And in sitting and reflecting, wouldn't I be vindicating their effort this year (I know it's baseball, where intangibles and hustle are made-up terms to make David Eckstein an All-Star and Derek Jeter the best player ever, but come on) by proffering more time to their failures than they have?
But that was until the renaissance. Maybe it's too early to dub the Jerry Manuel era the renaissance – after all, one could have called the Victor Zambrano era a great success by the second game of his Mets career (he went seven innings, didn't allow an earned run, and was buoyed by an offense that featured Ice Williams leading off, Joe McEwing in the two hole, and Todd Zeile batting third – laugh with me), but I'm going to do it anyway.
Already, in two days, Manuel has endeared himself to me much more than Willie did in his two plus years here, what with his references to "cutting" Jose Reyes on the field, and his shouting match with home plate umpire Doug Eddings tonight. Willie was a product of the Yankee system (mostly Torre's tutelage), and was stoic, afraid to ruffle any feathers and often bordering on dour in his news conferences.
Jerry Manuel, on the other hand, brings the renaissance. Sure, there was Tuesday night's game (I might call it Wednesday morning's, but Omar Minaya would, in broken phrase, tell me that that was just a matter of perception), which was an abomination of the highest degree, but the team was tired – probably spent the entire night partying because Willie was gone – and just didn't have it.
Tonight, however, they were anything but exhausted. Reyes looked like the kid we remembered in 2006 – sprinting his way around the bases, scoring three of the Mets' five runs (and he simply couldn't have scored the others, because they were solo homers). Delgado woke up and crushed a ball for his tenth homer of the year – after the news broke that a veteran player, wonder who it could be, told Willie earlier this year that he would outlast the manager – maybe Manuel is capable of waking him up.
And most importantly, they came back. Oliver Perez, as per usual, was bitten by a bad inning, but unlike the usual, pitched well enough to survive, and keep the Mets in the game. Before I finish – a tangent, if you would indulge me. Why is it that people, including our SNY broadcasters, consistently praise this Angels style of baseball? Sure, taking an extra base once in a while is all well and good, but they scored four runs in the inning before this doozy of a double play: 5-2-4-6-5. The play was relatively simple: there was one out, with men on the corners, and Robb Quinlan hit a bouncing ball to third. Making a play at second would have been difficult for Wright (with the moderately speedy Torii Hunter at first) and throwing to first, across the diamond and across his body, would have been similarly difficult.
Instead, the now slow-footed Vladimir Guerrero breaks home, and Wright throws him out, and then Hunter, hoping to catch Castro napping (I know he's on the West Coast and has trouble with his time zones, but he won't often be napping during a night game) breaks for third, where he is forced out after a string of throws.
So instead of possibly having the bases loaded with one out, which, according to the Run Expectancy matrix, ought to generate about 1.5 runs, there were three out, and no one scored. Wouldn't 1.5 runs been a nice cushion for K-Rod, before he blew it in the ninth?
I understand the importance of hustle, and following Jose Reyes since his promotion has convinced me of the importance of speed in baseball, but how on Earth can one say that grabbing an extra base once in a while is a reasonable trade-off for horrendous gaffes like these?
And more importantly, while I'm attacking the logic of our SNY crew, how could they present that graphic showing the Angels as a hacking team (fewest P/PA in MLB since 2002) and then showing their successful record and saying that since they see few pitches, and they win, their strategy must be working?
Including 2002, the Angels' pitching has ranked in RA/G: first, fifth, second, second, fourth, fifth, and this year fifth as well. In terms of runs scored per game, they have ranked, including 2002: fourth, eleventh, seventh, seventh, eleventh, fourth, and this year eleventh.
So, count it, there was exactly one year, 2007, where the offense outperformed the pitching, relative to competition. Just one year. So my kudos to Mike Scoscia on winning and all – but I beg of SNY to acknowledge the viewers' collective intelligence and talk about the killer Anaheim (or Los Angeles of Anaheim) pitching over that timespan, and not about how this great "let's hustle, take the extra base, and not look at any pitches ever" approach works for scoring runs.
==END OF TANGENT==
So, Perez's effort to control the damage would have also gone to waste, if not for the stellar bullpen work: four innings of one-hit ball after he left the game. Joe Smith pitched well, Schoeneweis pitched well, and Sanchez and Wagner, dare I say it, reminded me of 2006 with their lockdown work in the ninth and tenth.
While the game ball tonight will go to Jose Reyes, an awful lot of praise must be heaped upon David Wright and Damion Easley. Easley, reprising his role as hero (and resident righty power bat) from the 2007 campaign derailed by injury, hammered a Justin Speier slider over the left-field fence to put the Mets ahead to stay.
And Wright, who, it appears, has not hit a ball solidly since Willie Randolph had some semblance job security, managed to beat K-Rod (once upon a time, my favorite non-Met) on a nasty slider to tie the game in the ninth. Reyes chugged home, and didn't even throw his helmet.
All in all, a happy day in Metland. Just you wait – I hear Minaya's on the hot seat, and Fred and JeffTM are considering replacing him with either Tony Bernazard, Paul DePodesta or Petrarch. Then the real renaissance begins.
-The Mets will have a much-needed off-day tomorrow before facing the Rockies at Coors on Thursday, where the disappointing John Maine will face off against ten-game winner Aaron Cook.
-Can we now anoint Omar Minaya the new worst press conduit in the Mets' history? Sure, Mike Piazza held a press conference to announce that he wasn't gay (by the way, Alomar was the gay one, if you haven't figured it out already), and Bobby Valentine did an impression of a hitter batting while stoned after the Mets' core players (Mark Corey and Tony Tarasco, dontcha know?) were accused of smuggling weed into the clubhouse in peanut butter jars, but Minaya just did them all one worse.
That's all I've got for you today, but I wholeheartedly assure you: the Renaissance means I'm back.