By Joyce Mandelkern
Slay the dragon. These were the three words my oldest son texted me right before the Giants took the field against the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. Although he is a Jet fan, he understood perfectly what it was going to take for the Giants to advance. And he was absolutely right. What stood between the Giants and the next level, wasn't the physical limitations of the matchup, but the mental one.
The Braves pose the same challenge to the Mets that the Cowboys posed to the Giants. In 2006 the Mets were up to the challenge. Last year, not so much. In years past, the Braves owned us. Atlanta Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field have always been a house of horrors for us and Shea has not fared much better. I am certainly not going to sit here and try to tell you that an April series with any division foe is going to make or break our season. That would be nonsense. Pennants are not won and lost in April. What I will tell you, however, is that if the Mets don't play well this weekend, they will be feeding the beast.
This beast, is not too be feared, unless we make it more than it really is. And haven't we all been doing that for a very long time? The fans, the media, even the players themselves feed the beast. I hate that every time Chipper Jones gets up to bat at Shea we hear the chorus of "Larrrry" ringing loud and clear. He LOVES that - why would we feed the beast? Let him disrespect David Wright. Let Ruben Gotay be upset (actually, I don't blame him). Are we really to fear Tom Glavine as a starter? I'm sorry, I just can't, I just can't. Let everyone in the media pick the Braves to finish first. That is just fine by me. Let Bobby Cox argue with the umpires and rock back and forth in the dugout until he exhausts himself. Let Francouer talk their team up all he wants. The Mets have to believe that they are better than the Braves. It is as simple as that. Play like you believe it.
We all have our dragons we must slay. For the Mets and their fans it has always been the Braves. The Mets have always said the Braves are not "in their heads." I would expect and hope they would say that. Now it is time to prove it - on the field. The dragon is wounded and a shadow of what it once was. The Braves have not won the division in two years, nor have they made the playoffs. Their bravado is smoke and mirrors at this point. It is time to move in for the kill. It is time to slay the dragon.