Monday, April 17, 2006

Youth Not Wasted On This Youngster

In all the talk about Steve Trachsel and Victor Zambrano, and which one should be four and which one should be five, there's one aspect of all of this that's gotten lost in the shuffle:

Brian Bannister is the number three starter.

Think of how amazing this is for a second.

We as fans and bloggers talked about Bannister as a valuable pitching prospect. But when stacked up against Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber, Gaby Hernandez, and even Alay Soler in spots, Bannister was an afterthought.

And today, he's the number three starter.

The fact that Bannister has gone out there in spring training and earned the job, and the fact that he's done nothing but impress us during the season doesn't make the sentence any less amazing. Consider that this is an organization that in recent history has traded a lot of minor league chips for veteran players. And then remember that Willie Randolph waited half a season, half a season entirely too long according to most, to bat David Wright...the David Wright...higher than sixth in the order on a regular basis...because he was being protected.

But a guy thought of as a mid, mid-high prospect last season in double A, is only behind two future hall of famers in the Mets rotation.

Is it a testament to Bannister's make up and maturity? Probably.

Is it a signal of a change of organizational thinking? Probably not. But every game that Bannister succeeds in is a vote of confidence for the Mets' minor league organization and the way they handle pitchers. Heaven knows that the Mets could use some confidence in their minor league system after the debacle of Generation K. But the better Bannister gets, the more trust and the longer a look guys like Humber and Pelfrey will get as being guys that will be able to contribute in major ways, and not as chips for veteran help.

And there's still a long way to go for Bannister. He did walk five and give up six hits in 5 innings today. But the way he was able to get out of trouble showed a feel for the game that belies his years. It doesn't make his precocious position any less amazing.

***

Best start in history.

Say the words softly to yourself, and let the words drift you off to sleep. The Mets, at 9-2, are off to the best start in their history. Then wake up to this wet blanket:

It means nothing if the Mets do not beat the Braves' brains in this week.

If Pedro Martinez, Victor Zambrano, and Tom Glavine can't beat three pitchers whose earned run averages going in to Monday are 11.37, 8.38, and 9.20, then how is the best start in Mets history going to matter to anyone? How can you not turn around and say "same old Mets"? How could you not conclude that the Mets will never, ever, defeat the Braves in soon to be recorded history?

Luckily, this is the 20th anniversary of the greatest baseball team ever to wear spikes. And to celebrate that anniversary, the Mets have assembled a team that is ready to slay ghosts and assert their dominance...just like twenty years ago, when the Mets entered an April four game series in St. Louis against their arch-enemy, the Cardinals. The Cardinals, like this year's Braves, were defending N.L. East champions.

One Howard Johnson moonshot and four road victories later, Whitey Herzog was blubbering into his Budweiser, and the N.L. East race was over. And I have news for you: The 1986 Cardinals were better than this season's version of the Braves...by a significant margin. And for the first time in the Mets Quixote-like chase for the unreachable star, they have a significantly better team on paper than the windmill known as the Atlanta Braves. So this is the time to make a real statement in this division. The statement should start with a Hojo-esque moment, and should end with the word sweep.

In this, the 20th anniversary of 1986, and all it represented, anything is possible.

***

Since I am expected to provide prophecies, my pick for Hojo-esque moment is Carlos Delgado. Off Chris Reitsma, bottom of the ninth, down a run, over the bullpen.

Take this from someone who once thought Doug Mientkiewicz was a better swing for Shea Stadium than Delgado, the newest Carlos has been just what this lineup needed. Why has Carlos No. 1 (Beltran) started hot? Why has David Wright gotten some MVP talk?

Carlos Delgado.

Of course his fielding isn't close to Mientkiewicz type levels, as his 2 out error on a pick-off throw allowed Geoff Jenkins to blast another space shuttle over the center field wall. But Carlos blew the game open in the eighth with a three run homer to turn a 4-3 nail biter into a 7-3 romp, in what became a 9-3 victory.

Carlos No. 2 has transformed this offense from pop-gun to howitzer. He will continue tomorrow.

***

Why can't that prophecy come true? Why just one day after I wondered why Jorge Julio pitched in an important spot while Chad (0.00 ERA) Bradford pitched in mop-up duty, Willie got it correct today. Blueback finished off the sixth by getting Carlos Lee to ground out (which he should have done on Saturday), while Armando Junior resumed his rightful role as the bullpen janitor, mopping up a six run lead in the ninth. And in honor of Easter, Julio pitched a goose egg. It's an Easter miracle.

***

Remember this?

Saturday afternoon, 1:21 PM, same guy calls. Leaves a message on my cell phone while I'm on the train. It's the first inning of the Brewers/Mets game, and there's a play where a grounder kicks off Delgado and pops straight up in the air and back down into this glove, giving him enough time to throw to the pitcher covering for the out. This was his reaction on my cell phone:

"It's a magic season, you mark my words. S**t like this did not happen for the Mets last year, it hasn't happened in twenty years. It's starting to happen. It's like '86 all over again."
Of course, the Mets went on to lose 8-2.

I get this message after the game, and I'm in Manhattan screaming...not to myself...screaming: "Why do you continue to do this to me???" Of course, a woman is standing outside a bar with bunny ears and a cotton tail looking at me like I'm nuts.

So for my jinx friend, an amendment to the fan rules:

  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Leave the prophecizing to me.
  • Don't call me during the game.
  • If you do, don't tell me they're on their way to being the greatest team since sliced bread.
  • If you do this, and they lose, you get the loss. Not Jorge Julio, not Victor Zambrano, not Anthony Young. YOU! (And right now, you're 0-1.) And you get called out on the blog.
  • And finally, you did not tell me that David Wright was going to be a superstar. I told you this. I am Metstradamus, not you. You wanted Ty Wigginton to be the Mets third baseman for ten years. You're the history major...stop revising it. So get over it, stop lying to yourself, and find therapy if you can't bring yourself to accept this.

Don't like these rules? Get your own blog.

4 comments:

Tommy_Calzone said...

While I agree there is no comparison DWright or Wiggy, here are Ty's stats thru 41 ab's.

.293 5 hr 13rbi 8 runs

I was as surprised as anyone to see this. Good for him I say. He had a rough patch in Pittsburgh but maybe he is better off in Tampa.

More importantly let's set the tone tonight early and bury these bastards.

LAPD Lied said...

OJ was framed by 'the man'.

The Man would not allow OJ to enjoy his Mcdonalds drive through while driving in his Bentley.

THe man had to bring him down because the man is angry.

J. Mark English said...

Love the picture of HOJO!

Hope all is well...

Take care,
Mark

www.americanlegends.blogspot.com

Kyle in Newport News said...

WOW. While waiting for the new Mets song to load, I was preparing a comment about how "Our Team Our Time" showed that Mets' fans were less selfish than the "My Town My Team My Braves" Braves' fans. Then I actually heard the song and --

WOW. If "OUR TEAM OUR TIME" is the Mets and that MC Hammer debacle is the Braves, then the Mets are going to absolutely crush the Braves tonight.

PEDRO MARTINEZ -- WILL STRIKE YOU OUT!!!