By Mike Steffanos
The first week of the season has passed, and it's been a heck of a ride already. It only took one series with the Nationals to develop a unhealthy animosity between the two teams over beanballs. And of course, the Mets have to venture down to RFK Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to face the Nationals, with Brian Bannister (who plunked 3) and Pedro (2) pitching the first two games.
You can't blame the Nationals (and their fans) for getting mad about being hit 6 times. I don't believe anyone was hit intentionally, especially if you look at the situations where they occurred. The bigger question to me is whether Brian Bannister will shy away from pitching inside tomorrow. It would be a normal reaction, given what has happened, but a huge mistake. The 1986 Mets had a toughness that irritated the rest of the league, but they didn't care. If this team wants to go down that same glory road they'll need the same attitude, especially since they lack the great starting staff of their predecessor.
I have no doubt that Pedro will do what he needs to do to succeed on Wednesday. The bigger question with him is getting back the control he needs to pitch effectively, and only innings will give him that. With Bannister, I believe this to be a huge referendum on whether he is ready to pitch at this level -- not based on how well he pitches, or winning or losing, but whether the Nationals' bluster can intimidate him out of his game plan. My money is on the kid.
As for the week's other controversy, that just exists within the mind of entitled Yankee fans and media types. I had a Yankee fan friend of mine try to start an argument with me over this and laughed in his face. He borrowed Francesa's "lame" line for Wagner's use of the song. I simply pointed out that the real lameness was in caring about such foolishness. Even some Yankee fans that I actually respect (a very small number, to be sure) could care less about this. I have to wonder how much life this thing will have; I guess it will depend on how desperate sports talk radio is for something to talk about.
It's funny, but I look back to 2 seasons ago, when the Mets had been dismantled and lacked any promising youngsters close to the major-league level to at least sell as "the future". Instead, they gave us Mike Cameron, Kaz Matsui, Todd Zeile, Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer to try to get excited about. Only Cameron and, to a lesser extent, Zeile will leave a positive legacy as a Met. Our pitching staff featured 11 starts from the immortal Matt Ginter and 7 from Tyler Yates. Mike DeJean, Scott Ericson and James Baldwin all passed through. Todd Zeile even pitched an extremely ineffective inning for that team.
I guess the point here is simple: if Jorge Julio is the worst thing that happens to the pitching staff this year, I can live with it for a while -- although, if he has minor-league options left, I still maintain that the best thing for him would be a ticket to Norfolk. Jorge Julio has replaced Danny Graves as this year's chemistry experiment, but I question whether a contending team like the 2006 Mets has enough available mop-up innings to effect any sort of transformation with this talented but enigmatic pitcher.
New York Post: The Week That Was
Kevin Kernan recaps the wild first week of Billy Wagner and the Mets, quoting manager Willie Randolph on the Mets efforts to establish their own identity:
We're just trying to carve our own niche. We don't react as a team - I know I don't - to the other side of town or things like that song, which I think is totally ridiculous. Things are always blown out of proportion, whether it's a song or someone taking a curtain call.
Look at the history of it. [Wagner] had the song before Mariano [Rivera] had it and to me, Yankee history is Yankee history. It has nothing to do with the song, that's for sure. It's really laughable to me.
Message to Yankee Fans: I feel almost embarrassed for those of you making a big deal about silly talk radio crap. When are you going to realize that we Mets fans don't give a damn what you think? Keep crying amongst each other, and to those sympathetic boobs on WFAN...
Newark Star-Ledger: MLB Warns Mets and Nats
Bridget Wentworth reports that MLB is trying to defuse any beanball war between the Mets and Nationals before it happens. Wentworth quotes Cliff Floyd, who is expecting trouble:
Blown over? Not with eight guys (actually seven in the series, just one Met) getting hit. It's never getting blown over. So we've got to deal with that. My only concern is everyone (talks about) retaliation. I just feel like it needs to stop, all this talk about it.
It's not good for the game, it's not what we're here for. But things happen, and they've got to look out for themselves.
You hate to see something like this early in the year, but the Mets would be making a huge mistake if they were afraid to pitch inside because of all the brouhaha over last week. Good teams pitch inside, and deviating from that would let the rest of the league know that you can intimidate the Mets. I don't expect the Nationals to back down, but the Mets shouldn't either. The 1986 Mets faced challenges like this during the season, and to their credit passed them with flying colors.
NY Sports Day: David Wright
Joe McDonald profiles the Mets young superstar in the making. McDonald quotes Tom Glavine on what makes Wright special:
So many people are excited about what he is doing. He does such a tremendous job - day in and day out - of making adjustments. To me that is what I am most impressed with him. He was come up in big spots and produced for us. Hopefully he will get more opportunities to do that.