- Mets 9-Phillies 1:
The most eye-opening aspect of the Mets 9-1 win over the Phillies last night wasn't anything that overtly occurred during actual play, but the way the Mets didn't bow down to a team trying to push them around.
In years past----specifically 2007-2009----when the Mets have jumped out to a lead over the Phillies, they've allowed their rivals to answer back immediately with a big inning and would inevitably lose in the late innings. The Phillies tried to replay the script in the second inning against Mets rookie lefty Jon Niese; but two sparkling plays by Jeff Francoeur and Jason Bay bailed the youngster out of trouble. (Regarding Bay's defense, is it possible that "UZR" doesn't translate into Canadian?)
Escaping with only one run scored and maintaining a lead, Niese settled in as the Mets bashed Kyle Kendrick and two Phillies relievers for 9 runs.
The other aspect that was more of an under-the-radar inference that the Mets aren't going to put up with teams taking the same liberties that they've taken for far too long.
After Danys Baez drilled Francoeur on the arm, bruising his elbow and leaving his status for today's game in doubt (I'm betting the former high school football star plays), the Mets retaliated in the eighth inning when Jenrry Mejia popped Chase Utley.
It seems like a small thing to take into account, but the Mets have been perceived as a heartless bunch that lets any and all transgressions go by without so much as a peep. Mejia hitting Utley was a message not just in the moment, but in the grand scheme that this isn't the same Mets team that was far too nice to wallow in the muck of doing what must be done to win.
I'm wondering who it was that told Mejia that if he got the chance to "send a message", that he had to do it; I'm betting it was Francisco Rodriguez because that's the type of player K-Rod is. The message was sent. Clearly.
It's the beginning of May; this was only one game; and in the first month, the Mets have already run the gamut between looking like a 68-win team from the dark days of the organization in the late 70s, to a world beater; but they've let the Phillies and the rest of the league know that if they go down, it's not going to be with a meek whimper.
Not this time.
That small change in mentality might be enough to keep them in the race all year long.
The Phillies holes were on prominent display in this game. Notably the pitching staff after Roy Halladay.
It was a good idea for the Phillies to get Brad Lidge into the action on the day he was activated from the disabled list. Lidge's velocity was there and his mechanics looked good even if the results were eerily similar to his disastrous 2009 campaign.
The one thing that has to be a major concern to the Phillies is how Lidge's immediate reversion to what he was at his worst last year happened immediately as the first batter, Rod Barajas, homered. Lidge's mental state will always be in question. He might be physically healthy, but his main enemy has always been psychological. With Ryan Madson on the disabled list with a broken toe, Lidge will be thrown right back into the fire as the closer and they need him to be at least serviceable. He unravels when one small thing goes wrong, and last night didn't begin well.
Kendrick getting batted around exemplified the scope of the nonsense that was emanating from the starstruck media as they sang the praises of the superlative Halladay in spring training. His influence on the likes of Kendrick was expected to lift the journeyman righty to heights he'd never before been expected to reach.
Not to be overly harsh, but I said at the time you can't turn gristle into chateubriand. Kendrick following Halladay around and mimicking everything his mentor does is not going to provide Kendrick with the same tools that make Halladay what he is. It doesn't work that way in any endeavor; Kendrick's ceiling is what it is and it's not all that high.
This shortness in the Phillies starting rotation and the ridiculous contract extensions doled out on the veterans shine a light on the elephant in the room that's going to grow more and more prominent as the season wears on. The presence won't go away because on the same night that Kendrick got rocked, 2300 miles away...
- ...the Stone Cold Killer was on the loose:
His time in the infirmary is done.
His conviction was overturned.
And he's free to stalk the streets and terrify unsuspecting hitters with his ruthless efficiency and cold brutality.
The Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee, made his return to the Mariners starting rotation last night and showed the Phillies for a night what a ghastly mistake they made in trading him.
Lee's new club, the Mariners, lost 2-0 in 12 innings because they can't hit; but that doesn't diminish Lee's performance. Putting on a clinic against a power-laden Rangers lineup, Lee was at his best with 7 innings of 3 hit ball; 0 walks; and 8 strikeouts on 98 pitches (73 strikes!).
It was the stuff of Rod Serling in terms of irony that in the same week that the Phillies dole a ludicrous contract extension on Ryan Howard; and on the same night that they're forced to make do with the likes of Kyle Kendrick in their starting rotation, Lee returns to the Mariners lineup with such a flourish.
The questions of why Lee was traded in the first place when they could've had both Halladay and Lee are going to grow even louder not just in the Phillies fanbase, but within the organization as well. The players have been shaking their heads at the move from the time it was made until Jimmy Rollins expressed his and Jayson Werth's confusion at the move weeks ago in a radio interview. Rollins speaks for his teammates.
It's going to get worse.
GM Ruben Amaro's decisions to simultaneously try and maintain a championship team with contract extensions and build for the future with trades is treading a line that's almost impossible to effectively navigate.
It's costing them in perception and reality.
They should've kept Lee and traded for Halladay as well.
But they didn't.
- Dead man walking:
The Ken Macha watch should start very, very soon in Milwaukee and it's only a matter of time before Willie Randolph is managing the Brewers.
The Brewers expectations coming into the season were unreasonably high to begin with. Talent-wise, they're a .500 level team and they're not even achieving that; had they not had the Pirates to abuse in four of their wins, they'd be in even worse shape.
It's not Macha's fault that closer Trevor Hoffman has blown four games already; nor is it Macha's fault that the Brewers have run into a buzzsaw in San Diego with the searingly hot Padres; but he's on the last year of his contract; the players are ambivalent about him; and there's a manager-in-waiting sitting next to him in Randolph (who is not under any circumstances campaigning for the job).
If GM Doug Melvin is going to pull the trigger on his manager, he may as well do it sooner rather than later; Macha's survival as manager might hinge on how the Brewers play for the remainder of their current West Coast swing----they head to Los Angeles and Arizona after the Padres series.
They've gotten off to a bad start.
- The Prince on the Podcast:
I was a podcast guest with Sal at SportsFanBuzz yesterday and it's quite possibly the most entertaining thing you'll hear this year....at least until I'm a guest again. It can be heard here----Prince on the Podcast link.