By Mike Steffanos
After getting my quite tardy game recap up earlier in the afternoon, I took a quick glimpse at some of the headline in SportsSpyder. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my eye, particularly 3 paragraphs on the Mets:
At full strength, the Mets remain an absolute monopoly in this league, representing nearly everything the Giants lack. They have three near-legends in the starting rotation. They have superstars in their prime, young infielders with Cooperstown flair, and a manager who looks rock-solid for the next 10 years. They have a closer who is respected, not ridiculed. And while they have controversy, none of it compares to the poisonous clouds still hovering over Barry Bonds.
(To be fair, the Giants do have two potentially great young starting pitchers in Matt Cain and Noah Lowry, and the Mets have no answer to that.)
As the weekend began, all three of those storied Mets starters were on the shelf. Pedro Martinez has been out with a strained left calf, Tom Glavine has a circulatory condition that temporarily left his career in doubt, and "El Duque" Hernandez is just plain tired. Open a playoff series with the Big Three intact, and it's all over. Leave it up to Brian Bannister, Steve Trachsel and John Maine, and every single opponent has a shot.
I don't take a great deal of exception to this article, but I strongly disagree with the second paragraph. The Mets of two years ago lacked potentially great young starting pitching, as anything they had with promise dwelt in the lower levels of the farm system. Right now they have some quality pitchers knocking on the door of the major leagues. None is more intriguing than tonight's pitcher -- who, despite being only 25, has already proved that he can do it at the major league level.
I'm not sure what to expect from Oliver Perez tonight. There is likely an equal probability of the young lefty pitching a gem as there is that he'll be absolutely shelled. Still, in a season where much of the suspense is gone, and the Mets seem hell-bent on single-handedly insuring a below-par Phillies club a wildcard playoff berth, Perez gives me a reason to watch tonight -- whether he is good, awful, or anywhere in between.
Ignore the ignorant sportswriters who stridently insist that the deal that brought Perez to the Mets was a result of Omar Minaya panicking. This is a left-hander who as a 23-year-old in 2004 struck out 239 batters and allowed a measly 145 hits in 196 innings. Look at those numbers and really allow them to sink in. You can't luck into numbers like that. Those numbers speak to a profound skill in the art of throwing baseballs past major league hitters. While the last 2 years have featured struggle and disappointment, the arm is still there, and the potential remains to be tapped.
With Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber and Brian Bannister, the Mets have some young arms with potential not seen in these parts in a long time.
New York Times: The Slump
Ben Shpigel writes on David Wright's protracted August slump. Wright attributes his struggles to a little bit of fatigue, but isn't looking for a rest:
It's impossible to play as many games as we do and not get fatigued - both mentally and physically. Everyone has their ups and downs, and I'm having some downs now. There's not much time left, so you just have to empty your tank and go all out the rest of the way.
Take a day off, kid -- you've earned it, and your struggles are getting painful to watch.
LoHud Mets blog: Couldn't have said it any better
John Delcos, who covers the Mets for The Journal News, has a terrific blog, too. This is from yesterday:
Food for thought: For my money, losing Bannister symbolizes what these Mets are all about as much as anything. It is not often a team goes wire-to-wire without significant injuries and setbacks and the Mets have had plenty. They are as resilient as any team I can remember.
They have three position players starting who weren't Opening Day: Shawn Green, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez (imagine how things would be different without those last two guys); they have had 47 starts made by pitchers not in the OD rotation or even on the roster at the time; and they've lost their set-up reliever.
They are also running away with the division. Few teams have ever adapted as much.
Personally, I'm tired of hearing how the Mets are where they are because the Braves hit the skids this year and the NL isn't strong. Even so, the Mets still have had to win the games on their own. They are good, plain and simple.
Amen, brother -- and this isn't from a Mets fan like me. John is a pro who has covered the Orioles, Yankees and now Mets.