Wake Me Up When The Post Season Begins

Maybe this wasn't a postseason preview after all.

Maybe the Cardinals, losers of 18 of their last 26 games and victims of a simple sweep at Shea, are not destined to even make it to the postseason. As it is, following this loss they are barely holding on to a half game lead over the Cincinnati Reds who were in action against the Giants.

But hey, that's the Cardinals' problem, we have our own headaches, like who to rest and who to play now that the games are essentially meaningless.

Ok, were we fighting for the NL East or battling for a wild card spot, a sweep over the once-mighty Cardinals would have been a massive catharsis, a sweet nectar, a spicy bromide to placate our ulcers and inspire us through the dog days of the season.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. This is certainly better than ticking off game after meaningless game, twenty games back from the pack, watching professionals go through the motions, dreaming up new insults, finding new ways to describe mediocrity.

It's nice to be able to focus on other things this time of year; giving El Duque a chance to rest his 50 year old bones, a stretch of calf rehabilitation for Pedro, the return of Brian Bannister, the roster shuffling of numbers.

Shawn Green made his debut for us last night, 1 for 3 from right field. Hitting 6th in the order, Green lined into a double play in the bottom of the second after David Wright had singled. But he redeemed himself the following inning with an RBI single as the Mets burst forward with a 3-0 lead.

Shawn Green, the new hero of New York Jews?

The next time up he walked and the time after that he struck out, a little bit of everything. But there's little doubt this is an improvement to the batting order with Lastings Milledge going back down that dusty road to Norfolk after an underwhelming return to Shea.

The only question about Green is will he be available on religious holidays? In 2004, Green sat out a pennant race game for the Los Angeles Dodgers in observance of Kol Nidre, the start of Yom Kippur. Then again, the Mets aren't really IN a pennant race so it's a moot point in an otherwise optimistic haze.

And although it was not his Mets debut, how about a hand for lefty Dave Williams anyway, replacing Pedro without a blink, allowing a mere two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings to earn the win, his first for the Mets after a dismal stint with the Reds. Can you imagine how huge this would have been in a pennant race? Lose your ace and a journeyman outpitches his history for a key victory?

And if that's not enough excitement, how about the return of Brian Bannister? This guy was our John Maine before John Maine had even arrived in our collective subconscious with scoreless streaks and precision pitching. This guy was 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA in five starts before disappearing for the season with a torn hamstring in April. Remember him? More walks than strikeouts? He will start against the Phillies on Friday night.

The conga line of replacement pitchers is almost endless. I mean, look who is starting in this weekend series against our nearest NL East rivals; Bannister, then Oliver Perez, then John Maine. If you were told of this scenario in March, you'd probably have been sure the season was already in tatters.

Yea! I'm not pitching for the Pirates any more!

And if that's not surprising enough for you, two more additions, Roberto Hernandez and Guillermo Mota pitched perfect innings in relief. Two more faces we'd never imagined seeing back in March.

That isn't to say of course that the Mets' expected stars don't continue to produce. Carlos Delgado had another homerun and is making a late season chase for a stat-packed MVP race. Just think about how this series played out - Delgado and Pujols both had a pair of homers and a grand slam in the first game, Delgado continued bashing and Pujols had only one hit in four at-bats last night.

Jose Reyes, adding further to his coming-out season, became the first National League player since Andy Van Slyke in 1988 to hit 15 home runs and 15 triples in a season. Reyes joins Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the American League as the most recent players to have accomplished that feat.

So here we have the balance of defence, pitching and hitting. Equilibrium between the superstars we expected to perform performing and all the other additions from this season who have made surprising contributions.

When you consider the success and the chemistry, when you consider how uncertain people were about the Mets in spite of the second consecutive splashy off season signings, you might suddenly begin to realise that Willie Randolph deserves serious consideration for Manager of the Year in the National League.


sanchez said...

The most amazing thing about the acquisition of Shawn Green is that he isn't even Hispanic!

Shawn "Verde" (spanish word for Green) should be the chant we hear at Shea when his turn comes up in the order, just to make everyone else feel at home...

Jaap said...

On the other hand, the thought of Delgado wearing a yarmulke on his bald head at Green's wedding just shows you the new, massive cultural diversity of this club.