The euphoria of Johan Santana’s no-hitter sure dissipated in a hurry last weekend in the Bronx, as the Mets were swept by the Yankees in the first round of the Subway Series — right after they had dropped two out of three in DC to what is arguably the National League’s best team, the Washington Nationals.
After Sunday’s excruciating loss, when the Mets blew a 3-0 lead late in the game, outfielder Scott Hairston, who has been a solid performer this year, did not seem too dismayed. He told me that all baseball teams go through bad stretches and that this is the first time in 2012 losses are piling up for the Mets.
Hairston is right, of course, from a baseball operations viewpoint, since the season is barely a third over. The Mets’ swoon, however, could not have come at a worse time from a business standpoint. There have been plenty of empty seats at Citi Field this season, and I’m convinced that ticket demand would have skyrocketed had the Mets, coming off their first no-hitter in their 50-year history, been able to take two out of three from the Yankees in the Bronx this past weekend. Of course, that’s rarely happened in the 15-year history of interleague play.
A week ago many Mets fans, and even those in the media, were noting how the Amazin’s had a better record than the Yanks. That, of course, is a specious comparison since the teams do not face the same opponents. The Yanks’ lineup is far more formidable and their bench is deeper, not surprising given the payroll discrepancy between the teams. The Mets may have an edge in starting pitching while neither team’s bullpen is much to write home about, particularly after Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury.
There were some positives in Sunday’s loss. First baseman Ike Davis, who’s been struggling all season, hit a monstrous ninth-inning double over the head of fleet-footed centerfielder Curtis Granderson to temporarily tie the game. Starting pitcher Jonathon Niese didn’t give up an earned run in the seven innings he worked.
No one can say the Mets lack passion. Catcher Josh Thole was beet-red in anger as he sat by his locker stewing about being called out on a third strike on an unhittable pitch an inch off the ground. He would have needed an eight-iron to hit it, not a bat. Thole, as mild-mannered a player as you will ever find, uncharacteristically snapped at the home plate ump. “I had forgotten that we did not have another catcher. It’s a good thing that I did not get tossed from the game for arguing balls and strikes,” he said after taking a minute to cool off.
If you want good bang for your entertainment buck, come to Citi Field Friday. The iconic ’80s rock band REO Speedwagon will perform after the Reds-Mets game.
It’s safe to say that NBC Sports CEO Mark Lazarus was not a happy camper last Saturday. His network lost a ratings bonanza when I’ll Have Another was forced to withdraw the day before the Belmont Stakes because of the discovery of tendinitis during a morning workout. That night NBC, which was already angry that it had the New Jersey Devils instead of the New York Rangers facing the Los Angeles Kings for the Stanley Cup, faced serious competition from both FOX, which was televising the Mets-Yankees game nationally, and ESPN, which was showing Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.
New York Racing Association officials had to be pleased that more than 85,000 spectators jammed Belmont Park to watch the race in spite of the absence of I’ll Have Another. They actually got to see a terrific contest as Union Rags edged out Paynter, who had been leading the race practically from wire to wire.
Noted trainer Bob Baffert got off the best line of the day as he inquired with a smile, “I wonder if there is a Triple Crown for finishing second!” One of his horses, Bodemeister, finished runner-up to I’ll Have Another at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Dejected, Baffert did not enter Bodemeister at the Belmont and instead went with Paynter.
There are still seven weeks of racing at beautiful Belmont Park and the odds are that then the place will turn into a ghost town again. NYRA should do what the Mets are doing tomorrow and start booking some name baby boomer music acts to perform there. Weekend concerts helped fill Belmont in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Two members of the 1969 Miracle Mets, Ed Charles and Art Shamsky, will be at the Middle Village branch of Citibank located at 78-09 Metropolitan Avenue this Tuesday from 12-1:30 to sign autographs and chat with Mets fans.