Rational Mets fans have to be satisfied with the results of the 2006 season in spite of the fact that their team failed to advance to the World Series. If anyone had told you in June that the Mets would be without the services of two of their best starting pitchers—Pedro Martinez and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez—the odds are that you would not think that they would make it out of the first round of the playoffs, let alone force a seven game series with the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. Mets fans can take solace from the terrific job both John Maine and Oliver Perez did filling in. Neither one of those two was on the Mets’ radar screen at the beginning of the season.
Mets General Manager Omar Minaya met with the media last Friday afternoon to discuss the loss to the Cardinals and to engage in some Q&A. He refused to call the season a “success,” invoking the Steinbrenneresque logic that the term can only be used to describe a year if the end result is a world championship. He did acknowledge that the Mets made significant progress from 2005.
Minaya understandably refused to discuss which Mets players who are now slated to become free agents he would like to retain, nor did he reveal his priorities for strengthening the team during the off season despite the pathetic prodding from the beat writers from the dailies. He did say that his player budget would be determined at the annual November organization meetings at which time he and his staff will assess the 2006 free agent crop as well as get a feel of which players from other teams might be available in the right trade. If the last two years are any indication, Mets owner Fred Wilpon will not be stingy with the financial resources Minaya will need.
The morning after the Mets season ended, former Mets pitcher and current SNY analyst on Mets broadcasts Ron Darling appeared at a promotional event for Raymond Weil sport watches in Manhattan. I asked Darling if he was concerned that Mets fans will now turn on relief pitcher Billy Wagner after a miserable post season the way they lustily booed Braden Looper and Armando Benitez. He defended Wagner by pointing out that he saved more one run leads than anyone else in the National League. “I believe that Mets fans have closer issues. They measure everyone against the greatest reliever of all time, the Yankees’ Marlano Rivera,” Darling stated. He also added that the days when Mets fans loved to root for an underdog are way past. They want their team to be perceived the way the Yankees are.
Jets tight end and Springfield Gardens native Chris Baker is a straight shooter. He was flagged for a rare unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 31 24 victory over the perennially struggling Detroit Lions. After the game, Baker admitted to me that the refs were right in calling him on it but he defended the late hits he gave Lions linebackers because he claims that they were doing the same with gusto on Jets diminutive rookie running back Leon Washington and that he had to protect his teammate.
Best wishes to Rick Cerrone, who was let go as Yankees media relations director after 11 seasons. Cerrone is a gentleman who handled the toughest PR job in sports with aplomb. Unlike others in his business, he never favored those from big media outlets over those who worked for smaller ones. One has to wonder if Yankees execs actually believe that Cerrone was the reason for the team’s recent post season disappointments.