By Mike Steffanos
Despite sputtering a little at home last week, things are still going very well for the Mets. The other teams in the division didn't capitalize on the opportunity, and the Mets did a decent job of righting the ship, taking two of three from a very good Blue Jays team in Toronto. Even when it looked like disaster had struck with Duaner Sanchez on Friday night; it turns out to be much, much better than anyone could have possibly anticipated.
There is still a long way to go this season, but the Mets seem very likely to return to the post-season for the first time in 6 years. As I look at those words on the page, I find it hard to believe that it's only been six years since the Mets were a post-season club. With all of the Steve Phillps, Robbie Alomars, Mo Vaughans, skill sets, low-ball offers to Vlad, Art Howes, Jim Duquettes, Al Leiters and all else that has gone down in the interim, it seems like much longer.
Even this month, which promised to be a severe test of what this team is made of, has thus far seen the Mets achieve a 15-8 record and a measure of respect from some of the loudest naysayers from early in the year. Kaz Matsui's final flop led to Jose Valentin's amazing renascence. Cliff Floyd's nagging injuries and Nady's close call with an inflamed appendix have led to the emergence of Lastings Milledge and Endy Chavez as valuable contributors.
A baseball season, even a successful one, is an endless dance between good moments and bad moments, hot streaks and cold spells. For every David Wright and Carlos Beltran walk-off game winner there is a moment where your imploding $11 million closer can't throw a fastball over the plate. You suffered through Brian Bannister's groin injury, then Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez' short stints in the rotation. You were rewarded with some great pitching from the 2 Cubans who took their place, only to watch both of them struggle their last times out. Your exciting young shortstop, who has become the equivalent of the anti-Christ to those who listen only to soulless numbers, has suddenly become the hottest player in the game. It's baseball, it's a long season, and it's not for the faint of heart or the short of attention span.
This posting is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.
Daily News: Red Hot Jose
Adam rubin quotes Jose Reyes on the small change that's led to some big results:
Willie Randolph talked to me in L.A. He said, 'Jose, with your speed, you have to put the ball in play as much as you can.' Rick Down told me, 'Hey, you have to see the ball longer.' I started to try to hit the ball the other way. ... The last couple of weeks I made a little change in my swing. A lot of times the pitcher threw me an offspeed pitch outside and I tried to pull the ball. Now I stay with it."
One of the fun things I've enjoyed with Reyes is that he's been that rare player that transcends the numbers. (I know you stats guys out there burn when you see that phrase, sorry.) I've come to see the value in statistical analysis, as long as it's not seen as the only basis in which to make a judgment. I've enjoyed reading ill-tempered tirades against Jose Reyes by that type of stat head. If he actually starts producing numbers close to what a leadoff hitter needs to do, they'll have to move on to someone else.
No, wait, they still have a purpose in demonstrating that he's not a good defensive shortstop. That's one thing that I would like to see from Jose -- a consistent mental approach in the field. Jose drifts sometimes, and depends too much on his athletic ability to save him. In Friday night's win over the Jays there was a perfect example. With Bradford pitching in the eighth inning, there was a soft liner to the shortstop side of second base that Jose got no jump on and went for a base hit. A lot of shortstops that had less range and athletic ability than Reyes would have easily caught that ball. That's why numbers crunchers point to their charts and label Jose as a bad defender. If he can overcome those lapses, he's the gold glove shortstop in the National League.
By the way, MetsBlog has a post today linking to an old Rob Neyer online chat from last May characterizing Reyes as "one of the very worst everyday players in the majors". That kind of silliness from a baseball "genius" like Neyer is exactly the type of thing I enjoy poking fun at the most. At the time, Reyes was 21 and just looking to stay healthy for a whole season. It's sad when someone who other people take seriously lives and dies with their stupid numbers and writes off entire young careers. ESPN can keep the pompous Rob Neyer, I'm glad we have Reyes.
Newsday: Rookie Hazing
David Lennon reports that the Mets did their annual rookie hazing, forcing Lastings Milledge and Alay Soler to dress up as women. Milledge wore a feather boa and a leather mini-skirt, and obviously felt that he made a pretty hot woman, posing and having some fun with the reporters. Lennon quotes David Wright on the spectacle:
I'm kind of worried about Lastings. He's liking it too much.
I waiting to see if somehow this funny story gets spun into something negative. Bob Raissman, are you out there?
MLB.com: Endy Chavez
Jesse Sanchez fills us in on something we probably don't know about Endy Chavez:
Mets outfielder Endy Chavez is a rock star en Español.
In his home country of Venezuela, he is a hero. Fathers want their sons to grow up to be like him, and mothers want their daughters to date him.
I remember looking at the Mets bench as it was constituted early in the year and thinking that Endy and Jose Valentin could be the weak links on the team. What a genius I was...
Surfing the Mets: Pictures of Mets in Drag
Not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, Adam Rubin offers pictures of Lastings Milledge and Alay Soler in drag.
Mets Daily: Conference Call
If you missed it this weekend, at MetsDaily.com there is a Conference Call with me, Shari Forst from Take the "7" Train and Joe Pietaro from New York Sportscene magazine. Go to the Mets Daily web site, scroll down to Podcasts and look for the conference call.
I enjoyed doing it a lot. Sheri was really funny, and everyone had some good points. Take some time to check out John Strubel's revamped MetsDaily.com web site while you're there.
New York Sportscene: New York Sportscene Magazine
One of the participants of the above conference call was Joe Pietaro, the managing editor of New York Sportscene Magazine. Joe fills us in on his what his magazine has to offer:
New York Sportscene magazine is a monthly publication in its 12th year, covering everything in New York sports. Full color with quality paper and amazing photos grace each page. We are in the process of totally upgrading our website, so keep an eye out. Full year subscriptions are available for only $25.50. Please visit www.nysportscene.com for details.
Gotham Baseball: Free magazine subscription
Also, if you missed it yesterday, the re-launched Gotham Baseball is offering a free 1-year subscription to the magazine. Details can be found at the above link.
Getting Paid To Watch: Another book excerpt
Bob Sikes has a new excerpt from his book on-line.
Faith and Fear in Flushing: Tom Belcher, New York Met
Jason offers up a really poignant look at the passing of a Met you almost undoubtedly don't remember.