Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Main Ingredient

Game 18 - Mets

Mets 6, Rockies 1
Record: 12-6

There's a running line of commentary here and among our league of blogs about the stunning lack of accountability in sports journalism. Bold predictions and brazen statements are issued carelessly, free of any recoil when they're later proven asinine. Here at MLC, we do our part to rectify this corrosive trend.

In January of last year, I reacted to the trade that sent Kris Benson to Baltimore for Jorge Julio and John Maine. Considering each player's past, it seemed head-in-the-sand ignorant, and I said so. Considering what's gone on since I wrote that post, that descriptor suits me a whole lot better. Read on:
In one fell swoop, the Mets went from the new M.O. of freely mortgaging the future to acquire the brightest stars of the present to the old school routine of bungling deals and misreading the needs of the team. Kris Benson, selected more than once by Peter Gammons as a pre-season Cy Young winner, has never lived up to his billing, but he was still a very solid #3 pitcher in a not-very-solid Mets rotation. He and his charming wife depart for the Charm City in favor of John Maine and Jorge Julio. I’ll let Maine off the hook with a simple "minor league hero, major league zero" barb and say that his future is clouded at the moment. Meanwhile, Jorge Julio . . . deserves his own paragraph.

The scouting report on Jorge "Boo" Julio tells most of the story. His numbers have worsened with some regularity over the last few years. He throws hard, but painfully straight. The only mention of "movement" when it comes to his fastball refers to the pants-soiling he encounters in nearly every tight situation. And that’s what the reports don’t usually relay, what I’ve witnessed for several years while watching the pitiful Orioles. The bigger the game, the bigger the amount of pressure, the bigger Jorge Julio’s collapse.
Now, in fairness to myself, I was dead-on about Jorge Julio. That walking disaster was last spotted in the headline (not making this up) "Marlins send Julio -- and his 19.06 ERA -- to DL." You may recall that he gave the lowly Nationals their first win of the season; without him, the Nots may not have been inspired to notch a single victory all year long. (Why do I think that all of this Nat-bashing will result in the Mets losing a key game to them down the stretch?) Anyway, I was right about Julio, but I was wrong about Omar Minaya's intentions in acquiring him. I was even more mistaken in assuming there would be no GM Josh Byrnes to come through for us and send over El Duque in a trade for Julio. I should've known Omar had a plan, and I won't doubt him again any time soon.

Meanwhile, what I also failed to predict was the rapid ascension of John Maine into bona fide starting pitcher status. Hoped for the best, expected the worst (hey, if you weren't here for 2003-4, keep your judgments to yourself), and watched as he battled early on, progressed along the way, and has now turned into a reliable #3 on the staff -- at the very least.

The lesson, if not the mantra here, as always, is that I am an idiot.

Last night Maine scattered seven Colorado hits and a pair of walks over 7 2/3 innings, and as bro-in-law Patrick remarked, Maine looked pissed at being taken out. A little fire from the young guy goes a long way in our books, a concept not miles away from Rob's point in his latest offering. Keep an eye on John Maine; I see good things. (I'm praying I don't have to reprint this passage next year for another look at my own block-headedness.)

A bit of fanfare was splashed over the ragsheets today about Carlos Delgado busting out of a homerless streak last night. I'll ask you not to color me too giddy over his homering off Rocky Mop-Up, but it was a pleasant change from the recent past. The hole in Carlos's swing had been gaining a little too much definition (belt to letters, inside edge), but if he's heading in the right direction, I'll be thrilled to use big, happy words of blissful celebration here soon.

As opposed to, say, . . . David Wright. (It pains me.) We'll keep the chronicling of Dee-Dub's ugly doings to the same dull whisper for now, but good God, man. In the words of a Samoan high roller in an Amsterdam coffeehouse, "If you don't know, mon, . . . ask somebody!" Get help, young man, before it all falls apart. Don't worry, Mets Township still loves you. Just get help.

I mentioned yesterday a focus on the starting rotation of the Mets. (I also mentioned a weakness in middle relief; last night the Amburglar walked the bases full in the final frame before stealing away with the lead preserved. Yikes.) The focus has been on Glavine/Hernandez/Maine/Perez/Pelfrey and the need for them to continue to perform effectively for the club to have a shot. Somewhere in all of it, I managed to forget about a little guy named Pedro Martinez, but I think that was by design. I think Omar, the Mets, and Township are all pretending that the possibility that Pedro won't take the hill this season (or ever again) -- a real one, for sure -- is actually the probable outcome. This way, if the reports we're hearing about Pedro's progress happen to turn out to be accurate, we will be adding a Hall of Fame caliber arm to the staff as the final stretch of the pennant race approaches. You can't buy an advantage of both skill and inspiration like that with an arsenal of prospects or George Steinbrenner's PayPal password. Sure, it's fabricated melodrama, but I'm already feeling the vibe months out.

For now, though, we'll exclude him from the equation. (Godspeed, Pedro.)

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