Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Comparisons Of The Mets Of 2007 To 2008 Are Easy, But Inaccurate

  • Nationals 7-Mets 2:
As easy as it is to look at the way the Mets are playing and the bottom-line similarities to
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last season, they're taken grossly out of context. With the way the Phillies have been playing and are seemingly surging; along with the Mets losing two of three (in devastating, bullpen blowup fashion) to the Braves and looking terrible against the Nationals last night, it's clear that the ghosts are going to pop up again and again. (That everyone who was watching that nightmare in disbelief last season keeps bringing it up doesn't help.) Even with all of that, the situations are vastly different.
In 2007, the main reason that the Mets were able to build that seven game lead with seventeen games to play was because the Phillies and Braves had been just as inconsistent as the Mets were throughout the season and were never able to overtake them when they were playing .500 ball from June onward. It just so happened that the Mets inconsistency caught up to them late in the season just as the Phillies got hot. The confluence of events along with a flawed and panicking team led to the Mets demise in
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2007. The Mets were never comfortable with their lead; there was always a feeling of impending doom permeating the team; it's hard to pinpoint what it was that led to that innate feeling, but it was there and it came to fruition at the worst possible time.
The differences between last season and this season are stark. The 2007 Mets built their lead with a hot start; the 2008 team got off to a bad start and played as if they were in a fog. The 2007 Mets had a manager in Willie Randolph who was twitchy, defensive, paranoid, used questionable strategies and (fairly or unfairly) had alienated a chunk of the veteran leadership. The 2008 Mets have had a manager for half the season in Jerry Manuel who's comfortable talking to the media; blunt; and far stronger strategically than his predecessor. The 2007 Mets had a shaky bullpen despite the presence of Billy Wagner; the 2008 Mets have gone on a rampage since Wagner went on the disabled list and the current crew out there isn't any less reliable than Wagner since Wagner has never been reliable in a high-pressure situation where the team had to win. Add in that the Wild Card that was unavailable last season because of the blazing hot streak of the Colorado Rockies likely will be the consolation prize for whichever of the Phillies and Mets doesn't win the division and there's no reason to panic as the press and fan base seems to be doing.
It's easy to look at how poorly the Mets have played over the past few days; to look at the number of blown saves they've had; and factor last season's debacle into the cesspool of negativity and doubt----it's completely fair----but the totality of the situation is nothing like last
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season. The 2008 team has a legitimate ace at the top of the rotation in Johan Santana; a different catcher in Brian Schneider; a new right-fielder in Ryan Church; a different closer (whoever they use out there) who's no more or less reliable than Wagner was; and the aforementioned better manager.
The Brewers have just fired their manager and even with their sublime top two starters in C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets, they still have to prove that they're ready to level off from this tailspin and that's not as easy as it sounds; plus they're playing the Cubs who'd like to get their division title chase over with so they can rest their entire roster. The Astros hot streak was bound to end sooner or later. (Of course it doesn't help that the commissioner's office screwed them royally by making them play the hurricane-induced postponements in a "neutral" site that ended up being home games for the Cubs; the combination of events----the hurricane and the venue change to Milwaukee----probably caused
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the no-hitter and near no-hitter that befell the Astros more than the Cubs pitching.) The Cardinals have faded out. Unless the Brewers wake up, the process of elimination is going to leave the Mets and Phillies for the NL East and the Wild Card no matter what happens the rest of the way. The only thing the Mets need to do is win the majority of their own games and not let the memories of 2007 infect their minds. Because a big chunk of the 2008 Mets either wasn't involved or weren't in charge, that shouldn't be as big of a problem as is being implied by those that are just waiting to see if it happens again.
  • Speaking of Jerry Manuel:
The implication in the media is that Jerry Manuel has to get the Mets into the playoffs to be guaranteed a job for next season and another "collapse" would necessitate a change in the
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manager's office no matter how much the players like him or how good a job he's done. I consider this to be nonsense. As an observer, I think it's absurd to hinge Manuel's return on what happens over the final two weeks after he turned the team around so completely; as a Mets fan, I'm going to be very unhappy if Manuel is replaced.
Strategically, Manuel is far superior to Randolph and, as said before, is handling the adversity of injuries and ancillary aspects of managing in New York very well. Is it his fault that the bullpen has been coughing up games? He's trying to squeak through with what he has and as the season winds down, the Mets playoff hopes aren't going to fall short because of anything Manuel did or didn't do. No matter what happens the rest of the way, he's the best choice to manage the team going forward and should get the job one way or the other in part because he's handled it well; and in part because there's no one else out there who'd do a better job.
  • Jorge Posada as Yankees armchair GM?
It's understandable to hear the talk show imbeciles go on and on about whether or not Joba Chamberlain should be a starter or reliever, but when the players start publicly airing their opinions on such matters is when the team should step in. In an interview, injured Yankees
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catcher Jorge Posada opined that Chamberlain should be put into the bullpen and left there----ESPN Story----a development which should inspire Brian Cashman to politely instruct Posada to keep his opinions within the team or simply keep them to himself. (Like republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's repeated claims of saying, "Thanks, but no thanks" for the Bridge to Nowhere, Cashman should say "Thanks, but no thanks" to Posada's taking
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over as team GM, except it wouldn't be at best disingenuous, at worst an out-and-out lie.)
There are reasonable arguments to both positions of whether Chamberlain should start or relieve. My argument is that Chamberlain has Roger Clemens-potential and the team should at least try him as a starter before relegating him to the bullpen for the rest of his career. Posada's assessment of Chamberlain's stuff and body type are completely within his area of expertise as a catcher, but is it necessary with all the Yankees other problems, to start this debate again?
One thing I would do is toss into the trash this wishy-washy nonsense of having him start the season in the bullpen and slowly integrate him into the rotation again next season to hold
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down his innings. If anything contributes to a pitcher's injuries it's the ambiguity and mid-season change of roles and a decision should be made one way or the other and stuck to it for the season. If he's going to start, let him start and don't worry about his innings; if he's going to relieve, let him relieve and don't worry about the "Joba Rules". No one's taken the sudden gear shift into account as a viable reason for him getting hurt because the only thing they're paying attention to is his innings pitched. Make a decision one way or the other and be done with it because, as is evidenced by Posada's interview, the vacillation is a distraction that's unnecessary and unhelpful.
  • The smug and the trashy:
In a microcosm, the way both the Yankees and Mets are handling the final days of their current stadiums epitomizes the differences in the organizations. The Yankees are treating these last days as some hallowed enterprise designed to heap more praise on the "most famous
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organization in sports"; while the Mets are treating it as a trailer park yard sale.
Am I the only one who's had enough of hearing about how players are touring Yankee Stadium; taking souveniers like dirt, balls or whatever; wandering around like zombies in the sistine chapel? Am I the only one who's kind of nauseated at the gauche nature of the "everything must go" tone of the last days of Shea Stadium as they sell the seats, foul poles, dugouts and (I would assume) the toilets and sinks?
If the demolition of the old Yankee Stadium is so traumatic, then why build the new
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stadium to begin with? And if the Mets are intent on selling the stadium like someone cleaning out their garage for posting on E-Bay, I would hope they're going to put the proceeds to something benevolent instead of putting it in their pockets. It's enough already with the waxing poetically in the Bronx and tackiness in Queens, but then again that's indicative of the way the two teams are (and presumably will always be)----smug and pompous on one end; trashy and ham-handed on the other.

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