Apr 13

Do The Mets Have A Rivalry With Any Team?

With the Mets in Philadelphia over the weekend, I can’t help but wonder if they have a rivalry with any team. I mean a serious, hate-their-guts rivalry. They definitely don’t have anything with the spice of Yankees-Red Sox.

For two seasons, at least, they had something with the Phillies, and in 2007 and 2008 they kicked away the NL East on the final weekend. Jimmy Rollins was right when he said the Phillies were the team to beat.

But, for 50 years, Mets-Phillies was mostly ho-hum, despite the closeness of the two cities. Geography is only a small factor for it, but it can’t be the sole essence of an intense rivalry. That’s why Mets-Yankees, to me, doesn’t make it, either. So what that they play in the same city. The bottom line is the two teams aren’t competing for the same thing. That, in large part is why interleague play doesn’t cut it.

The Mets and Phillies are competing for the same prize, but the teams are rarely good at the same time. Rollins and Carlos Beltran traded jabs a couple of times and Cole Hamels suggested the Mets choked (actually, the words were put in his mouth by WFAN talk-show hosts), which was simply a statement of fact.

Early in their history, for obvious reasons, there was a rivalry with the Dodgers and Giants. In 1969, it was the Cubs. Then at various times the rivals became the Pirates, the Cardinals, and then the Braves.

Of all of them, the Braves might have been the most intense over the longest period.

When you look at the great rivalries in sports, the competition for the same goal is usually the basis. Then other factors, such as geography and certain players spice the rivalry.

From the Philadelphia perspective, much of their scorn for the Mets was personified in Jose Reyes, but he’s gone. There’s no real Met for Phillies fans to hate. Where’s Billy Wagner when you need him.

There’s really no team the Mets face that gets the blood boiling. The Yankees, because of interleague play, is more made-for-TV posturing. I covered it from both clubhouses and the responses where mostly clipped and cliche.

The only time I felt a genuine contempt by the clubs for each other was after 9-11, when several Yankees said they thought the Mets were getting more publicity for doing more than they were. Hard to understand that thinking considering the then major was at Yankee Stadium as much as City Hall.

Both teams were sincere about the community, but circumstances dictated more cameras were on the Mets at key times. The Shea Stadium parking lot was a staging area and Mets players loaded trucks while in uniform. Both teams visited local police and fire units. But, it was the Mets who had the first game back in New York.

And, the Mets threw quite a party that night.

That was the only time I thought seriously about the Mets and Yankees playing each other. The first game back? Oh, that would have been a special night.

But, when you’ve disappointed since 2006, and had limited spurts of greatness and then mediocrity for the better part of 50 years, it makes it hard to find a real rival.

I would say the Mets’ most intense rivalry for five decades has been with themselves.

 

 

Apr 13

It Would Be The Right Thing To Honor Chipper Jones

When Chipper Jones announced he would retire after the season my immediate thought was in how the Mets would do to acknowledge him. Now, when I hear some in the media and other bloggers are against it, I just scratch my head.

JONES: The Mets have been on the opposite end of that swing many times.

Yes, Jones has been a Mets Killer. All the more reason. Jones embraced the rivalry with the Mets – at a time when the Mets had real rivalries – and was passionate about playing here. So much so, that he named one of his children after Shea Stadium. He even bought Shea Stadium seats. And, on the night Mike Piazza hit that homer after 9-11, it was Chipper’s face we sought out from among the Braves. He was genuinely moved that night.

If he doesn’t want a rocking chair tour, fine, but something simple and genuine. Perhaps a weekend in New York with Broadway tickets, or a painting of Shea Stadium, or something to acknowledge how important he was to baseball summers in New York for years.

It’s petty to ignore him. So what if he was a nemesis. Boo hoo. Get over it.

Teams have long acknowledged and respected celebrated opponents for years. The Boston Celtics always had the right idea, giving a piece of the parquet to Julius Erving, to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, to Magic Johnson. And, Celtics-Lakers is more intense at any time than Mets-Braves.

Yes, they should acknowledge Chipper. It would be the classy thing to do. It would be the right thing to do.

Apr 09

Evaluating Mets’ Sweep Of Braves; Niese Puts Cap On Weekend

NIESE: Flirts with no-hitter.

The Mets and Yankees were at opposite ends of the broom over the weekend, but it didn’t take much to guess where most of the newspaper attention went. Right – in Florida where the Rays were disposing of the Yankees.

Being a Mets fan, you’re used to that, but today you want it this way. Let the Mets fly in under the radar; let the Yankees deal with the pressure and panic.

The weekend was all about pitching, with Jon Niese flirting with the franchise’s first no-hitter. The string remains intact for 7,971 games. Who cares how long the streak goes as long as they keep playing well.

Continue reading

Apr 08

Lucas Duda Powers Mets

Out of the ashes of last season we might have uncovered some life, that being Lucas Duda’s power. The guy is frighteningly strong and homered twice yesterday to beat the Braves.

DUDA: In HR trot.

With last season a washout from the beginning, it was a matter of time before Carlos Beltran was traded and that opened the door for Duda. That, and Ike Davis’ freakish injury.

After the Beltran trade the Mets finally acknowledged Duda’s future was in right field and played him there at the end. When you have a losing team, you must always think ahead and that’s what the Mets were able to accomplish last year with Duda.

“Lucas benefited from last summer when he was in the lineup every day and he realized he belongs,” manager Terry Collins said. “He put good swings on mistakes, he’s got the strength to hit it out of anywhere. He’s got a chance to be some kind of power hitter.”

Duda took advantage on the shorter dimensions with one of his homers, but the ball was still crushed. Later, he admitted to a confidence burst.

“Any time you produce a little bit you get that confidence going, and its carried over,” Duda said. “I think everybody [has doubts]. I don’t think you’d be human if you don’t.”

With Duda, Davis and David Wright, the Mets have some potent power potential in the middle of the order. They’d have even more if Jason Bay would produce.

 

 

Apr 08

Mets Lineup Today Against Braves

No, I never would have thought I’d write this sentence: The Mets will go for the sweep today against Atlanta. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Two games in is too early to draw any conclusions, but the first impression is good. The Mets’ pitching has been superb, both from the rotation and the bullpen, and today they’ll throw out Jon Niese against the Braves.

The Mets haven’t unleashed the bats, yet, but hit three solo homers yesterday. Lucas Duda went deep twice and David Wright hit a bomb to right-center. The new dimensions might have helped Duda, but they were ripped nonetheless.

Frank Francisco has two saves in two tries, and Terry Collins has gone to the bench twice already in the late innings for Daniel Murphy. I don’t mind that as long as he’s not giving away any at-bats by Murphy. But, using the bench keeps everybody involved and improves the defense.

It’s hard not to like what you’ve seen so far, but it is early. Most importantly, the Mets are taking advantage of an undermanned and underperforming Braves’ team. Atlanta won’t be like this all year, so you hit when you can. It’s a good start, so ride it as long as you can.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Ruben Tejada, ss
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Scott Hairston, cf
Mike Nickeas, c
Jonathon Niese, lp