Thursday, April 06, 2006

William, It Was Really Nothing

Game 2 – Mets

Nationals 9, Mets 5
Record: 1-1

Question: Is a 91-mile-per-hour fastball a misnomer? Billy Wagner hurled one of them at Nats rookie Ryan Zimmerman, hoping to “blow his doors off.” The young third baseman (the latest phenom from my neck of the woods after D-W and the Upton brothers) very quickly turned it into the biggest hit by a Zimmerman since “Tangled Up in Blue.” Just like that, the naïve optimism of the dream season bled out of Mets Township like an Ebola victim’s innards. And the ensuing extra frame was appropriately disgusting.

Naturally, it’s a disheartening blow to my grand plans for the season, both in exposing my deluded sense that the new, new Mets would run away with the division from the outset as well as necessitating the rational assessment that the bullpen might not be as airtight as advertised. Truly, on paper, a Heilman/Sanchez/Wagner trio to polish off any win is a steep upgrade from seasons past. Of course, if Wagner’s fire music doesn’t offer nearly the heat he’s demonstrated throughout his career, that spells trouble.

Meanwhile, as far as replacements or supplements to the closer position go, let me state, re-state, and proclaim to the masses that Jorge Julio is not one. When I glance back at the diatribe I penned in January bemoaning the acquisition of Julio, my only regret is the clause “Maybe I’m being overly harsh”. Oh, and underestimating the joke “Me and Julio Down By Two Runs.” It took only two batters for Julio to put the Mets down two. My favorite post-game quote came from Jose Guillen (the man to hit that two-run dinger in the 10th), who quipped, “Hanging slider right in the middle. What do you expect me to do in that situation?” But Jorge continued to struggle even after that, aided and abetted by Paul LoDuca’s impersonation of Jerry Lewis behind the plate.

It was painful to watch, as I sat in Wheelhouse author Jerry’s living room amid a sea of expletives. Fortunately, a three-hour car ride home this morning with nothing to do except bristle at the images from last night have given me the appropriate perspective so as to keep my possessions from being lodged in drywall somewhere in my house.

In Paul LoDuca’s defense, it’s kind of like cycling or race car driving – when one guy crashes and the folks around him quickly spill to the asphalt or hit the wall – once Wagner and Julio had set the slide in motion, these spills become contagious.

In Jorge Julio’s defense, the tone of the game had grown quickly negative and desperate with Wagner’s gopher ball. He merely accentuated it. And, playing baseball is really hard and not for everyone, so quit picking on the guy.

In Billy Wagner’s defense, Zimmerman is not just any scared rookie, and it is just one game. Billy, take heed of this post’s title. It’s not time for panic on the streets of New York yet. Looks like we’re going to need a lot of your best stuff this season, so here’s hoping you find it. And fast.

That I couldn’t use this post’s space to laud the efforts of the worthy – Brian Bannister for a solid first start, Carlos Delgado for his two-run bomb, Xavier Nady for beginning this season enflamed, or Anderson Hernandez for one of the best defensive plays since David Wright’s acrobatics in short left last year – is disappointing. But there will be plenty of time for praise after the next win. Pedro on the hill tonight. How soon can we re-start the excitement of this young Mets season? Well, how soon is now?

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