By Mike Steffanos
Last night's game against the Nationals was the kind that would drive you crazy if you were in a tight pennant race. Fortunately for the Mets, the last dying embers of a pennant race flickered out at the end of July when the Mets waltzed out of Turner Field with the Braves' heads stuck to their pikes. We knew then that, once again, there would be no "meaningful games" played at Shea in September -- only this year you can't blame the Mets. When you start talking magic numbers in August, you know everyone else in the division is taking the year off.
The parallel between 2006 and 1986 has been made repeatedly. In 1985, everything seemed to go right for the Cardinals as they edged out the Mets for the NL east title in those all-or-nothing pre-wildcard days. Mets fans were looking forward to another chance at them going into the 1986 season, but as it became clear the Mets would dominate the NL, it became equally clear the Cardinals lost interest in the chase. This year it's the Braves who seem to be packing it in, although they still have life in that crazy wild card scrum where they languish behind 9 other contenders, but only 5 games off the pace.
Those annoying Braves found a way to stick it to Mets fans this year, after all. They robbed us of the chance to see a Mets team that for once was not inferior to Atlanta overcome them in a pennant race. In a way, it reminds me of that childish way that you would try to diminish someone else's victory by declaring that you weren't really trying to win, anyway. So there.
The end result of the collapse of the Braves and the inability of Philadelphia to land a quality starter has been this weird non-pennant race where, with more than one-quarter of the season remaining, there's nothing left to play for. There is no sense of urgency. There is no heart-pounding anticipation going into games. Being embarrassed by a Triple-A pitcher last night doesn't have quite the sting it really should have.
Before I get some criticism, believe me, I'd rather have a boring September than one in which the Mets come up short. And it's not as if there is no intrigue left between now and when the leaves turn. There's interest tonight to see if John Maine can keep his scoreless streak going and, more importantly, continue to establish himself as a legitimate contender for a post-season start. Still, it's a weird feeling to not yet be halfway through August and just looking at the last 6 weeks of the season as nothing more than a laboratory for October.
Marty Noble quotes Ton Glavine on the veteran southpaw's performance against the Nationals last night:
That's probably as good as I've thrown since the Boston game [on June 29]. I saw the action on my pitches I've been struggling to get back. There was some consistency in what I did. I'm encouraged. ... Losing stinks. But I'm happy with the way I threw. This was even better than last time. So it's a step forward. And a bad result.
I'll buy it to a point, but I think back to some at bats last night and I'm not completely convinced. In the fourth inning, with 2 on and 2 outs, Glavine faced opposing pitcher Billy Traber. After going 2-2, Traber fouls off 3 pitches before finally grounding out to end the inning. This was not a great lineup that Glavine was facing last night, and he was in trouble almost every inning. As I mentioned in my recap, even in a 1-2-3 third inning it took Tom 20 pitches to retire 3 batters. The 7 strikeouts were nice, but again, this is depleted Nationals lineup. As a fan, I would need to see Glavine show the ability to have some easy innings before I could really feel good about him again.
Mets.com: Pelfrey Okay
In his notes column, Marty Noble passes along some good news about the recently DL'ed Mike Pelfrey:
The Mets said Friday they are not particularly concerned about Mike Pelfrey, who was assigned to the disabled list at Norfolk because of a strained right lat muscle. Willie Randolph said he thinks Pelfrey, sent to the Tides on Aug. 2, will pitch again this season. The Tides' season ends on Sept. 4. Pelfrey almost certainly will be promoted to the Mets when the roster limit is increased to 40 on Sept. 1. Randolph reiterated Friday he may use a six-man rotation in September, but he didn't speak about as it related to Pelfrey.
New York Times: Lo Duca
Ben Shpigel updates on the ongoing Lo Duca soap opera.
Daily News: HoJo Returning
Adam Rubin reports that, after finishing out a 10-game supsension, Norfolk hitting coach Howard Johnson will return to his job Monday.
Faith and Fear in Flushing: Can't win 'em all?
Greg is philosophical over last night's loss.
Getting Paid To Watch: Lo Duca and the Press
Bob Sikes contributes another solid post regarding the press coverage of Paul Lo Duca.
Mets Grrl: No love for the Post
Mets Grrl also takes the media to task and questions our love of gossip. Mets Grrl makes much too much sense with the following:
I also always, always, always question so-called "inside sources" or "friends of" sources. How good a friend can this person be, how much of an intimate, if they are willing to share private information with total strangers, or blatantly spill secrets to a journalist. How reliable could this information possibly be? Or even if factually true, if you have an agenda that impels you to spread it around, what are you leaving out? What context is being omitted in your quest for your 15 minutes?