Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tom Waits

Game 56 - Mets

Phillies 4, Mets 2 (11)
Record: 35-21

This is why nobody can figure out the Phillies -- because they punt, pass, and kick the ball around and manage just two runs through 10 innings, yet somehow they walk away with a victory. Tom Glavine offers what they call in StatLand a "quality start" and what I'd call "plenty good," yet the Mets drop their fourth in six and Tom's quest for his 300th win remains at arm's length. Can't quite comprehend it -- cue the clip of Jon Lovitz as Mike Dukakis, deadpanning, "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy."

The Mets and Red Sox seem to be stumbling at the same time, and my counterpart's mild concern below mirrors mine. But I'm no more panicky than I am psyched about losing to the Phriggin' Phillies. I'll soon take a closer look at what's not quite clicking, lest we bop along ignorantly and invite the ghosts of Beantown '78 to pay a visit. But there's a list we need to keep posted in every bloghouse: The 5 Baseball Inevitables. Here's a copy.

1. No team goes through 162 games without a stumble. Even history's best clubs have a bad week. The 1927 Yankees dropped four of six in May, six of ten mid-summer, and lost four straight in August, and this is a team so mythologized that you'd think it was unfathomable. The '84 Tigers started 35-5, then went 4-9; people immediately questioned the club's capabilities. The Mets of 1986 finished 21 games up, yet had several stints along the way that were uglier than any these Mets (or these Red Sox) have known. But in each of these cases, the team held together and promptly re-announced its presence with authority. It's what you do during and after the bad stretch that defines the club and secures its place in title contention.

2. No team goes through 162 games without injuries. The Mets and its Township can keep complaining about Pedro, Stache, Alou, Green, Duque, and now Beltran, but we still have to thank our lucky stars that we still have our lucky stars. You only have to look over to the next borough to see how a series of serious injuries to legitimate cogs can cripple a club. The holes the Mets have had have been filled nicely thus far, but the bench is starting to get spread just thin enough to show some holes. And when the Mets do lose somebody down the stretch, they'll need a Brian Doyle/Mickey Hatcher/Buddy Biancalana to step in and make some noise. (As much as our hero Endy Chavez made the best catch in the history of webbed leather last fall, he also hit .185 as Cliff Floyd's fill-in in the NLCS.) It's avoiding the big disaster and filling in with clutch replacements.

3. Good teams playing crappily in springtime will come around. It always happens, and it's terribly annoying. It's the Yankees many a year, though this year it will be severely tested. It's the Twins. It was the Braves for many years, then somehow last year they didn't. It's Oakland. And yes, it's the Phillies this year. As much as I'd like to count them out, I didn't when they were 3-10, and I'm not now. Dammit.

4. Even the best teams can use a spark down the stretch. In a six month season, players get tired, even bored, maybe even sick of baseball. What's going great guns in May may be pathetically stale by August. "Colorful" players creating media stories in the spring are distractions when the dog days hit. Adding something to the mix , even if you're supremely confident in your 25-man melting pot, can propel a team to that oft-mentioned "next level." Sometimes that means bringing a mascot monkey to the fray, but usually that means adding a player (or adding by subtraction, like in the case of George Foster). Jeff Weaver and Ronnie Belliard were under-the-radar type trade acquisitions in July of last year; by October, they were key pieces of a World Series-winning puzzle. Same with Geoff Blum the year before, Dave Roberts the year before that, and Ugie Urbina the year before that. The Mets did better than well last year with Ollie Perez and Roberto Hernandez, plus Guillermo Mota and Shawn Green. As comfortable as we are with this club, I'm excited for whom we might add to the Metpot between now and the finish line. (Beware the Mike Bordicks of the league, though, good guys who inexplicably don't work out. Ugh.)

5. No season goes by without our kindred spirits at East Coast Agony bailing out along the way. As sure as the sun will rise again tomorrow, youngsters Mike and Kyle will deliver early season goods, then drop off the face of the 'sphere without warning. We keep believing they'll stick because we want to believe. It's their ADD generation, I guess. These whippersnappers need to learn the value of hard work and persistence. When I used to blog as a young lad...

There you go. Learn it. Know it. Live it. Today's message involves Inevitable #1, so let's see how these Metropolitans turn a sour stretch into a return to winning ways.

In response to Rob's inquiry below:

The Sox were bound to come back down to earth a tad. Their stats through two months in categories like team OPS+ and ERA+ don't lead the league, but they're each very close. And it's when you put them together that you see how complete a team they are. The only other club to be even near the top in both categories? The Mets. Fear not, friend; though the rest of their division simply has to perform better (see Inevitable #3), the Sox should be well on their way. (The "barring serious injury" asterisk is always implied.)

I have one question about the Red Sox: In beating up on the league so far this year, is this team having fun? It's not a pointed question; rather, I've watched a slight bit less Sox action this season, and I'm asking.

The Mets seem to be having a blast at every turn -- in fact, their lackadaisical play may well need some tightening right now. Watching Jose Reyes, the fans can't help but laugh along with him, and he's the catalyst for the rest of the roster. We all heard about, read about, and were beaten over the head with the 2004 Sox' obvious looseness and goofball demeanor. It's not always a formula for success, mind you; the pulse of the team begins with its marquee players, and you won't find "fun" in Kirk Gibson's or Paul O'Neill's clubhouses. But just three years removed from the Cowboy Up/Hell's Coming/Idiots, is anyone besides Manny treating themselves to some fun?

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