Monday, August 07, 2006

Many Rivers to Cross

Games 108 through 110 – Mets

Phillies 5, Mets 3
Mets 4, Phillies 3
Mets 8, Phillies 1
Record: 66-44

2006 continues to be like something of a cheesy action/horror movie for the Mets, with the team revisiting old enemies that had kicked our heroes around for so long to settle the score one by one. The sweep of the Braves a few series ago is still fresh in our memory, and that played out like a gory, one-sided Steven Seagal flick. This past weekend was significantly uglier in parts, took some time to get into it, and at times was downright silly. Call it the Toxic Avenger weekend.

In addition to further damaging the NL East rival Phillies’ chances of season extenuation, New York held historical Met-eater Pat Burrell in check (1-for-8 on the weekend) as they took two of three from Philthadelphia. There are seven more contests in the next three weeks versus the Phightins, so there is plenty more left to write, but similar to the feeling of beating the Braves, knocking over the Phillies never leaves me wanting.

In truth, the Phillies pretty much handed the series win to the Mets. In both Games 2 and 3, a Philadelphia pitcher made a very costly error to spark a game-deciding rally. In each case, the pitcher wasn’t helped much by his defense, but it was his own gaffe that got things started. My old buddy Nick could go into more detail, and the next time we spill a pair of pints gulletward he will, but it seems like this wasn’t the first time for such woes to flare up.

Now, we in the Township aren’t experts on this subject, but the Philadelphia Phillies just don’t seem to have the make-up of a playoff team. (I prefaced it, now let me postscript it: not that I would know from recent firsthand witnessing.) They seem to be playing many a game as if they’re biding their time until that inevitable, unsettling moment spills the cart; if it never arrives, they’ll more than likely win with that lineup, but any small bump in the road could mean an immediate and certain detour off the road to winning and into something heinous and non-triumphant. (Sorry, Bill & Ted’s was on the other day and it stuck.)

The fact remains that they seem to be the most talented challenger in the division, and with a docket chock full of intra-divisional games still to be played out, I’m still . . . still resistant to breathe but so easy, despite my counterpart’s mockery. That said, deep down I am banking on any potential late-season Phillie noise being muffled by a collective dearth of intestinal fortitude. If they were a band of 25 Aaron Rowands, it’d be a different story, but that’s the not the case. Oh, and their manager seems to be some combination of Fred Mertz and Ernie Pantusso. And not in the good way.

Until the next round of Phanatic v. Mr. Met goes down, though, there are series against San Diego and Washington. Hard to get overly enthused about either, but I don’t get paid barrels of dough to get pumped up for each and every match-up in these people-wilting days of August. I just get paid a buck a word (apparently) to discuss them, or something tangential, or not. Enjoy.

I will also occasionally chime in on the wordsmithing happening on the other side of the aisle. Rob has taken once again to spelling out for us just how terrible the Boston Red Sox are, and if that’s overstating the point, then I’ll fit right in. The past couple of weeks have had us bearing witness to Rob’s labored lowering of his own expectations, a yearly ritual whereby members of Red Sox Nation go on record dismissing the club’s chances for postseason success. In doing so, they make me dredge up Thomas Hardy’s stance once again:
"Pessimism is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may
gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having
reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as
they may, life becomes child's play."
And I’m not saying I haven’t done the exact same thing with my own team in the past (or even this year). But one post like this is a proper epiphany, while the repeated mention of it, as if it’s an ongoing dosage of self-applied therapy, gets absurd when you realize that we have a third of a season left to play.

Yep, the Yanks are probably in better shape to snag another division title at this juncture, especially if the season ended on Labor Day. But “down the stretch they come” isn’t going to be called out for another month or more, so let’s postpone the pity party for the Nation until then. Hey, who knows, Mussina could tear his triceps, Giambi could get indicted and/or suspended, or a wicked strain of MRSA could infiltrate the Yankee Stadium locker room between now and then, tilting the odds back into Boston’s favor. A lot can happen, so unless you’re trying to go on record for an “I told you so” later or heighten your glee to the nth if and when the Sox make a run into October, there’s little point in worrying about whether Boston is the first or second best team in the American League East on V-J Day. (Someone needs to tell the Baseball Tonight crew the same thing.)

That third of the season yet to play is also why I am neither counting any chickens nor panicked about the state of the Mets’ lackluster rotation. A third of a season ago, Jose Lima was in the mix, Aaron Heilman was pitching well enough to be considered, and Alay Soler was on the rise. Now John Maine looks as reliable as anyone, Steve Trachsel appears destined for the scrap heap, and Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine have switched places on the Worried/Not As Worried meter. There will be plenty of time for speculation, but for right now, we’re still gradually assessing things one game at a time.

Oh, and David Wright is locked up long-term now, just like Jose Reyes. I will say this: Good times we’ve had, we’ll have again.

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