By Mike Steffanos
Sunday night while basking in the glow of the return of good baseball to Queens, I caught a comment about the Mets by ESPN's Buster Olney. I think it was on Sportscenter, but it may have been Baseball Tonight. Anyway, talking about the Mets, Olney made the point that the pitching staff was old.
Here is your current Mets pitching staff and their ages as of today (I also included 3 pitchers on the DL who might play a part in the second half):
That's quite a group of senior citizens! The starting staff is actually fairly young other than Pedro. Wagner is also 36, but has been fairly durable. At 34, Scott Schoeneweis is hardly ancient, particularly as a lefty specialist. El Duque is up there, but anything he could give them in the second half is gravy at this point. I actually think their staff is a good mix of young and veteran, although Wagner scares me at times.
I'd love to hear Olney's reasoning for labeling their pitching as old. I'm used to the fact that he rarely has anything positive to say about the Mets, but this seems somewhat of a reach beyond that. The average age of their five starters is 28.4, and the seven relievers average 29.9. Not wide-eyed kids, by any means, but hardly old by any reasonable standard.
As puzzling as Olney's "old" label for the pitching staff was, it pales in comparison to something CBS Sports' Scott Miller wrote last week. Of course, I usually wind up shaking my head when I read something by this guy, so I probably shouldn't be surprised.
Miller wrote an article titled "Anti All-Stars: The antidote to all that's right with the world" where he picked Jose Reyes as the shortstop. Here's what he had to say:
He's got talent. He's got speed. He's got pizzazz. He's also got an infuriating case of immaturity.
The most egregious sin for anyone blessed with this much talent -- baseball player, pianist, painter -- is to not get the most out of it. Right now, that's Reyes. Sure, his numbers are respectable. But this guy has the tools to be great. And he won't put out to get there.
I was there in Anaheim when he threw a colossal fit on the field when interim manager Jerry Manuel removed him from the game as a precautionary measure to protect a mildly strained hamstring. It was the worst thing I've seen on the field since Jose Guillen threw a similar fit years ago while playing for the Angels.
Reyes embarrassed himself and the Mets organization with his petulant tantrum and helmet-flinging episode. Manuel handled it well behind closed doors later, but that didn't erase the very public picture of Reyes acting like a spoiled little brat.
It wasn't long after that he showed up Carlos Delgado when the first baseman failed to make a play on a borderline throw from Reyes at short.
Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki was considered after he injured himself while slamming his maple bat to the ground in anger and landed on the disabled list. But this year, Reyes is the obvious call. Grow up, Jose.
Those of us who watch Reyes day in and day out know that he can be immature and frustrating at times, but those of us who remember what we were like when we were 25 aren't shocked when someone that age is immature. Then again, we're not paid to write intellectually lazy drivel for a national sports web site.
There are writers like Peter Gammons who combine a great love of the game with deep knowledge and a level of intellectual subtlety. On the other hand, there are guys like Miller who has one gimmick to play over and over again -- write something silly and obnoxious and get people fired up at you.
Reyes can be high strung, he can make bad baseball decisions at times, and he has a temper. On the other hand, for a poor kid from the Dominican Republic who literally grew up in the biggest media fishbowl on the planet, he's turned out pretty decent.
While the incidents of losing his temper on the field that were cited were bad moments for Jose, those of us who seem him a lot understand those moments are the exception, not the rule. He's certainly not perfect, but to try to label his as a chronic malcontent is ridiculous and merely reflects a bias on the part of the writer.
At times overhyped for talent that he hasn't quite managed to completely harness, and then criticized for failing to live up to that hype, one thing I have never worried about Reyes is a lack of effort. Frankly, sometimes he seems to try too hard and gets in his own way. I get the fact that fans of other teams don't like Reyes because he's animated and comes across as cocky, but that doesn't excuse labeling him as some sort of dog when he actually brings the effort day in and day out.
To accuse Reyes of not getting the most out of his talent because "he won't put out to get there" in a best-case scenario displays an astonishing lack of understanding by Miller of what he is writing about. More likely, it reflects an intellectual laziness and even intellectual dishonesty that I've seen in his work before that makes me question which CBS executive Miller is blackmailing with incriminating photos.
I disagree at times with writers like Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci and Jon Heyman, but I also respect their knowledge of the sport and the insight they provide. I love to read their stuff even when I disagree with them. Scott Miller, on the other hand, has nothing to offer anyone with more than a casual interest and knowledge of baseball.
Remember, Scott, it doesn't count as humor if they're laughing at you. This rotten tomato is for you, pal.