Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Mets-Phillies Day/Night Doubleheader May Help The Mets

  • Phillies 6-Mets 2:
With post-traumatic memories dancing in the heads of Mets fans as the team lost their second
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straight game to the Phillies, there are many differences between the collapse of 2007 and what's happening now in September of 2008. Last season, the Mets had been an average (at best) team from early June until they fell apart at season's end; this season they've played like men who were released from prison since the firing of Willie Randolph. (This isn't an overt reflection on Randolph; the questions about the manager's job security were just as stifling as Randolph's and pitching coach Rick Peterson's presence.) Last season, they'd spent just about the entire campaign in first place; this season, they've gone back and forth with the Phillies since getting their house in order with manager Jerry Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen. Most importantly, the Mets have Johan Santana pitching the second game of tonight's doubleheader----the exact type of game he was acquired to pitch.
The one thing missing from the Mets last season was that ace who they could give the ball and say, "carry us home". With Santana and his cachet, that is no longer an issue. Even with
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John Maine and Oliver Perez winning 15 games apiece last year, there wasn't that one guy that the team could count on to give them a winning performance regardless of the circumstances.
Another issue that is an advantage for the Mets is that even though they've lost the first two games of this series and seem to have forgotten their bats in Milwaukee, losing the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday and trimming the lead to one game won't be seen as the panic-stricken tragedy that it would have been with the tightly wound Randolph at the helm; with the dearth of the one guy they could count on to go to the mound and deliver the goods; and without the newspapers, talk show imbeciles and everyone else going into conniptions at the mere thought of another September swoon. This may be the most important factor of all.
Part of the reason the team collapsed so completely last season, I think, was because the players heard the whispers of the fans, talk shows and newspapers wondering when the team was going to wake up. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy and everyone, from the front office on down through the entire organization, looked to someone else to get the job done and as a result, everyone played tight and tried not to screw up instead of doing their jobs. Even as they've lost the first two games of this series, the worst case scenario is that they and the Phillies will be all even with twenty games left; that would've looked pretty good early in the season given the way they played under Randolph until he was fired.
Having the break between games and not having to answer a million questions about why
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the Phillies have the hex over the Mets in September; not having to go home and sleep with the feeling of impending doom that permeated the organization last season; not having to read the newspaper accounts of another Mets September stumble before heading back onto the field, and being able to get right back out with their ace on the mound is a huge advantage for those that are still seeing the nightmare of 2007 everywhere they look.
Mets fans are inherently pessimistic and paranoid (with good reason), but if they go out tonight and get what they're paying for from Santana, the combination of no remaining games against the Phillies (unless there's a one-game playoff or they both make the playoffs) should give the entire organization and fan base some breathing room to not worry about what happened in 2007 and move forward. All the pieces are in place to put 2007 to rest once and for all and it starts on the valuable left arm of Johan Santana and is being assisted by this day-night doubleheader.
  • Whither Ben Sheets?
I've gone on about wondering where Ben Sheets is going to end up after this season ad nauseam, but after last night's performance in which he dismantled the Padres I have to keep
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asking: which team is going to ante up the cash on Sheets's potential and not worry about his propensity for getting hurt with various injuries to just about every single part of his body. The most important question that the interested teams (and there will be many) is how high they're willing to go to get that potential and if they're confident that he's going to be able to get out on the mound on a regular basis.
Is Sheets going to become Chris Carpenter, who overcame injury after injury with the Blue Jays, got healthy with the Cardinals and won 36 games over two years and won the Cy Young Award in one season and finished in third place the next year? Will he become Jim Palmer, who went 15-10 in his first full year in the majors during the Orioles 1966 championship season then missed most of the 1967 season with injuries; spent 1968 rehabilitating and became a three-time Cy Young Award winner and a Hall of Famer upon returning to the majors in 1969? Or is he going to be another Carl Pavano, who received a giant contract and couldn't stay healthy? (It's very interesting how Pavano is now blaming the doctors for his woes----NY
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Times Article, but I digress.) It's a big commitment that a team is going to make for Sheets with a massive risk/reward.
Sheets's teammate with the Brewers, C.C. Sabathia is putting himself into position to not only steal the National League Cy Young Award from Brandon Webb in just three months of work, but to make an even larger haul than Johan Santana got from the Mets. As for Sheets, the losers in the Sabathia sweepstakes will be calling him as a backup plan and he'd be smart to wait and see where Sabathia winds up before signing anywhere. If I were an executive for one of the teams that has the money to give Sheets the $110+ million he's going to want (and get), I'd possibly be staking my job on whether or not he's able to stay healthy for the 5-7 years of his contract.
If I were advising someone like Omar Minaya or Brian Cashman (if he's still with the Yankees), my recommendation would be to take the large chunks of cash that are coming off the books and invest it in Sheets; the change in scenery and different training staffs and medical teams might keep him healthy and he's one of the best pitchers in baseball when he's able to get out on the mound. My gut instinct is to take the risk because Sheets is Hall of Fame good when he's at his best and a 2009 Mets rotation, for example, with Santana, Sheets, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey would look very intimidating as they came into town. It's a big risk, but my gut feeling is that he's going to be worth it even with his aches and pains.
  • Enough already with the moaning and complaining about C.C. Sabathia's lost no-hitter:
Buster Olney linked an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in which Tom Haudricourt suggests that Major League Baseball institute a fifth umpire to score the game so another incident as happened to C.C. Sabathia and the no-hitter that wasn't doesn't happen again----Article. This reminds me of the scene late in the movie Interview with the Vampire in which Lestat, the Tom Cruise character, hears a tape of Louis, the Brad Pitt character complaining
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about his life as a vampire and asks interviewer Christian Slater:

Lestat: Oh Louis, Louis. Still whining Louis. Have you heard enough? I've had to listen to that for centuries.

It wasn't as if Sabathia had a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning and saw it snatched from his grasp by a bad call. It was a fifth inning judgment call that I've already said that I disagreed with; but what's done is done. All the Brewers have done since this happened is complain about it. They petitioned the league for a scoring change and were rejected. Now, these articles that are being written about it and it's enough. Sabathia wasn't all that bothered about it, so why can't everyone just stop whining and let it go. Can everyone move on with their lives please?
Am I alone in not wanting to hear about it anymore? A drastic change has just been made to the way umpires call the game with the installation of instant replay, are they supposed to add an umpire just so an official scorer won't be able to "steal" a no-hitter that may not have happened anyway? Baseball scoring has been done this way pretty much since the game began and a change isn't necessary because of one call that didn't go the way people with a vested interest in the outcome wanted it. I just don't want to hear about it anymore. (That being said, I might be swayed if the Brewers continue to whine, moan and complain because anything that puts a stop to this silliness is good enough for me.)

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