by user A Friend of Mr. Glass'
As many of you no doubt are aware, the year was 1986, the man was Davey Johnson, and the team was the New York Mets. Johnson's words proved prescient as the Mets was 108 games that year, dominating the league and winning a World Series title.
I bring up this story from our past for a reason. It's not because I necessarily think that we'll dominate baseball the way that '86 team did, no matter how tempting it's been to entertain such thoughts through the first 8 games. But the point is that through those first 8 games, we haven't just been winning games, we've been dominating them. We've trailed for exactly two innings of the first 73 we've played. We've outscored opponents 53-27, winning 4 of our 8 games by margins of 5 runs or more. In the meantime, we've jumped out to a 7-1 record, and we currently sit atop the NL East with a comfortable 4-game lead over the hated Braves.
Now, a lot of people temper their enthusiasm about the early returns on these Mets by noting that as well as we've done, we've played two teams that figure to be below average (Washington Nationals) and horrible (Florida Marlins). It's an important caveat no doubt about it, but it's also an important one to keep in perspective. It's not as if the Mets haven't been tested in these 8 games. We've faced two All-Star pitchers from last year in Livan Hernandez and Dontrelle Willis, guys who went 15-10 and 22-10 last season, respectively.
Willis didn't take the loss in his start, admittedly, but that victory was actually the most encouraging so far if you ask me. Tom Glavine kept the Mets in the game against Willis, and the Mets erased a 2-0 deficit when they could have rolled over and lost without a fight (which I feel certain recent Mets teams would have done). Beyond that, it's encouraging that a team that went 35-46 on the road last year started its visiting schedule with a sweep.
But best of all, these are the games the Mets need to win, and we've done so thus far. We've looked great this past week and the Braves and Phillies have looked sluggish, but don't expect anything less than for this year to be a dogfight in the NL East.
You see, these Mets don't figure to dominate the league the way the '86 team did. Though our hitting may be better, our starting pitching isn't as consistent, and it's hard to imagine us being appreciably better than every last team in the NL. But if we can't dominate the entire league, it's worth settling for dominating bottom-feeders like the Nationals and Marlins. Including the 8 games already played, the Mets will play those two teams 37 times this year, meaning 23 percent, or nearly 1 in 4, of our games are against them. We'll play Washington in 7 of our last 10 games, and we'll play Florida 7 times in our last 20.
If this Mets team is only good enough to keep pace with the Braves and the Phils throughout the regular season, those 14 games in late September (and early October) may be the difference between staring up at the Braves for a 15th straight season, or looking down on the rest of the NL East for the first time since 1988. Again, let's keep it in perspective.The Braves and the Phillies will play the Nats and the Marlins just as often as we will. But a few things to consider. One, ask yourself whether you expect either of those teams to so thoroughly decimate Washington or Florida the way we have the past week. Two, ask yourself if there isn't at least some mental edge that comes from starting the season 7-1.
One Met certainly thinks there is. Quoting David Wright in today's Daily News, "We have a certain swagger to us," he said. "We have a lot of confidence. We just have an attitude about us right now that we don't think we're going to lose." I don't know this for fact, but I doubt that anyone in the Atlanta (4-6) or Philadelphia (3-6) clubhouse is saying the same thing right now. Some people will dismiss the value of this early season confidence, but baseball's a mental game, and I'm happy to take whatever edge we can get.
And three, this past week, the Mets have hit better than any team in the NL, and we've allowed fewer runs per game than any of those teams as well. Our bullpen has looked dominant in the middle, Jorge Julio aside, and with Wagner starting to hit 97 and 99 on the radar gun, it's looking like he'll be back to the Wagner of old with a few more outings.
So it boils down to this: through one week at least, the Mets have done everything better than any other team in the National League. I don't care who the opponent is, that's saying a lot. No doubt about it, the Mets face a big test in the week ahead, facing the Brewers and Braves at Shea over our next 6, and I'll be singing a much different tune this time next week if we drop all six, or even if we go just 2-4. But as it is, there's a lot to like going into this first test of the season. We've played great baseball, the kind that inspires confidence in a team and fear around the rest of the league. The Mets haven't just been winning games, we've been winning big. We've been dominating.
Let's keep it up. What time is it, baby? Game time, HOO!!
(Note: This article originally appeared at Yankees 2000: Promote the Curse -- http://yankees2000.blogspot.com)
Fri 04/14/06, 7:15 am EST