Monday, June 21, 2004

Locked and Loaded 

The Mets 6 to 1 win over the Tigers capped off a 3 game sweep of the boys from Detroit, was also the Mets fourth straight win, and their sixth win in the last seven games. The miserable five game AL Central losing streak between June 8th and 12th seems like 3 Jose Reyes leg injuries ago. More importantly, yesterday's win brought the Mets back to .500 with a 34 and 34 record and they are only 2.5 games out of first place. That's the good news. The bad news is, the schedule isn't getting any easier. A few weeks ago I commented on the 12 game NL East Gauntlet the Mets would have to get through in order to see what they were made of. The team came out of that stretch 6 and 6 and even in the games they lost, played very competitively. Consider that round one. Round two begins Tuesday and continues until the All Star break. The Mets have to get through seven games against the Reds (3rd place at 38 and 31), six against the Yankees (1st place at 43 and 24), four games against the Phillies (tied for 1st place at 36 and 31,) and three against the Marlins (tied for 1st place at 37 and 32). The optimist in me will point out that despite being in first place much of the year, the Reds are struggling recently and have lost seven of their last ten games. The Mets have had their way with the Phillies so far this year, beating them four out of five contents. While the Marlins have a winning record against the Mets, they are only four and six their last ten games. That leaves only the Yankees to give us trouble and the Mets are just due to smack them around.

The Mets could not be in a better position to start this 19 game stretch. They go into Round 2 with the best ERA in baseball. Cliff Floyd is healthy and productive. Hell, Cliff even stole a base a few days ago and is running around left field like a gazelle shagging fly balls. Mike Cameron appears to have finally broken out of his slump, hitting close to his career AVG so far this month and in the last 7 days has hit .348 with two home runs. Those two game winning walk off hits against Detroit surely gave Cameron a much needed confidence boost. Mike Piazza is doing what Mike Piazza does – hitting balls hard and often. Ty Wigginton, perhaps spurred on by news of David Wright’s rapid rise through the minor league ranks, has even turned it up a notch. In the last month Wigginton has padded his numbers to the tune of 61 points to his AVG, 55 points to his OBP and 106 points to his SLG. Kazuo Matsui, despite his well documented defensive troubles, has even held his own so far, as he ranks 5th among NL shortstops with a 12.9 VORP. Last but not least are newly acquired, via trade, Richard Hidalgo and newly acquired, via St. Lucie M*A*S*H unit, Jose Reyes. Hidalgo’s two hit performance yesterday, one of which was a go ahead two run blast, will go a long way to getting him back on track. Before being an eye witness to Roberto Alomar's Met career, I would say that it’s simply “not possible” for a player to fall off a cliff so quickly. I’m hoping Hidalgo is not exhibit B to disprove this hypothesis. Hidalgo has not looked bad in the batter’s box so far so let’s keep our fingers crossed. Reyes might have a little rust swinging the stick but has already shown he’s sharp in the field and that he can make things happen on the base paths. Other than his baseball skills, Reyes brings a certain energy to the Mets they simply lack without him. After Reyes galloped for his 10th inning triple the other night and looked up with that huge Reyes smile, I knew the Mets were going to win that game.

It's time this team gained a little confidence. It's time the Mets realize they have the best pitching staff in baseball. It's about time the team realize they have a future Hall of Famer who still swings a mean bat anchoring their line-up. It's time they realize they have the best defensive player in baseball patrolling center field. It's about time they realize they have the most exciting, electrifying young player in the game providing a spark near the top of the line-up and plugging holes in the infield. It's about time the best player in Japan start acting like it and quit trying to impress the Shea faithful with his best Chuck Knoblauch impersonation. Now's the time to shore up the shoddy infield defense. If Matsui is having trouble making the throws to first, then Piazza/Phillips/Valent better be out there before the game working on making picks. It’s time to shelf all of the excuses and start amassing wins. It's time this team stop being satisfied with .500. It's time to get locked and loaded and make a move now.
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