Yesterday’s Q&A with Bill Baer brought so much banter that I thought it would be nice to bring in another Phillies fan. The following is a guest column written by a longtime rival (we are friends AFTER the baseball season ends) who used to regularly write a sports column for an esteemed college newspaper about a hundred years ago (OK, maybe more like 15 or 20, but it was before Al Gore invented the internet and global warming, so it feels like a hundred years ago). In any case, the following is written by Tom Maguire, aka “The Earl of Sports”, and I hope you enjoy his phanatical perspective. – Joe
These are the musings of a former sports columnist (yes it was college, but it was before blogging and my nom-de-plume was “The Earl of Sports”) who is a die-hard Phillies fan. I took my then 5-year-old daughter to the championship parade in 2008 because you didn’t know if it was going to be another 28 years before we won another. I’ve also known Mets Today’s founder, Joe Janish, for many years and he figured it would be a good way to get Met fans all riled up, especially before an important series like this weekend’s games in Philadelphia.
I like Ike
I watched one of the Mets games last week and realized something: Ike Davis can play! As someone who has watched the Mets since the early 1980’s (and hated them as a Phillies fan), Met fans need someone like Ike: a talented, strong personality who can breathe some life into this team.
Déjà vu All Over Again
The start of the Met season was much like the Phillies were around 2000: yes you had a chance, but then again so did the Pirates (ok, not really, but you get the point). Just think about the starting 8 that waltzed out for Opening Day:
1. Alex Cora…utility guy
2. Luis Castillo…overpriced and tried to trade last winter because he had a career year in ‘09
3. David Wright…a younger Scott Rolen, a singles hitter without the defense
4. Fernando Tatis…a washed up utility guy
5. Jason Bay…the big bat you signed in the off-season can’t even hit cleanup?
6. Gary Mathews Jr…Sarge Jr. doesn’t hit like his pop
7. Jeff Francoeur…Run out of Atlanta and maybe on his last chance before he turns into Xavier Nady (a one-year guy teams sign on the cheap in February)
8. Rod Barajas…another part-time player
I hate to use the Sports Guy’s lines, but “Your 2010 Mets…the best team $130 million could buy???”
I know Beltran and Reyes were out, but for most fans, your favorite player is Daniel Murphy, a .250 hitter who would be a 4th outfielder or utility man on most teams!! This is not a team you’d stay up and watch during a west coast swing. Compare that to our lineup where five different players could hit cleanup (Rollins, Utley, Howard, Werth, and Ibanez) if they played for the Mets.
The Mets of today are like the Phillies in 2003. Every fan is going to root for their team no matter who they play (Marv Thronberry fans, speak up), but the Phillies had a team that wasn’t easy to root for. The best player, Scott Rolen, didn’t want to play here and the next best player, Bobby Abreu was someone you wanted on your fantasy team, not your real team. He’d rather take a walk in the 9th inning than try and make something happen with his bat (and don’t get me started on his fear of outfield walls).
Then, the culture changed in the clubhouse (a new stadium that wasn’t rat infested helped too). Chase Utley came up from the minors, we got Victorino as a Rule 5 pick, and Ryan Howard replaced an injured Jim Thome. When management got rid of Bobby Abreu for a bucket of balls from the Yankees a few summers later, the new leadership took over and propels this team to its newfound stardom. If you look in the stands, fans have everyone’s jersey — not just one player. Werth, Howard, Utley, Victorino, Rollins (a player most Phillies fans don’t like but respect his talent and wished he keep his trap shut), Hamels, Halladay, Brad Lidge, etc. They play hard, get clutch hits, never give up and win (when was the last time a Met team was down 4-1 on their last strike, and got a 3-run double to tie it, take a lead in the 10th, lose the lead in the bottom half, get two runs in their next at-bat, and barely hang on to win 7-6 as the Phils did yesterday to salvage a game against the Giants). 1986? This Phillies team has character. The Mets are just starting to develop its mojo.
Hope Springs Iketernal
This is what the Met fan is starting to see in their team. Ike could be the middle of the lineup thumper with Beltran and Wright in front of him and Bay and Francoeur behind. Reyes can set the table and pray that your starter goes more than 6 innings. It’s not a great team, but it gives you HOPE!! Ike does that.
But even winning 9 out of 10, shouldn’t get the Met fan thinking playoffs just yet. Look at the pitchers you beat over the last home stand:
• John Ely
• Charlie Haeger
• Hiroki Kuroda
• Tommy Hanson
• Jair Jurrjens
• Kenshin Kawakami
• Tom Gorzelanny
• Carlos Zambrano
• James Russell
It’s not exactly Spahn and Sain. You beat up a Cubs team that finds ways to lose and a Braves team that stopped hitting once the weather dipped below 50 degrees. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice run, but it’s not like the Giants who’ve beaten Adam Wainwright and Roy Halladay in the last week. I know, you can only face the clowns that other teams trot out there, but beat the Phillies 2 out of 3 this weekend (including Roy Halladay over the weekend) and then I think you’ll feel this Met team has a chance in 2010. Get swept, and Janish has to talk all of you off the ledge. Again!!
So Says the Earl of Sports ….
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.