March 08, 2006

Hee hee hee

The Mets are heavily favored to win the NL East this year. Their general manager has done a fantastic job of bringing in the big names and generating excitement, publicity, and undoubtedly revenue to Shea Stadium. These acquisitions and the impending explosion from their disappointing stars of last season surely mean that at long last the Braves’ 14-season string of championships will finally come to an end at the hands of the Blue & Orange Brethren, right?

Pardon me while I giggle.

I laugh because I love. I love that each season, everyone, beginning with the media, thinks that regular seasons are built on the transactions that happen in meeting during the offseason. Little do they remember that champions are made on the field in the summer and not at the five-star resorts in December. Last season, the biggest pitcher was picked up by the Mets – Pedro Martinez. “This is the piece the Mets needed,” everyone said. “This is the year that the Braves get knocked off.”

I’ve got to stop giggling.

I laugh because I love. I love that Atlanta picked up Jorge Sosa at the same time to much less bally-hoo and speculation that they’d picked up the wrong guy or just given up on the Pedro sweepstakes. Pedro had a solid season, going 15-8, but Sosa blossomed into a #3 starter, going 13-3 with a fantastic 2.55 ERA. Summer trumps December. But wait!! Carlos Beltran, the same kid who’d scorched Atlanta in the 2004 Division Series, rides that hot streak to get picked up by… the Mets!! “Holy Smokes!! The Mets got Martinez AND Beltran?? Forget simply going to the playoffs – they’re hosting the first round!”

I’m not sure if I can finish this without busting a gut.

I laugh because I love. I love that seven disappointing months and merely 16 home runs later, Beltran enjoys the playoffs from his posh new mansion while Andruw Jones (with his 50-HR season in tow) heads to the playoffs, along with the five Braves rookies who as a group topped Beltran in homers, had a lower salary than Beltran, and very nearly matched the age of former Brave Julio Franco (who is now – gasp! – a Met!).

So here we are, March 2006, and here comes the hype. The Mets picked up Billy Wagner – their closing woes are over. The Mets pick up Paul LoDuca – they’re finally got someone to replace an ailing Mike Piazza. The Mets pick up Carlos Delgado – more pop to an already loaded lineup and replacing Olerud at first base.

Any minute now, Meagan’s gonna come down and wonder why I’m in such a hysterical fit.

I laugh because I love. I love that after the botched efforts of newly-signed Mets Mo Vaughn, Kaz Matsui, Tom Glavine, and the king of all Met flops, Roberto Alomar, people are still buying into the fact that regular season success can be bought with All-Star talent, simply putting them on the field, and saying, “Go.” It just doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to have young talent coming from your farm system (which I’ll admit they have – look at Jared Wright – they’re just not using it well), and a manager that can handle the rigors of a season that stretches over six months and 162 games. There are two reason that the Braves have had so much success. Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone (the biggest blow to the Braves will be Leo’s absence, though his replacement, Roger McDowell, looks to be quite worthy of the job). They’ve managed stars and no-name players alike to rekindle that championship season year after year after year with lineups that are consistently in flux. Take last year’s rookies for example. If you’d told me some 21-year old rookie named Jeff Francouer would be one of the more valuable Braves, I’d’ve laughed in your face. But Jeff came in midseason, and, along with four other fine young men, carried Atlanta through injuries and hitting slumps on their way to fourteen straight. By the end of September, I was laughing for a whole different reason.

Just like I am now and will be again this September.

I laugh because I love. I love rooting for the team to beat for what will be fifteen years after they win the East yet again.


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