The 2011 season is underway and even only five games in, there are several story lines that bear monitoring from now through September – and hopefully beyond. I apply the tail end of that sentence unironically for the first time in four years: I think these Mets might have it in them to hang on in the race to the end. I know, I know…It’s only five games, a lot can happen between now and then, people can (probably will) get hurt, Pelfrey, yaddayaddayadda. But I’m seeing a pretty cool narrative play out here and I have a feeling this year is going to resemble 2005, if not 1984 with a little luck.
So since five games have been played, here are 5 story lines that I can safely say will play out for the next 5 months:
Josh Johnson is REALLY good.
There are some great pitchers the Mets handle pretty well: Randy Johnson, Fergie Jenkins and Cole Hamels come to mind. And there are others whose reputations are better than matched when they face the Mets: Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton and Curt Schilling for example. Unfortunately, I think Josh Johnson will belong to that latter group as time goes on. He’s a young kid, with a seemingly rubber arm & electric stuff emanating from it. If I may be Streinbrennerian for a moment, I wait for the day when the Marlins can no longer pay him and this smart front office will take advantage of his availability.
John Buck is going to be a pain in the neck.
I get the same sinking feeling when I see the Marlins’ new catcher come to the plate as I do when Hanley Ramirez – pardon the expression – bats. If there are a couple of runners on ahead of him, I just KNOW he’s going to knock at least one of them in. I got that knot in my stomach on Sunday afternoon and the Mets had a 3 run lead and Buck cracked a 2-bagger into the gap between Willie Harris & Angel Pagan. Luckily, the offense, the Marlin defense and R.A. Dickey allayed my fears. But Mr. Buck has already made my Crumb List for this year.
The Mets are resilient.
It’s an “uh-oh” moment over here when the Mets lose on Opening Day. It doesn’t happen all that often, and in more than a few seasons I can think of, it was the high point of the year. When there IS a loss in the opener, my thinking immediately goes to 1991 and the 77-win disaster that followed the dropped lid-lifter. Rarely do I picture 1984, when Mario Soto mowed down the Mets in Cincinnati, and the team went on a 6-game tear right after. This year, I thought of Soto & Cincy during the late stages of a terrific game #2 as the Mets were successful in extra-innings for the first time this year. I thought about ’84 as they bulldozed the Marlins in the rubber game, then deflated Hamels in the Tuesday game in Philly. And I REALLY was summoning it as the Mets climbed out of a 7-0 hole in the ultimately futile Wednesday game in Philly.
Mike Pelfrey is not an ace.
There’s a lot to like about this team.
First of all, unless they’re facing one of those super-humans mentioned above, it appears they’re not out of any game. The Wednesday game in Philly is a case in point. Once they pulled even, it took three truly FREAKY plays to give the Phils the lead back again. Now, maybe Ben Francisco’s homer would have been the difference and the loss would have been 8-7 instead, but the “game of inches” meme was never so brilliantly put on display as in the bottom of the 5th: if Victorino’s ball rolls foul, if Beltran gets a better jump on Polanco’s bleeder, if Boyer gets out of the way, if…if…if… Stuff that makes baseball great.
Here are some other “seemings:” Jose Reyes is starting off every game standing on first base. Brad Emaus can pick it in the field. Ike Davis can rake. Chris Young has ‘em on a string. R. A. Dickey is just as good as last year. Jonathon Niese is opening some eyes. Carlos Beltran is coming back strong. Willie Harris makes Jason Bay’s lengthening DL stay bearable. David Wright is David Wright.
So I think I’ll keep watching. How ‘bout you?