Delgado laying down a bunt mean they're over the funk of the last 10 months? Who knows? If they lose tonight 10-1, yesterday's win is wiped out, but if they are playing smart and with heart, it will be a win in the long-run. Hank Steinbrenner is a jerk, but he is right. The Yankees (like the Mets) are coasting and with what they are being paid and how they are playing, maybe they deserve to be told off by their owners and mocked by opponents.

Interestingly, Shawn Estes pitched yesterday for the first time in two years. And another crappy Mets' pitcher from that era who ruined my life, Armando Benitez, also made his first appearance in some time last night. The years have not made Benitez wiser however, and he gave up a home run to his first batter on a fastball. He should get a movie deal because that dude can act though. Every time his fastball gets turned into a souvenir, he spins around shocked as though he never could have imagined that it could have happened.

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