By Mike Steffanos
Braves 13 - Mets 3
Jose Lima and Bartolome Fortunato took their beatings like men, but make no mistake about it, they were beaten up badly. For Fortunato, who is likely to disappear back to Norfolk it was no big deal. For Lima, it was a somber reminder of his lost season in Kansas City last year. For the Mets management, it was a wakeup call that the game, flamboyant and lovable Jose Lima is unlikely to provide a long-term answer for their depleted rotation.
For the Braves, the win was an opportunity to flex their puny, atrophied muscles and pretend that they are still the stud of the NL east. What is incontrovertible is that they faced the Mets over two consecutive weekends with a burning imperative to close the gap, and managed only to fall 2 games further behind. In the process, we hear Bobby Cox whining about having the lead and not being able to close out the games, while Braves players whine that Time-Warner doesn't love them enough to spend money on the team. Boo, hoo.
Bringing back the fragile Smoltz on 3 days rest for a game in early May proved how desperate they are, and how short on pitching. It was curious to see Smoltz come out and pitch the sixth with a 8-1 lead, an indictment of their pathetic bullpen. It appeared that despite throwing 100 pitches, Smoltz was going to pitch the seventh also, allowed to bat for himself -- until the hapless Fortunato was battered for 5 more runs in the seventh. This could well be a classic primer in how to win a battle but lose the war.
My sainted grey-haired Mom, a rabid Mets fan, called me to bitch about umpire Angel Hernandez. He was the confrontational, incompetent hack he is always is, but I can't pretend that he cost the Mets this game. I did find it rather inexplicable that he seemed to have it in for Jose Lima. They actually have a lot in common, in that neither one of them belongs on a major-league diamond. The difference, of course, is that Lima was once a very good pitcher, while Hernandez was always a useless, ill-tempered embarrassment to the game. At least Lima still has class -- something the oafish Hernandez has never possessed.
Not much more to say about a game like this. The Mets have a day off tomorrow, and then it's on to an important series in Philadelphia.
Mike McGann is back
If, like me, you enjoyed reading Mike McGann's columns for Gotham Baseball, you'll be glad to know that Mike is back with a site named NY Baseball Central. He has a column titled Zambrano Not Just Hurt, But A Victim, Too, which is a recommended read. Gotham is in the process of retooling their site, but on their home page they promise to return soon. I've added a link to Mike's new web site with other recommended baseball sites to keep an eye on.
What to do about the rotation
I plan to be back and cover this in more depth, but as I see it, the Mets can only continue to keep the valuable Aaron Heilman in the bullpen if they feel that either Mike Pelfrey or Alay Soler can pitch in New York within the next month. Even after Bannister makes it back Zambrano's spot will still require an arm that can win for this team. A replay of the Ishii fiasco simply is not an option for 2006, and the market for starting pitching is nonexistent right now.
With concerns about Wagner's health, I've been one that's favored leaving Heilman where he is. I just can't see Lima or Jeremi Gonzalez as real options for more than an emergency start or two. If you feel that Pelfrey or Soler can hack it right now, take your shot. Otherwise, you have Heath Bell or Henry Owens that can fill a bullpen slot. It's a tough choice for Omar, I understand, but the Mets can't afford ugly games every fifth day.
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