No Shortage Of Storylines as we ‘Shea’ Goodbye in 2008
(from my Sports Illustrated FanNation Blog)
After 44 years, 4 National League pennants and 2 world series championships, Shea Stadium will be no more come opening day 2009, as the New York Mets will start play in their new home, residing just beyond the leftfield fence.
But while Citi Field remains a season away, 2008 has all the makings to put the Mets in position to send Shea off in style, perhaps raising a new championship banner when the new ballpark opens.
With Opening Day just a weekend away, the storylines heading into the 2008 season seem almost overwhelming.
Prior to their trade with the Twins, the theme early and often would have been the collpase.
Their late season disaster will remain in the minds of players and fans, as well it should.
The collapse should be a reminder to the young players and especially to the veterans that you can’t take a single game, a single at bat or a single pitch for granted.
That means no getting bored or complacent, regardless of how many games ahead or behind they mae be in the standings.
Fortunately, the collapse will probably take a back seat to the arrival of Johan Santana, arguably and considered by many to be the best pitching in the game today.
Santana’s Here, Pedro Still the Man
Ok, so the best pitcher on the planet is now a Met.
He brings with him his Cy Young awards, his wins and strikeouts.
So how is it possible he might not even be the most important pitcher in his own rotation?
The answer to that is Pedro Martinez.
Santana, injuries aside, can be penciled in for anywhere from 16-20 wins, and an E.R.A. under 3.
Pedro, in my opinion, is the X-Factor in the Mets rotation.
If healthy, Pedro can give the Mets the most potent 1-2 punch not only in the National League, but in the majors.
Mike Francesa said it earlier in the week on WFAN, and I agree with the statement that if Pedro has a ‘Pedro’ year, the Mets can and should run away with the division.
And when talking about Pedro, his value extends beyond the pitchers mound.
Since day 1 in Queens, Pedro has become vital in giving the Mets a confident swagger, while also providing comic relief and a veteran presence with championship experience.
His antics seem to have no end, he always is smiling and knows how to keep his teammates lose.
When Pedro is in the dugout, the team just seems to be in a better overall mood, and thats no coincidence.
Hopefully for Pedro and Mets, his right arm provides as many smiles in the stands as his personality provides in the clubhouse.
The Maturation of Jose Reyes
If you want to talk about antics and personality, look no further than the Mets shortstop.
Jose Reyes was never shy when it came to celebrations and handshakes, however when his slump became a contributing factor in the Mets late season collpase, many questioned Jose and how he handled himself, along with how his manager handled him.
I can’t put much blame on Willie Randolph, as it was important for Jose to be Jose, and for him to work through his struggles on his own.
While playing Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose on the loudspeakers could probably occur less, there is definitiely some growing up to do on his part.
Jose is a laid back guy who likes to have fun.
And lets not forget, the kid is in his mid 20’s, and seeing him smile reminds you that the game of baseball is supposed to be fun.
However, Jose has admitted that he needs to tone down his act, and concentrate more between the white lines.
I would have trouble understanding anybody who says that Jose needs an attitude adjustment, because his personality is right up there with Pedro’s, keeping his team loose and having some fun along the way.
When the team was winning, there weren’t any issues with how he played or how he acted, but the slump he went into changed that.
How much of the way he played and the way he acted affected his performance is something only Jose Reyes knows.
I would hate to see Jose Reyes take the field every night and sit in the dugout the same way Roberto Alomar did during his brief and very forgettable tenure in New York, with that sulky look on his face wondering what he was doing here.
Jose needs to have fun, but also needs to start taking some bigger steps forward.
The sooner he does that, the sooner Jose can smile with a ring on a finger.
Carlos Delgado is the Biggest Question Mark in the Mets Lineup
With Moises Alou set to miss at least the first month of the season following surgery to correct a hernia, Carlos Delgado will assume the 5 spot in the Mets order, and will also assume even greater responsibility in doing so.
