By Mike Steffanos
I've mostly decided to join the Mets in taking today off, at least from blogging. I had a lot of work to do for a couple of clients, and I'm bored with all of the endless speculation on what might happen. Besides, I find it somewhat hard to understand how my team -- despite winning 9 games more than anyone in the NL -- seems to have become some sort of underdog as everyone seems to be jumping on the Dodgers' and/or Padres bandwagon.
The Mets won 97 games this year. The Dodgers and the Padres both won 88. St. Louis won 83. So how come I've been reading one expert after another writing off my team's playoff chances? Don't get me wrong, I understand that losing Pedro was a huge blow, but Pedro won 9 games and lost 8 in 2006. This team has managed to win 9 more games than the Dodgers and Padres, but I guess we now have to subtract those 9 wins and call it no better than even, right?
The Mets have overcome a lot to post the best record in the league in 2006, but it seems like there are many that expect them to pack it up and go home because Pedro it hurt. Those quotes from anonymous scouts and "team executives" that are ubiquitous in sports journalism today are cropping up in story after story. This one from Jayson Stark on ESPN.com is typical:
Hardly anyone thinks the Mets can win now that Pedro Martinez is hanging out with his local rotator-cuff surgeon
"You don't get Pedro for the [regular] season," said one NL GM. "You get Pedro for the postseason. That's what they got him for. So without him, they're not the team they were constructed to be."
Even the one GM who picked the Mets to win made his pick before he knew Pedro was done. But there was also no reason to think he'd be the Pedro at that point, either. And that GM still had a gut feeling that the Mets would find a way to rise up.
"I know their pitching isn't great," he said. "But there's something about that group of guys [in the lineup]. They just don't let up on you. They're relentless."
But that was a sentiment no one else bought into. In fact, one scout said the Mets' rotation, minus Pedro, is "the weakest starting pitching of any of these teams. [So] I don't see the Mets making it through the LCS now. I'm not sure they can even get out of the first round."
I understand that in a short series the team with the best regular season record is guaranteed nothing, but what seems to be lacking here is any respect for what the team accomplished this year -- primarily without Pedro, and despite the "contributions" of the late unlamented Jose Lima, Jermemi Gonzalez and Alay Soler. At least we're heading into the playoffs behind guys like El Duque, Tom Glavine and John Maine who have been pitching well.
I really shouldn't complain, I guess. I was never comfortable when all of the idiots were jumping on the bandwagon, so I'm not sorry to see most of them go. I hope the team accepts all of this b.s. as a challenge. It seemed like all year long, despite possessing the best record by far in their league and one of the best in baseball, the experts were loathe to embrace the team. What I wrote back in late August still rings true for me:
It felt weird for so much of the year to have so many in the media whispering sweet nothings in the ears of Mets fans. It rang with all the sincerity of the attention you find yourself receiving in a strip bar. (Note to Lisa: not that I would know anything about that, of course.) It's nice that so many of the "girls" have deserted us for the Bronx, where Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner are stuffing fifties into their g-strings. Others have departed for the bright lights of Hollywood. Hey, don't let the door hit you on the way out. Looks like it's mostly just Mets fans who believe in this team again. I don't know about you, but I'm fine with that.
Look, winning 9 games more than anyone else doesn't give you any free playoff wins, but it shouldn't be so quickly discounted, either. Jeez...