By Mike Steffanos
In September of 1988, left-hander Bob Ojeda almost severed the tip of one of his fingers while using an electric hedge trimmer. Many Mets fans who are too young to remember the 80s don't realize what a great pitcher Ojeda was before arm injuries and this little faux pas eroded his skills. I, however, both remember and revere Bob Ojeda as one of the most underrated pitchers who plied their trade in Flushing.
Approaching the 19th anniversary of Ojeda's gardening misadventure, I struggled to come up with a way to commemorate it. Yesterday the answer came to me quite unexpectedly as I was trimming the hedges in my own back yard. Yes, that little jolt of pain in my left index finger meant that I, too, managed to cut into a body part while trying to trim up the greenery. Although not as dramatic as Ojeda's injury, I managed to cut about a quarter inch into the tip of my finger through the nail. Needless to say, my dreams of being a world-famous pianist are over. It's okay, though -- never actually learning how to play the piano probably held me back almost as much.
Although I am grateful that, unlike Bob, I injured my non-pitching hand, it's playing havoc with my already poor typing skills. Therefore, I won't waste a lot of words on the last two games of the Marlins series.
I thought that Ron Darling and Gary Cohen were remarkably candid about the Mets during Sunday's telecast. Darling in particular said the Mets were using their continued run in first place as a crutch, and it was time for the team as a whole to take responsibility for their season. Darling thought today's off day was a good time for the club to individually look in the mirror and decide that they were going to play the final six weeks of the season in a much different manner from the last 2-1/2 months. I find myself neither optimistic nor pessimistic as to how the season may play out, but agree that a solid stretch run can erase the frustration of watching this team underperform for so long.
The disappointing 2-4 homestand more or less cancelled out the great road trip that began August. The Mets now stand at 6-5 for the month after posting a 12-15 record in June and a 13-14 mark for July. The Mets are 31-34 since June 1, and if anyone really believes that playing .500 ball the rest of the way will net them a playoff spot, I think they're sadly mistaken. Going .500 the rest of the way would put them at 87-88 wins, and there's no playoff guarantee there. Stumble a couple of games under .500 and it gets less likely.
The Mets have had more than their share of misfortune this season, but seemed a little too quick at times to credit their struggles to the injuries -- seemingly more concerned with who wasn't in the lineup than with who actually was. I like the things that players like David Wright are saying now. There is an accountability that wasn't around a month ago. I'd like to see this club make the playoffs, and believe they will if everyone plays to their capabilities.
Some quick thoughts on the games:
Marlins 7 - Mets 5
Played Saturday, August 11, 2007
Whatever you believe the reason to be, Guillermo Mota is beginning to look like a lost cause in 2008. I know many attribute his struggles to not being on the juice, but his velocity is fine. When he flounders, it's atrocious location that sinks him. He can still look great at times, but seems to lose confidence whenever he runs into trouble.
Aaron Heilman earned himself the wrath of fans again, but it's fair to note that he has been the most dependable reliever for the past month. Like it or not, he's the best eighth inning option right now.
Mets 10 - Marlins 4
Played Sunday, August 12, 2007
It wasn't the loveliest of games, but when you desperately need a win you can't afford to be too picky. I know many choose to focus on the continued struggles of Oliver Perez, but I actually took some solace in the fact that he was able to limit the damage rather than blow up. It was never destined to be smooth sailing straight through with Perez and Maine this year, but the media is now once again focused on the negative, and that's too bad. Every pitcher goes through rough spots, but in this endless struggle of a season everything is magnified.
If the Mets can keep Moises Alou healthy and Carlos Delgado can avoid month-long slumps, this team can score some runs. The key to me is Carlos Beltran. When he's patient and not getting himself out by chasing breaking pitches down and inside, he makes this lineup rather formidable. When he goes into his funks they're a lot easier to pitch to.
The finger is throbbing. More tomorrow.