By Mike Steffanos
Now hold on a minute here. Last week the Mets couldn't be taken seriously by most in the media, now many are gushing over them. It seems to be one extreme or another for the lads from Flushing.
I've read in more than one place today that the Mets are the best team in baseball. Granted, this is a year that seems to lack truly great teams in either league, but I think we have officially moved from no respect to a little too much. As happy as we are with what the team has overcome and accomplished this young season, all but the absolute giddiest of Mets fans still eye this team as a work in progress. Let the boys in the bottom of the rotation backslide a little and the bandwagon will become a lonely place again very quickly.
This team is playing good ball now, and I'm happy with their progress. They seem to have bought themselves some time to straighten out their beleaguered starting pitching. This is good, because I'll bet you anything it won't be the same five guys in September that are there right now. When I am confident that the Mets have a good chance of getting a good start game in and game out, that's when I'll start thinking of this as a great team. For now, they're a very good team with a terrific dynamic.
Still, it's all staring to happen. When I'm out in public in my little corner of Connecticut, I am suddenly seeing shiny new Mets caps on heads. I can't make it to very many games given my distance from NYC, but I'm sure that Mets fans that go regularly are starting to see the fair-weather fans and hangers-on that just want to be seen in Flushing now that the Mets are becoming the hot team in New York.
Daily News: Cliff Comes Back
Adam Rubin reports on Cliff Floyd's imminent return to the lineup. With the strong possibility that Lastings Milledge will not return to Norfolk, it could very well be that Cliff is returning to somewhat of a diminished role. This doesn't seem to bother him:
So be it. The name of the game, in my opinion, is winning as many games as you can. However you do it, you do it. My ego, I've never worried about that. It's never been part of my game. For the most part, my job is to be healthy and to be ready to play, and let them make the decisions. I don't care what the role, as long as I'm part of this team winning. You're going to need all the guys to win. In my mind I'm an everyday left fielder, but things change when you don't do as well as you'd like. When you get hurt, you give opportunities for the door to be open.
The Mets return home for a 7-game homestand after these 3 games in Philadelphia. Then they go on the road for series in Boston, Toronto and Yankee Stadium where they will be able to use a DH. That gives them through the end of the month to figure everything out with all of their outfielders. Nady will likely return during the 4-game series versus the Reds in Shea, just before the Mets go on their AL jaunt.
Newsday: Minaya's Moves
Johnette Howard pens a very complimentary column about Omar Minaya, who certainly deserves it:
The Mets now have a mix of youthful exuberance and experience, balance and depth, consummate pros and lively personalities who can sustain winning over a long season. Jose Reyes is scintillating. David Wright is clutch. Hitting ahead of Delgado, Beltran has made Mets fans forget his struggles in his first season in New York. Willie Randolph has managed with a sure hand. If Tom Glavine and Martinez don't run out of gas, look out.
The Mets have meshed very quickly. And it's hard to think of a big misstep Minaya has made. He hasn't made panicky deals even after injuries could've created anxiety that the Mets' fast start could go for naught, and he lifted the team with some of his less bold-faced deals, such as getting feisty No. 2 hitter Paul LoDuca as his everyday catcher rather than waiting for Bengie Molina, and adding reed-thin outfielder Endy Chavez, whose hits and throwing arm have already won some games.
She also reminds us of John Smoltz' comments after the Brave beat the Mets in May to avoid falling back into a double-digit deficit:
If we had fallen back double digits, we're not coming back -- we would never be able to come back.
The Braves are 10 games out now, and, as I've been harping on for much of the year, their team just isn't that good. They like to think they're going to make another of their comebacks, but they don't have the starting pitching they did in 1993. And the bullpen? They make the Mets 2004 bullpen look good by comparison. I've always admired the can-do attitude the Braves have had as an organization, but I think they went from "can-do" to some weird belief that they could get away with anything. When they failed to come up with a reasonable closer, I thought it was over for them. Even if they had, I'm not sure that would have been enough, but it would have kept them in it.
Fox Sports: Feliciano and Peterson
Scroll down near the bottom of Ken Rosenthal's column to find this on Pedro Feliciano:
Left-hander Pedro Feliciano has emerged as an important part of the Mets' bullpen, and one scout attributes his improvement to the influence of pitching coach Rick Peterson. Former major leaguer Buddy Groom became a solid left-handed specialist after Peterson persuaded him to change his delivery with the A's. Feliciano, 29, could be following a similar path -- he has gone from a high three-quarters to low-quarters delivery, the scout says.
I point to this for a couple of reasons. Somehow, the rumor has gotten around among Mets fans that it was pitching coach Rick Peterson who screwed Aaron Heilman up by changing his style to pitch over the top. This is not true. Number one, Peterson was still Oakland's pitching coach when the change was made, and two, Peterson is a guy who likes to convince pitchers to drop down a little and get more movement on their pitches. This one is just plain crazy.
A lot of people, such as WFAN's Joe Beningo, seem to hold Professor Rick personally responsible for the Zambrano trade, boldly asserting that he could "fix" Victor in 10 minutes. But this one doesn't hold up, either. In an entry in his blog from May 8, Adam Rubin shares the following info:
By the way, Peterson has long felt betrayed by the "10 minutes" comment being leaked. But I have it on good authority that he also felt it was purposely misrepresented to shift the blame to him after the ill-fated trade. The pitching coach was asked if he could correct a specific mechanical issue with Zambrano's delivery, and he answered on an internal conference call with that comment.
So the "ten minutes" statement was about one single specific mechanical issue rather than VZ as a whole, and somebody else tried to screw Peterson to protect their own ass. Go figure. I don't know why some Mets fans hate this guy so much, but I'm sure the ones that do will completely overlook any facts to continue clinging to their baseless conspiracy theories.
Mets Geek: Phillies Pitching Preview
Andrew Hintz previews the three Philadelphia starters in the series.
New York Times: Gimme Some Lovin'
Murray Chass, not always first in line to hand out bouquets to the Mets, has one for Minaya and the boys here.