Sunday, February 11, 2007

Maine Man

Note: I've asked my good buddy - who will herewith be known by his Indian name, Mets2Moon - to help out around the shop whenever I need to duck out for Chinese food or settle the occasional lawsuit. As we head into Spring Training we will be (I just decided this now) going over a handful of the key players for this season, the guys on whom a lot of team's success might live or die. Let's say, oh, one per week? Sounds good to me. We'll start with John Maine. Take it away, M2M. -Your Faithful Editor

As my first post as the alternate contributor to The Ballclub, I wanted to make sure I covered a hot topic for the offseason. With the Mets pitching staff about as stable as America's Foreign Relations, it is important to consider the key members of the Pitching Staff. Because, as we all know, Pitching Wins Championships.

Yes, yes, we all know that Glavine and ElDuque will be anchoring things to kick things off. Two pitchers with a combined age of 132. But we're going to be counting on them for quite a bit in 2007. But, as we know, people can break down. ElDuque was supposed to be the linchpin for the Mets playoff chances before a balky calf (and have you ever taken a look at that man's calves?) sidelined him.

And all of a sudden, this was what all Mets fans woke up to on the morning of Game 1 of the NLDS:
Enter John Maine.

Acquired as an afterthought before the 2006 season, in a much-maligned deal involving Kris Benson and his trashy bride, Maine was looked at as a fringe pitcher, a failed prospect who would serve the same role as that of, say, Jeremi Gonzalez. The slop starter to fill in for the injured pitcher.

Maine made one start in May, and didn't pitch well. Then he got hurt and was all but forgotten, until he returned in July. But then, something strange happened. Maine started pitching really well. He spun a masterful shutout against the Astros on July 21st. Next, another 5.2 strong innings against the Cubs. And before anyone could really grasp it, Maine was turning into a gem. By the beginning of August, Maine was up to 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and giving the Mets a chance to win every time he went out (hear that, Trachsel?).

Maine's numbers for the season weren't eye-popping good, and he did take his lumps a couple of times. But what he accomplished was enough to inspire the confidence in his teammates and fans of The Ballclub that he'd be OK when he took the mound on October 4th vs. the Sad Dodgers.
And he was. Not a win, but his effort was good enough to put the Mets in position to win the game. His start in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cardinals was erratic, but he would redeem himself with a stellar performance in Game 6 to keep the Mets from being eliminated. And although that would be his final outing of the season, it left Mets fans feeling mighty excited about the fortunes of the kid whom nobody had heard of 6 months prior.
And so, we look forward to 2007. And we look forward to the prospects of having John Maine, the kid with nuts the size of Saturn, ready to take the ball every 5th day and give his all to help out The Ballclub.

Go get 'em, John.

No comments: