By Mike Steffanos
Before you leave a comment or e-mail me, I agree that the Mets have done nothing towards exorcising the demons of their past by winning a solitary game in Atlanta. The thing is, I believe that it's actually the Mets fan (me included) and not the players on this current roster that are dealing with these demons.
I know that I was hyperventilating while watching Billy Wagner doing his John Franco/Braden Looper impersonation last night. I guess while Wagner was warming up the folks in Atlanta were playing all kinds of clips from previous Mets meltdowns against the Braves in an effort to spook the Gotham 9. That it got a little interesting in the ninth had nothing to do with the past, however, and more to due with a closer that still hasn't found his groove. As arch-traitor Todd Pratt watched that fastball settle into Lo Duca's glove for a called strike three, and that insidious tomahawk chop chant died in the throats of Braves fans who hadn't already quit on their team and left, I was struck with a realization that I had just witnessed a game in which familiar roles had been reversed.
From the first inning of that game, the Mets had been making all of the fundamental plays, playing solid defense, making productive outs -- all of the stuff that Mets teams hardly ever do. Meanwhile, Pedro is dominating the Braves "A" lineup with his "C" stuff. All through the game I had the feeling that the two teams that I had been watching for the past decade or so had pulled a prank, and decided to change uniforms.
When Larry Jones hit that 2-run homer to pull the home team back within a run, the old Mets would have wilted and gagged up the game. Pedro simply struck out Andruw Jones and walked back to the dugout. Duaner Sanchez (Jae Who?) comes in and gets the side 1-2-3 in the eighth, aided by the best catch made by a centerfielder in that game -- his name was Endy, not Andruw. The Mets pad their lead in the ninth when Jose bunts for a base hit, steals second, gets bunted to third, and then scores on Delgado's sac fly. The Braves used to be the team doing that in a close game. Then Wright sticks the nail in the coffin.
Even in the ninth when the Braves loaded the bases with 2 outs, only to lose anyway, it was reminiscent of a lot of Mets losses over the past two seasons. There are no moral victories in baseball.
Speaking of Jose's bunt, did anyone else consider it pathetic that Reitsma argued about making a tag that he so obviously missed in the replay? It's one thing to try to steal a call; it's another to whine at the umpire when you don't get away with it. A real A-Rod play.
But I digress. I'm having some fun over the past couple of days, even before this series got underway, visiting some web sites and reading what Braves fans have to say about everything. It appears that some of their cockiness has taken a beating with their slow start this year. I've seen calls to fire Bobby Cox and Roger McDowell. Nice loyalty there with Cox. My favorite whine, though, is that the Time-Warner corporate ownership of the Braves won't spend any money on the team because -- get this -- the top executives are all Yankee and Mets fans, and they want the Braves to fail. This wasn't just one isolated nut case, either. Just a thought, but I think those suits would put more money into the team if Atlantans supported it. How about actually selling out playoff games?
Only in Atlanta would the team feel the need to bring in the Budweiser Clydesdales to chug around the field when you already had Braves - Mets, Pedro vs. Smoltz.
But back to reality here. We desperately want to see our team pull out one of these next two games and take this series from the Braves. Believe me, it will hurt me personally if they pull a repeat of that first series and drop these next two. But I have to concede the Mets are right when they, almost to a man, downplay the importance of these games. Only Tom Glavine, Cliff Floyd and Steve Trachsel have any real history in this rivalry, and that's a good thing. This team isn't obsessed as we fans are with beating the Braves because, in their own minds, they don't defer to Atlanta as previous Mets teams have done.
I can't predict what's going to happen tonight, tomorrow, or over the rest of the season. I will say, however, that in my heart I have not believed that the Mets could overcome the Braves in a long time -- until this year. No one deserves this more than the long-suffering Met fan, except perhaps the pompous, arrogant Braves fan.
Bergen Record: Pedro
Bob Klapisch has a nice feature on Pedro's adjustment to life without the blazing fastball:
It was barely a month ago that the world was obsessing over Pedro Martinez's big right toe, counting down the days until he landed on the disabled list. After a decade of ruling the baseball world, this was the beginning of the end for Pedro, or so went the theory.
Seems to me someone familiar was writing some of that negative stuff...
New York Post: Iriki Suspension
Michael Morrissey fills in some of the details on the 50-game suspension received by Yusaku Iriki. Morrissey names the substance as the steroid Nandrolone.
I did a web search on Nandrolone and found this on a UK web site:
Nandrolone is an anabolic steroid that has recently caused a great deal of controversy after a number of big name athletes have been banned from competition after failing tests for this drug. These include Linford Christie, Mark Richardson and Dougie Walker (all well known British sprinters), Merlene Ottey (the Jamaican former 200 m world champion), and Dieter Baumann (the German 500 m runner). After protesting their innocence, all were subsequently cleared by their national athletics organisations, although the International Amateur Athletics Federation fueled the controversy further by overturning the reinstatement of Christie and Walker. As well as athletes, French soccer star Christophe Dugarry tested positive for nandrolone after a match last year, and following a Wimbledon quarter final in 1998 Czech tennis player Petr Korda also failed a test. But the fact that so many sportsmen have tested positive for the same substance in such a short space of time has led to speculation that the testing procedure may be flawed, or inaccurate.
This is dated October 2000, so it's a little dated, but there does seem to be some controversy over detection of this steroid. Iriki has stated he will not fight the suspsension, though he denies willfully using it.
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Mike Pelfrey
Brian Moritz profiles the latest member of the Mets Double-A Binghamton farm team, #1 pick Mike Pelfrey. He gets a heads-up on the young right-hander from B-Mets pitching coach Mark Brewer:
He's got good movement on his fastball, good depth on his curveball and has good feel on his change-up. He's very aggressive and he's got a very good plan when he pitches. I'm excited to have him here . He knows what he has to do on his quest for the major leagues. He's definitely someone I'm looking forward to seeing.