The top half of the Mets batting order is solid, with Reyes, Castillo, Wright and Beltran, however when you reach Delgado, Met fans have reason to be worried.
Not only did Carlos put up his lower power and average numbers since the beginning of his career (24 HR, 87 RBI, .258 AVG), but his age seems to be showing as he had a lot of trouble catching up to fastballs, and more times than not seemed to be up there guessing.
After a hip injury set him back a bit this spring, Carlos needs to prove he can stay on the field, and produce while doing do.
His defense is average at best, so you need to get the type of offensive production from him fans of his had come to expect (35+ HR, 110 RBI)
How realistic is that from a 36 year old player with nagging injuries in his contract year?
Your guess is as good as mine, however once thing all Mets fans can agree on is that if Delgado can produce the way he is expected to, especially for the money he is being paid, then the lineup is all the more dangerous, as Beltran gets the protection he had in 2006, making him all the more effective.
He needs to just keep taking the ball the other way, and if he can do that with regularity, Mets fans should be happy with the Carlos Delgado they see this season.
If not, look for GM Omar Minaya to seek help from outside the organization.
Mets-Phillies is the ne Mets-Braves (but don’t forget about them either)
Until last year, the Mets and Braves were probably the most interesting rivalry in the National League East (dating back to at least the last decade).
Turner Field was a house of horrors for the Mets as nothing seemed to go right, whether it was Angel Hernandez blowing a call on a play at the plate (’97 or ’98), Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine shutting down a usually unimpressive Mets offense, or John Franco and Armando Benitez serving up game winning homeruns to the likes of Brian Jordan (2001).
In 2006, that all changed as the Mets were able to finally break through against their arch nemisis, sweeping a series late in the summer, propelling them to take the division away from Atlanta for the first time in 14 years.
Last year, the Mets found a new tormentor, along with new leading characters not named Jones.
The Phillies, behind an MVP season by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, made the lives of the Mets and their fans miserable by embarassing them over the final 7 games of the year, taking all of them.
As a result, the Phillies were playing October baseball, while the Mets were left to deal with the fact that Rollins had correctly predicted his team was tops in the NL East.
The once dead Mets-Phillies rivalry was renewed (if there ever really was one), and going into this season, the typically quiet Carlos Beltran proclaimed his team the one to beat, taking the rivalry from the field back into the headlines, where it seemingly began with Rollins speaking his mind before last season began.
Heading into 2008, the Phillies AND Braves are both expected to be competitive, and neither should be overlooked anymore.
The Mets may have proved Turner Field and the Braves no longer intimidate them, but for at least one more year Chipper will be doing all he can to bid an appropriate farewell to the ballpark he named his child after.
Mets and Phillies.
Mets and Braves.
One division on the line.
Lets the games begin.
One More Miracle?
Shea Stadium has seen it all.
The Beatles played the first ever stadium concert at Shea in 1965.
The All Star game called Shea home in 1964, the year the park opened.
‘The Franchise’ arrived in Tom terrific.
Miracles were possible in ’69
‘Ya Gotta Believe’ was born in ’73
There was Rusty and Kranepool.
Doc and Daryl.
Mex and The Kid.
“Gets by Buckner”
A Piazza Delivery.
‘Wild’ Times in 99
A subway ride in 2000
Mikey’s magic after 9/11,
Omar, Willie, Pedro and Carlos bringing the “New Mets” to town
Division champs once again in ’06
Jose and David doing it the ‘Wright’ way.
There was Murph, Lindsay Nelson and Ralph.
There’s the apple and the airplanes.
The NBA is where amazing happens…
But Shea is where ‘Amazin happens.
In 2008, the Mets and their fans say goodbye to the place where many of us Mets fans have been raised.
And for all the knocks on it (and there are an endless amount), Shea will forever be remembered where anything was possible with the orange and blue.
Can the Mets leave Shea for the final time as World Series Champions?
Like I said, anything is possible.
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