Even though the Mets had just dropped eight out of their last nine games before taking on the Yankees in the Bronx last Friday, the mood in their clubhouse was upbeat. Even their normally taciturn manager, Willie Randolph, was joking around.
Rather than express alarm at the team’s putrid play, Randolph was philosophical in his WFAN pre-game interview with Ed Coleman. “Baseball is a tough game and all players need to be humbled sometimes. It’s not a bad thing,” Randolph said. After losing two out of three to the Yankees, including last Sunday’s stinker where the Mets did not appear to show up, it’s safe to say that the Mets have earned a Ph.D. in humility.
You have to wonder if Mets players have bought into this myth that they are going to win the National League East by default. Many sportswriters, including the level-headed Filip Bondy in Monday’s Daily News, have articulated this theory. The truth is that the Mets are assured of nothing and if they keep playing the way they have been recently, then the only thing they will be battling is to avoid the NL East cellar.
No player has been more emblematic of the Mets’ recent struggles than Carlos Delgado. The Mets’ cleanup hitter has been batting .220 for most of the season and has been striking out repeatedly with runners in scoring position.
When I asked him about ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk’s assertion that he has been playing with a sore hand and that has had an adverse effect on his hitting, Delgado snapped, “What does Kruk know?” When I pointed out that Kruk was also a slugging first baseman who was trying to empathize with him, Delgado retorted, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” Relax, Carlos.
Last Thursday, after the Yankees dispensed with the Diamondbacks to win their ninth straight game, Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame slugger who is now a consultant to the Bronx Bombers, crowed about how the return of Roger Clemens has set forth a chain of favorable events for the team. While that may be a coincidence, Mets General Manager Omar Minaya is hopeful that Pedro Martinez’s expected return in August will yield similar dividends for his team.
Minaya is on the cover of the current issue of Sports Illustrated. He discusses growing up in Corona and he fondly reminisces about playing stickball on 99th Street and his favorite haunts on Junction Boulevard. He spends the bulk of the article discussing how his parents were forced to flee their native Dominican Republic because they were vociferous in their opposition to the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The family struggled economically in their new surroundings and they apparently had not escaped the wrath of Trujillo even in Queens as a Trujillo supporter shot a bullet into the family’s apartment.
“I agreed to open up my life to the magazine because I wanted my sons and future generations of my family to know who my parents were and what they stood for,” Minaya said.
SNY re-signed Mets broadcaster Ron Darling to a multiyear contract. Darling has proven to be a solid analyst who is not afraid to be critical of the home team and informs the viewers about why a hurler threw a certain pitch in a particular situation. He also has a wry sense of humor that meshes well with that of fellow analyst and former Met Keith Hernandez and Bellerose native and play-by-play man extraordinaire Gary Cohen.