Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Friends of P.

Game 12 – Mets

Mets 4, Braves 3
Record: 10-2

I’ll give my diminutive cohort credit: the Sox would definitely rather have Josh Beckett under contract for 2006 and beyond than they would Pedro Martínez. Beckett has looked nothing less than ace-ish so far for them. Meanwhile, the Mets aren’t forced/permitted to make such a choice.

For the Mets a year and a half ago, it was simply Pedro or not Pedro. Maybe it was more like Pedro Martínez or Carl Pavano or Kevin Millwood or Russ Ortiz or Derek Lowe. Or Al Leiter, of course. Whatever the scenario of the 2004 off-season, right now we on this side of the aisle are pleased as Punch (or, in a slightly more up-to-date expression, pleased as Ponch) with Pedro’s presence. Tonight the steel-toed wonder racked up his 200th victory, always a notable feat but even more extraordinary when paired with his mere 84 losses. Even his most vocal detractors have to button their lips and tip their caps to his considerable career.

Most of those 200 wins, the most remarkable of those wins, and the most meaningful of those wins came while throwing for Rob’s Red Sox, but the guy still has a bit of life left in him. He won’t light up the radar gun any more, and he’ll often get lit up on a pitch or two every game, but make no mistake, all maps to big-picture success this season originate at Pedro’s Place.

I’ll be honest, I never much cared for Martínez when he was a Sock. The antics, the melodrama, the bravado, the fastballs at guys’ heads when he’d never have to bat. The goofy face and silly hair, the look of a skinny muppet or a fraggle in a baseball uniform. I knew he was a star, but I was glad to be able to root against him. Yes, that’s right, there were vines full of sour grapes entangled in that sentiment.

Of course, this was all before I thought the Mets could and would garner Pedro’s services for a few years. Naturally, that changed everything; it’s by far not the first time that the era of free agency has made a hypocrite of someone. Since I already went and packed my soul away in the attic when the Mets took their rightful, wrongful place among the big-market, big spenders I’ve bashed for years, I figured there was nothing to present any internal conflict for me. If I can reconcile myself with embracing the Money Mets, I can do the same with supporting Pedro. And truth is . . . it’s really pretty fun pulling for this clown.

* * *

Notes from around Shea . . .
Carlos Beltran has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. It’s the news that generates a bevy of furtive glances at each other amid the Township, but he’s supposed to return tomorrow, so they say . . . Hastening his return could be the absence of Cliff Floyd, who left tonight’s game with a rib cage strain. After sending Victor Diaz down here to Norfolk earlier today, Willie had to put Jose Valentin in left. The Valentin-Endy Chavez-Xavier Nady outfield held fast, but I don’t want to see it again any time soon . . . Speaking of Xavier "Three Times a" Nady, he had a trio of hits, including a dinger, to raise his average to .400 . . . While Jorge Julio’s pyrotechnic work has the fans clamoring for Kris Benson (who was last seen getting torched himself in the Charm City), Duaner Sanchez is making all but the punsters forget Jae Seo. He pitched out of another jam tonight, adding an extra scoreless frame to boot. Wagner polished off Atlanta for another save . . .

I am very much digging the Gary Cohen / Ron Darling / Keith Hernandez triumvirate in the Sportsnet New York booth. Insightful commentators really do enhance ballgames for us, and guys who can add perspective, history, statistical relevance, anecdotal evidence, a bit of bias, and more than an ounce of humor make a three-hour game fly by. (Conversely, relative dullards droning on in support of some other club make baseball the interminable spectator sport some claim it to be.) After Orsillo and the Rem-dawg had me chuckling this morning, the Mets men had me paying closer attention to tonight’s game than usual. A good day for baseball fans everywhere. No, there is no comedy of the absurd with Ralph Kiner and Fran Healy’s jaw-dropping interplay, but I’m a fan of SNY’s team.

And finally, as if it needed mentioning, beating the Braves has not lost one iota of its luster.

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