Head of the Class
A few months ago I would have agreed with you that the National League is the red headed stepchild of the Major Leagues. Now? Not so much. When the Red Sox had swept the Mets, they looked like the cream of the crop and possibly the best team in baseball. The June 30th Power Rankings on ESPN that had come out the next day at the White Sox, Tigers, Red Sox, and Yankees ahead of the Mets followed by four more American League teams.
Since then, Jeff Karstens, Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, and Kris Wilson have made starts for the Yankees, the Tigers have slumped and are holding onto the slimmest of leads, the White Sox are 2nd in the Wild Card, and the AL East has not looked very tough at all while the Mets have kept on trucking. The Mets have a .5 game lead on the Yankees for the best record overall. Yankees fans will point the Yankees record as being more impressive since they do play in a tougher league, but that just might not be the entire truth.
While the league may still be tougher, the gap might not be as large as many think. Although the ESPN Power Rankings are my least favorite because of their seemingly biased view towards the Mets in the years, the AL and NL are split six to six in the top twelve with only two National League teams in the top eight. I do realize that does not bolster my cause that much since many people do not even read ESPN, but it does mean something.
My confidence in the Mets was shook when it came to them stacking up the American League, but not anymore. The Yankees offense is the best in the bigs, but the Angels showed everyone that unless you have pitching to go with that offense, it will not mean much. In fact, there is no team in the AL that should scare the Mets anymore now that the Twins are Francisco Liriano-less. Come playoff time, the Mets will trot out three guys that are used to the post season in Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Orlando Hernandez. The Mets will have a balanced offensive attack. The Mets will have a solid bullpen with every arm being a capable one. The Mets will have a have a solid bench. The Mets will have a solid manager.....well four out of five ain't bad.
Really though, this team is good. Good enough to stack up against anyone in the bigs despite what some people might say. The 2006 Mets are legit is fuck.
When Josh Willingham's lazy fly ball dropped into Cliff Floyd's glove in leftfield Monday night, ending the Mets' 18-year division title drought, the ecstatic crowd of 46,729 at Shea Stadium fittingly set an all-time season attendance record. The team has sold 3,087,648 tickets at home this season.
Fitting indeed. I'm not going to say Wilpon stepped up and spent money in 2006 because the Mets are right around where they usually are, but Fred has stepped it up in bringing in the right guy to do the job in Omar Minaya.
Through Monday, the Mets have had eight sellouts at Shea and sold more than 50,000 tickets 11 times. Howard said the totals would have been greater if not for bad weather.
"We had four rainouts," he said. "The advanced sales of each of those four games each was over 45,000. So we lost at least 200,000 tickets that we would have been able to count. ... To have rainouts with that type of advance is probably the only bad luck we've had from a ticket sales standpoint this year."
In fact, the Yankees (52,344) and Mets (43,488) are first and third, respectively, in average home attendance this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers entered last night's game at Dodger Stadium in second at 46,351.
"In 2000, it was the first time that the Mets and Yankees combined had gone over 6 million," Howard said. "This year it looks like we'll be over 7 1/2 [million] combined."
"Joe and I talk periodically," Randolph said, characterizing the conversation as "very natural. I said, 'Hey, I'll call you [with congratulations] in a couple of days.' "
I still haven't decided yet what I think about the 'Joe and I talk periodically' statement, but it can mean one of two things.
1) Joe won't return my calls.
2) I don't talk to that honkey bastard.
"It was nice for Tommy to get the victory after the way he pitched," Randolph said.
Better yet, it added to the feeling that the Mets' few remaining worries heading into the postseason are falling away one by one.
Had Glavine walked out and stunk last night, it wouldn't have been the end of the world - especially not in a start that he admittedly approached as more of a laboratory session to get his entire arsenal of pitches "squared away for the postseason" than he did a must win.
He seems to have straightened it all out since his little numb finger problem has been resolved.
Pedro Martinez threw a bullpen session on Monday in preparation for his start tomorrow night and said he felt no ill effects from his start Friday in Pittsburgh. However for the first time, he sounded like he isn't sure what to expect from himself in the postseason.
Asked about his goals for the remainder of the regular season, he responded "health and confidence." Martinez knows that his comeback from the right calf injury that kept him out for about a month is the biggest concern the Mets have right now.
Oh, he'll be ready. Does anyone doubt that?
While Pedro's health should terrify the Mets, Wells is OK?
"He may be hobbling right now, but David Wells comes up big in October. No one wants to face him in a series."
Sure thing...and people are excited to face Pedro?
"And Woody Williams would be the Mets' No. 3 starter."
Woody has been solid for the Padres, but let's face it. He is not scaring anyone and I'd take El Duque and John Maine over him.
I will give them Chris Young and Jake Peavy being solid. Peavy has come back alive and Young has been good, though not quite as good as he was mid-season, but better than anything the Mets have?
San Diego's golden bullpen remains the club's biggest weapon. "It's our backbone," says Young. The late-inning trio of Cla Meredith, Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman is the best in baseball. "It's pretty much game over if they've got a lead going into the seventh or eighth," says an exec.
I would say the Mets late inning quintuplet is no laughing matter either. Give me the Mets top to bottom over the Padres any day of the week.
It wasn't a Doug Mientkiewicz moment, but Floyd carried the ball off the field, stuck in his pocket and said, "[Billy] Wagner can have it he wants it, but he'll have to buy me a Rolex or something."
Another way to look at this: Strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio. With rare exceptions (Chien-Ming Wang, anybody?), a pitcher needs to strike out at least five batters per nine innings to have much of a chance. So let's up that to six per nine, and add a 2-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. We'll call it the 6-and-2 group.
In the AL, there are five 6-and-2's: Liriano, Boof Bonser, Weaver, James Shields and Verlander (they're ranked in order of harmonic mean, for you stats geeks out there, and you know who you are).
In the NL, there are eight 6-and-2's: Hamels, John Maine, Nolasco, Olsen, Cain, Taylor Buchholz, Rich Hill and Anthony Reyes. And Johnson and Chuck James just missed this list, as both have K/BB ratios a shade short of 2-1..
If you do not have ESPN Insider, the NL won.
"We're all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent, but you've got to get the big hit," was his message to A-Rod, Giambi told SI.
"What do you mean?" was Rodriguez's response, Giambi told SI. "I've had five hits in Boston."
"You [expletive] call those hits?" Giambi said, according to SI. "You had two [expletive] dinkers to right field and a ball that bounced over the third baseman! Look at how many pitches you missed!
"When you hit three, four or five [in the order], you have to get the big hits, especially if they're going to walk Bobby [Abreu] and me. I'll help you out until you get going. I'll look to drive in runs when they pitch around me, go after that 3-and-1 pitch that might be a ball. But if they're going to walk Bobby and me, you're going to have to be the guy."
Where is Stuart Smalley when you need him?
"The tone I took to Alex is basically being honest with himself. And what I meant by that was, he had a tough series in Boston ... and I like to watch body language, he was making it appear like it was OK," Torre said.
This guy is a class-A headcase.
No Apple picking?
Sep 17 - When Barry Zito strikes it rich on the free agent market next season, it reportedly won't be in New York.
Multiple officials from both the Yankees and Mets told the New York Post that both clubs have no interest in signing the lefty ace this off-season.
The Mets made a run at the Astros' Roy Oswalt at the trading deadline, but stayed away from Zito. And both clubs don't consider Zito a No. 1 starter.
"Zito is no Oswalt," a Mets official told The Post.
No, he is no Oswalt, but he still is one of the best.