Monday, July 14, 2008

What the Hell do I Know?

Last night, I attended The Biggest Game In The Galaxy, the Sunday Night Mets/Rockies game that officially closed out the first half of the season for both teams. I felt oddly confident all day, and justifiably so, especially with the Mets having won 8 in a row and progressively looking more and more dominant in doing so.

In the top of the 1st, Mike Pelfrey quickly allowed a leadoff single to Scott Podsednik (punctuated by some doofus in UR2, Row V yelling "ONCE AGAIN, NO NO HITTER!" and me wanting to walk over and smack him in the teeth) and then quickly falling behind Clint Barmes 3-1, looking shaky, missing with his sinker and throwing his fastball at 86-88 MPH.

"Shit," I thought to myself. "He doesn't have it. Figures, it's the game I go to."

Pelfrey then zipped his next pitch in at 94 MPH, and Barmes responded by slapping the ball directly at Jose Reyes, who spun and turned a rather easy 6-4-3 DP.

A relatively brisk 7 innings later, Pelfrey, after getting the Rockies to basically pound the ball into the ground all night, punctuated yet another sterling effort by getting Podsednik to pop out to Wright, capping off 8 shutout innings over 119 pitches, walking off the field with the crowd chanting his name and even getting called out for a curtain call.

Were it not for the fact that he had to waste so many pitches on Omar Quintanilla (12 in the 3rd inning, another 8 in the 8th), Pelfrey certainly would have been in line to close out the game himself. I figured as much, and by the end of the 2nd, with the Mets already up 4-0 and the rest of the game feeling pretty academic, boldly texted El Guapo that Pelfrey would throw a shutout. So I was off by an inning. Close enough.

The point of all this is, basically, what the hell do any of us know? After spending the better part of the first three months of this season watching uneven, uninspired baseball that was frustrating, and made many of us lose faith and hope, and declare this team an unwatchable, unlikeable mess, the Mets go into the All-Star break on a 9-game tear, standing at 51-44, half a game behind the Phillies for 1st place.

After all that, the Mets are half a game out of 1st place. Go figure.

Pelfrey himself could be the poster boy for this dramatic turnaround. So many times, Pelfrey was considered the weak link, and one more bad start away from a ticket to New Orleans. Then came that outing against Arizona. And that was just a tantalizing preview. Instead of regressing, Pelfrey built on that strong outing and followed it up with more strong outings, to the point where, this past week, he threw 7 shutout innings against San Francisco and 8 more against Colorado, good enough for him to be named the NL Player of the Week. Now, who the hell thought that was going to happen 2 months ago? El Guapo and I discussed it via text during the game. His point, that it was hard to argue with Pelfrey's talent, but he spent too much of the time that he would have spent in the Minors harnessing it trying to figure it out in the Majors is a valid one. It's difficult to be jarred straight to the Majors less than a year after being drafted, and there's a reason that it rarely happens, particularly for Pitchers. Only now does Pelfrey seem to be finding his legs and building his confidence, fully harnessing the talent that he's always had.

The Mets have pretty much gone the same way. A month ago, we would have been happy with a 4-2 homestand against weak teams like San Francisco and Colorado. We would have been happy with a split in Philadelphia. But the Mets clearly have turned a corner, flawed as they are, and managed to rip through Philly and keep it up during this recent homestand. Players who have gotten hot have remained hot (Carlos Delgado, for one, has been especially hot; his HR on Sunday Night looked, off the bat, as if it was sailing towards Mo Vaughn territory near the top of the scoreboard, or perhaps even over the scoreboard), and other bit parts such as Fernando Tatis (who is now getting the ABBA treatment for his base hits, which I'm embarrassed to admit I approve of) and Damion Easley, whose Game-Winning HR on Friday night was reminiscent of, well, just about every other HR he's hit for the Mets. Or it's the pitching coming through, like they did on Saturday, spreading a 1-hit shutout over 5 pitchers who all threw rather effortless games. Even FOX's drunken, arrogant jackass Ken Rosenthal couldn't throw a damper on the Mets, much as he tried to discredit their hot streak by basically saying, "You can't take them seriously because they're beating up on the lousy Western Division." Rosenthal then interviewed Wagner after the game. I know you have to be diplomatic, but if I'd heard Rosenthal trashing the Mets throughout the game and then he tried to interview me after the team won, I probably would have told him he was an asshole and walked away. Even if the West is lousy, and they are, you still have to go out and win the games, and the Mets, for the first time all season, have actually been going out and doing so, and they should be credited for that.

So, now, the All-Star Break, at a rather inopportune time. It remains to be seen what the rest of the season will hold for the Mets. It's not even a given that they'll be able to keep their winning going after the layoff, although it helps that they're going to play another weak team in the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend, but this has all the makings of a 2-2 split or losing the series 3-1. Momentum can disappear very quickly. But El Guapo said it best: "Whatever happens this season, this is awesome right now."

Two odd notes for the All-Star Break:

1) Yabba Dabba Yankees!
In case you hadn't noticed, the All-Star Game is at Yankee Stadium, and Major League Baseball, ESPN, and just about anyone else with a pulse has taken this opportunity to heap oodles upon oodles of nauseating praise on the Yankee organization, thus turning the game into little more than a massive ass kissing session and another reason for the team and their fans to heighten their sense of self-importance. Not that they need such a thing. All I'll say is that if Mike Pelfrey were a Yankee, he'd be the toast of New York right now, and people would be screaming about how he's not on the All-Star team. Wagner is there, and so is Wright (however reluctant I feel about that; as he's one of the few Mets not hitting right now, I'd really rather he had the rest), although not so you'd notice. Wright, diplomatically, called this a celebration for New York on ESPN tonight, but I think we all know the truth.

2) The Passing of a Legend
It's not Bobby Murcer. Red Foley, who served as the Shea Stadium official scorekeeper for pretty much forever, passed away today at the age of 79. You always knew he was there, even if his presence was almost always never known. I'll remember Foley most for his quick and fair judgment call on Robin Ventura's Grand Slam Single, sorting out the chaos like the pro he was. As someone who has scored every game he's attended, I tip my cap to Red, whose work I always followed so that my scorecard was always up to date.

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