Friday, August 04, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Everyday, I listen to idiotic New York sports fans on my drive to work. That imbecile, Joe Benigno -- a former idiotic New York sports fan himself before becoming an idiotic New York sports broadcaster after winning some contest or something -- fields dozens of phone calls from Mets fans.

"This is the year," they say.

"Will the Mets sell replica versions of the 2006 World Series Championship ring?," they ponder.

"Good thing the NL lost the All-Star game, we'll sweep and win it at home," they announce.

"Will Carlos Beltran marry me?," they ask.

But there is a problem. It's a very real problem, one that Mets fans already doing the scouting on the Detroit Tigers rotation are refusing to acknowledge.


The problem, Mets fans, is this man.

Thomas Michael Glavine.

Glavine, the Mets' "ace," is 40 years old. Despite a very solid start, he's lost a fair amount of luster since June, typical of an aging pitcher who's struggling to keep up with baseball's rigorous schedule. At 11-4, his decent win/loss record only obscures the cold, hard facts. He's got an ERA that has become perilously close to 4.00 and is a .500 pitcher since July 15. He's getting tired. His arm is getting sore. Being 40, you can't blame the guy. He's been playing professional baseball for 19 years.

So, let's play the Mets' favorite game: counting chickens before they've hatched.

Let's say that the Mets do win the National League East. This may be surprising or even confusing to some Mets fans who haven't seen the post-season in so long, but the MLB playoff structure is a curious thing. Before the NLCS, the Mets will have to play a five game series. Let's say, as an example, they'll play against the league's Wild Card team, and let's go ahead and say that team is the suddenly-surging Los Angeles Dodgers.

Presumably -- maybe a Mets' fan's favorite word -- the Metropolitan's starting rotation would begin with Glavine, Martinez, Hernandez.

Let's continue to say, as an example, that the 40-year-old Tom Glavine, despite a lot of rest down the stretch, has a bad outing. It's not that much of a stretch, considering Glavine's last post-season outing.

Let me jog your memory. The year is 2002, and the Atlanta Braves faced the pill-popping San Francisco Giants in the first round of the playoffs. Glavine, being the Braves' ace, starts Game One.

Things didn't go very well for Tom. He gets rocked for six runs in five innings and costs the Braves the game, 8-5. But the Braves win the next two games, and Glavine has a chance to redeem himself by starting Game Four with a chance to put the series away.

This time, Glavine gets positively torched. He manages just 2.2 innings pitched, gives up seven runs on seven hits. The Braves lose the game, 8-3, and go on to lose the series.

On that chilly October night in San Francisco, Glavine is a relatively young 36 years old.

So, let's say the Mets make it to a five game series against the Dodgers. Let's say, hypothetically, that Glavine has a bad start for Game One. Pedro's sore hip flairs up for Game Two, and the Mets lose a heartbreaker at Shea.

On the flight to Los Angeles that night, Willie Randolph might have trouble falling to sleep. His entire season -- the Mets' dream season, the 20 year anniversary of 1986, the year where everything was supposed to work out -- relies completely on the arm of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, a man that might be 45 years old.

All those Mets fans suddenly forget all the scouting they did on the Santana, Ortiz and Wang.

They're about to get swept out of the first round.

Things look good now for the Mets, no question. But five game series are crazy things. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Yankees' stretch of four World Championships in five years isn't the World Series victories themselves but the fact they managed to even make it that far.

Any team can get knocked out of a five game series.

Any team.

Don't count your Manhattan victory parades before they've hatched.

Recap

Again, Aaron Bleeping Heilman.

We left seven on base throughout the course of the game, and had three rally-killing double plays.

But Pedro was Pedro, and that has to make one feel a little better. And let's not forget we went 4-2 on this little road trip.

Now, to shut down Chase Utley's little streak.

BBPOTS Player of the Game: Pedro Martinez

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