Finally our Mets have the biggest stage in sports all to themselves. On one spectacular Saturday last week, the Amazins’ faithful watched as their team clinched a Division Series sweep over the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a glorious victory, made that much sweeter because the Detroit Tigers eliminated the overhyped Yankees earlier in the day.
For the first time since 1988, Flushing’s Finest are in the playoffs without any competition from their brethren in the Bronx. The Mets and their fans can claim the city all to themselves.
It’s easy to root for this new generation of players. While the Mets do carry one of baseball’s highest payrolls, they have won this year in large part because of two of their lowest priced talents. Sparkplug shortstop Jose Reyes and wonderboy third baseman David Wright are the pillars of what one can only hope is a string of competitive seasons. Together, the two youngest Mets exemplify the exuberant attitude that has pervaded Shea all season long. Not only do they seem to come up with clutch play after clutch play, they have no problem getting their uniforms dirty or cheering on teammates. To top it off, they made less than $800,000 this year—compared with the more than $42 million their counterparts Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez made playing for the Yankees.
But money is not the only difference between the two teams. In the Bronx, winning looks like a chore, at Shea it’s a joy. Victories are the end result of gritty play, superior talent and the right mix of chemistry between tested veterans and eager youngsters.
Omar Minaya, the man most responsible for the Mets’ collection of talent, is fittingly a Dominican immigrant who grew up in the same borough in which he now works. In Minaya, the Mets finally have an executive who spends his resources wisely. Gone are the days of signing malcontents like Bobby Bonilla and Roberto Alomar, who collected paychecks based more on their reputations than their skills.
Instead, Minaya has brought in a mix of superstars (Carlos Beltran) and role players (Jose Valetin, Endy Chavez) who genuinely want to be in Flushing. Manager Willie Randolph, another native New Yorker, has worked magic all year getting everyone to buy into the winning program he learned from Yankee skipper
The 2006 Mets are, in some ways, an accurate reflection of the borough they represent. What they lack in flash, they make up in substance. They are a diverse group ranging from Virginia hillbillies like Billy Wagner to Latino stars like Beltran and Reyes.
We are fortunate to have the most exciting team in Flushing since the days of Lenny Dykstra and Dwight Gooden. And this team is only the latest reflection of the recent resurgence of the Mets organization. Earlier this year, the team unveiled plans for a gleaming, handsome stadium that will finally replace tired Shea. What better tribute to a resurgent team than a fitting place to call home?
So, we urge everyone to don their orange and blue with pride this month. We stuck with this team through 100 loss seasons and now we deserve to show our delight as our boys play late into October. After years of being the underdog Queens is finally the capital of the baseball world—and there is nothing that anyone in a Yankee uniform can do about it.