The last time the New York Mets played a game against the Colorado Rockies, Victor Zambrano was our starting pitcher, Mike Piazza our starting catcher, Mike Jacobs our hottest hitter and Jose Offerman our final batter of the 2005 season.
That's how long it's been.
Also, the last time the Rockies visited Shea, the series — even the bittersweet farewell to a legend (no, not Offerman) — went undernoticed because the Yankees and Red Sox were in Boston throwing down for all the marbles.
That's how long ago it wasn't.
Of course you'll recall that in the aftermath of their historic battle royal, all the marbles were absconded with by the Chicago White Sox. That's the sort of thing we hoped for, somebody who was Not The Yankees to win it all. It was October 2005 and the Mets were going into hibernation and then to the salon for a semi-complete makeover.
That spunky sophomore David Wright is still here, or finally returned, judging by his emergence last night from that strange thing that begins with an 's', ends in a 'p', and was presumed to happen only to hitters not named David Wright. And still-wet-from-rehabbing Steve Trachsel's physical health isn't an issue at all almost ten months later. It's just his endurance, his competence, his Trachselness that tends to make those who wish to pull for him nervous. He had all three going on Friday for his would-you-believe? twelfth victory.
Not pictured in your 2005 end-of-season team photo were Endy Chavez, Michael Tucker, Carlos Delgado, Chad Bradford and Billy Wagner, all of whom played a role in the first Mets game versus the Rockies since 10/2/05 and first Mets win over the Rockies since 10/1/05. Barely pictured because he was only a ghost of himself was Carlos Beltran. He photographs real sharp now.
With the bump in the New Jersey Turnpike behind us, we can get on to our countdowns, which are 28 in Magic Number form or 0 in newfangled calculation. However you cook the books, we won't have to sniff around to adopt a Not The Yankees horse to ride in October. We'll have our own thoroughbred in that derby.
Though who would know such a thing given the saturation overcoverage (that is too much of too much) of this particular weekend's remake of Apocalypse Now in Boston? Given that the conventional wisdom insisted the Yankees and Red Sox would be battling it out for leadership of their division by now, why is it news that they're doing just that? It may no longer be news that the Mets are very good, but doesn't a team that is 14 games ahead of everybody in its realm — and is celebrating its last champion — merit at least half the print and talk this weekend?
Apparently not. If Friday's day-night doubleheader should have been covered to excess by any outlet, it should have been by the NFL Network as an advertisement for why baseball isn't a very good sport. I didn't see the first game, but I understand it was ridiculously long. I tuned in well after the Mets game was over to the second game and saw that it was meandering through the fifth inning around 11:00.
There was no rain delay, no power outage, no bench-clearing brawl. It was just American League baseball at its deadly dullest. The Yankees scored. The Red Sox scored. The Yankees scored. The pitchers went back to the hotel. That second game began a little after 8:00. The Dodgers and Giants started in San Francisco a little after 10:00. They both ended at 12:52 AM Eastern Daylight Time by my cable box clock.
I wouldn't care much except the Yankees and Red Sox, playing for all the marbles and settling nothing because there's always another round of marbles for these two, suck up valuable oxygen. I could finger many examples; I'll choose one.
Friday's Times splashed a cutesy feature on the front page of its sports section about where precisely in the state of Connecticut Red Sox Nation begins and the Evil Empire ends. I learned that New England is home to many colorful townfolk who wear baseball caps of different teams but not a damn definitive thing otherwise. And this wasn't the only Yankee-Red Sox coverage in the Paper of Record by a long shot.
As for New York's only truly dominant team, the one that had won a game on Thursday? It got one story, accounting for a quarter of a page inside the sports section and contained passages such as:
• Did Thursday’s eruption herald the end of a vicious slump? Or, did it only temporarily brighten a dreadful month of Delgado’s uneven season?
• Pedro Martínez’s injuries have prevented him from getting into a rhythm. Orlando Hernández has surpassed expectations but, as witnessed Tuesday night, he can throw a few clunkers, too. Steve Trachsel, though he has 11 victories, puts too many runners on base to be considered truly dependable.
• Needing a strong performance Thursday to avoid a four-game sweep in front of 45,775, the largest crowd ever at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets got one.
• The trade of Xavier Nady and Cliff Floyd’s recurring Achilles’ tendinitis have thinned the Mets’ lineup, and Delgado’s problems in the cleanup spot have not helped matters.
• Going into Thursday’s game, the Mets had scored 12 runs in their past six games, and Delgado was batting .133 in August (6 for 45) with one extra-base hit, a double.
• The Mets were still undecided as to who would start Saturday against Colorado, but Willie Randolph called Dave Williams the front-runner.
All accurate, but you know what wasn't in the story? That the Mets extended their lead over the team they beat to 13 games. Nothing acknowledging that this slump-ridden, pitching-starved, minors-scavenging, sorely limping, barely standing collection of sad sacks was actually in first place, had been all season and will be for the rest of the season. Now fit the tone of this Mets Lucky to Finally Win One and Even Luckier We Gave Them Any Play at All piece into the context of a pinstriped, red-socked sports section whose sensibilities must have sprayed the Times' elitist instincts with a double contact-high…well, forgive me for mistaking 2006 for 2004 from reading page D3 Friday. All that was missing was a quote about how “we really battled out there.”
Now that I've been a snarling media watchdog turning an unsparing spotlight on the wrongs related to overdoing the Yankees and Red Sox at the expense of the Mets and Rockies, let me turn hypocritical cat for a moment. There's a fun new book out called How to Talk to a Yankee Fan. It was written by a couple of Red Sox diehards following their triumphant 2004 campaign. They interviewed a slew of Yankee-haters for it, including yours truly. I'm quoted on four separate occasions, so the least I can do is urge you to check it out.
Lest you think its premise is completely irrelevant by our sophisticated 2006 standards of not giving a damn about the Yankees and Red Sox, consider the other day that we were having a little squabble over whether the Yankees should be permitted to remain in New York, exiled to New Jersey or deported from the Face of the Earth. According to me in How to Talk to a Yankee Fan:
They should move to Utah and become the Salt Basin Bombers.
Admit it. Utah Yankees has a nice ring to it. Besides, it would give Colorado somebody to play between October and August.