Friday, July 13, 2007

Days of the New

Game 88 - Mets

Mets 3, Reds 2
Record: 49-39

Across the last pair of weeks, I've been begging for a spark. Some sort of fire to be lit under these guys, and some sort of fire to be lit among us who take in this six-month melodrama. Willie did about as much as he's capable of with the forthright benching of Reyes. Beyond that, the eyes of Mets Township have been slowly turning toward Omar Minaya with a hopeful look of "Whaddaya got for us?"

And yet, at the same time, there is considerable hesitance. There are still a couple of keywords, certain player names, whose utterance elicit shock-treatment like tremors in us. They're fading, but not quickly enough so that we feel comfortable handing Omar 29 media guides and commanding, "Go for it!" As much as a top-tier starter, an All-Star second baseman, or even a tough middle reliever would be the medicine this doctor is ordering, what's available -- and what the Mets would likely have to get to get it -- might end up being some form of bloodletting. Again.

And so the New York Mets are left with that sort of quandary: improve the team carefully, cautiously, without a whole lot to choose from. Hey, in the off-season Omar's job is cake -- relatively speaking, of course. Wave a bunch of money at guys and you can have them. Lose a draft pick along the way, c'est la vie. Right now it's no picnic: you see obvious flaws without an obvious way to fix them; the team could possible scrape by with what's out there . . . and yet there's as much chance of falling apart with that squad, too. Time to earn that paycheck.

Well, we've already seen a couple of lesser but not insignificant decisions in this second portion of the season. First, as mentioned, Rick Down was given his papers, and Omar was rolling his as he hired Rickey Henderson. The outcome of that shuffle is TBD, but in actuality, it could end up being entertaining and prudent. Maybe.

Second, Julio Franco was DFA-ed while Lastings Milledge was promoted. The Township has been a rollercoaster of emotions on both of these guys. We'll call Franco's unceremonious release "unfortunate," which is also what we'd call his swing over the past two months. Had to happen. Meanwhile, it seems like folks are back to rooting for Milledge -- not crowning him the next big thing, and thereby not placing too much pressure on him, but pulling for him in earnest. I know I am. If he goes in a trade that brings the Mets someone truly critical, I'm okay with it. If he stays around as a cog in the machine that is part of a pennant drive here, I'm glad. If he flails his was to .233 again and winds up doing more time in the Big Easy . . . well, okay, I'm irritated, but I'm neither shocked nor disillusioned. This might be his time.

Last night was a good start for the new changes. Milledge showed some speed and just enough scatted remnants of beginner's luck to get his hand in and graze home plate with the eventual winning run. El Duque was sharp, the pen was flawless, and the Mets began the second "half" with a win.

Yes, it was against the lowly Reds. Yes, we've seen the Mets win plenty of series openers, only to regress in subsequent games. It doesn't matter. There's not the same naive optimism after the Break that there is before the season starts, but those three days away from the ups and downs of the W's and L's were just enough to recharge my outlook, and I'm seeing better days ahead.

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