Friday, February 29, 2008

Baseball is back!

It was so great hearing that SNY Mets jingle today. The Mets played their first home Spring Training game of the season, and their first televised Spring Training game of the season. And, of course, it was Johan Santana's first appearance.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been a good start. They are 0-3 now against Major League teams, plus a tie against a college team. Johan Santana gave up a three-run home run to Juan Gonzalez in his first inning of work.

But I'm not going to be critical or worried about Spring Training results, especially this early on. Sure, winning is sweet, and I would like to see us putting up wins, but results don't matter yet.

This certainly didn't seem like an ordinary Spring Training game though. Usually, I'm excited for it to start up just so baseball is back. But today was more about seeing Johan pitch than it was seeing the Mets back on the field. He caught a couple tough breaks, then gave up a bomb to Juan Gonzalez. But if he's going to give one up, at least it was someone who you have to feel good for. Of course, then Albert Pujols hit a home run off Duaner Sanchez, and he's someone who I have really soured on.

It was also nice to see Fernando Martinez out there. He got thrown out trying to steal second, but again, beyond results, it was good to see him running and being aggressive. And along with that, he had the play of the game, with a great diving catch down the left field line. That was fun to watch.

One last point: I think I'm rooting for Brady Clark to take the 5th bench spot on the roster. Ruben Gotay would be good, too, but I think Clark would be a solid backup right-handed outfielder.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pitchers and Catchers in Port St. Lucie

More important than any roses or boxes of chocolate, Johan Santana and the other Mets pitchers and catchers reported in Port St. Lucie, Florida, to begin Spring Training!

As happy as I still am about the Giants winning the Super Bowl, I still can't help but to look forward with great excitement towards this 2008 baseball season. And baseball is finally, officially, right around the corner.

As my excitement grows about the addition of Johan, I'm starting to also get excited about a much less talked about addition: the return of Duaner Sanchez to the bullpen.

After being injured for the entire 2007 season, and being pretty much completely off the radar, it's easy to forget how big of an impact he had on this team. He was probably our most reliable pitcher in the bullpen leading up to Billy Wagner in 2006 until the Curse of the Taxis struck again (although we got Oliver Perez as part of a last-minute desperation trade before the deadline because Sanchez got hurt, so it wasn't all bad). I loved watching Duaner pitch, and I always had great confidence in him whenever he came in a game.

Then, obviously, we ran into a bit of bullpen issues at the end of 2007. The Mets' bullpen completely fell apart with guys like Joe Smith and Guillermo Mota having to take innings that Duaner Sanchez would have handled in 2006. I hate to think of the what-ifs, but who knows how things would have been different at the end of last season with that extra anchor in the bullpen helping to take the pressure off not just down the stretch, but for the whole season.

Duaner is looking good and ready to come back strong in 2008. Like Guillermo Mota getting traded for essentially nobody seemed like a new acquisition, so does Duaner Sanchez coming back to this team after over a year on the disabled list. Say what you want about Johan taking pressure off the bullpen by pitching deeper into games; just having Sanchez return will naturally take some pressure off the bullpen and make it better.

First Spring Training game in 13 days.

Monday, February 4, 2008

New York Giants: Super Bowl XLII Champions!

With all the excitement of Johan Santana finally becoming a Met, I'm going to have to step back for a second to celebrate some football happenings.

The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 17-14 yesterday to win Super Bowl XLII! And boy, what a game it was. Probably the greatest Super Bowl that I've ever seen, regardless of the fact that my favorite team ended up the winner. Plus, certainly the best single play in the Super Bowl I've ever seen. I still cannot believe that Eli got away from that sack, and then just an amazing play by David Tyree catching the long pass.

I've also liked the Patriots since I was a kid, and they're my second favorite team, so I'm not going to sit there and rip on them for missing out on perfection. I've been rooting for perfection since early in the season, not expecting it would be the Giants who would have the opportunity to stand in their way in the end.

This was such an improbable finish to the season. The Giants were really sloppy in the regular season; I didn't even think they deserved to make it, but they got into the playoffs thanks to there only being about five teams in the whole NFL who actually deserved the shot.

But what I could see through their struggles was great potential. I was saying all season they could beat any team in the league - including the Patriots - if they could play well for a full four quarters. Throughout the entire season though, all the way up through Week 17 where they nearly ended the Patriots run right then and there, they never showed that they were capable of playing the full four quarters.

But what was a loss on paper may have turned out to be the biggest turning point of their season. They still came out with a very bad first quarter against the Buccaneers, but then they went on to dominate that game. Then the Cowboys. Then the Packers. Each game the team improved, and Eli played as well as he's ever played in that stretch of games.

It was the potential that I saw finally being reached. Three weeks earlier, I had very little confidence in this team being able to make some noise in the playoffs. Now, they were getting ready to play the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and I wasn't even intimidated by them.

The Giants had nearly beaten the Patriots in Week 17, even should have beat them. Now, Big Blue was as hot as could be, with a ton of momentum on their side. After interceptions and fumbles plagued the regular season, Eli had not turned the ball over once in the three playoff games. Their confidence couldn't be higher. And Tom Brady was coming off his worst playoff performance of his career.

All season I believed that the Giants could beat anyone. Not only did I think they could win, I thought that they would win.

One amazing game later, one unbelievable drive later, I was experiencing perhaps the happiest moment in this sports fan's life. My Giants had pulled off arguably the biggest upset in history to become the Super Bowl champions. And I never doubted them over the past three weeks.

I was four years old when the Giants last won the Super Bowl. I have nothing but faint memories of celebrating the victory. That's more than what I have for the last Mets' World Series though, which came when I was just six months old. Since then, both of my favorite teams had only reached that final stage once, following their 2000 seasons. And both of their performances were so horrid that I've tried my best to erase them from my memory.

The New York Giants have finally come through. I have truly celebrated and appreciated a Super Bowl victory by my team. That metaphorical bottle of champagne has been popped.

New York Mets: You know what you have to do now.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Nearly official....

What an agonizing 74 hours. Finally, Johan signed on the dotted line, and all that is left is a physical.

Wow, would that not be the ultimate stomach punch, if the deal broke off because of a failed physical? I shouldn't even be bringing this up. I need to find some wood to knock on now.

I couldn't care less about what the specific numbers of the deal are. Johan Santana officially being a Met is right around the corner, hopefully everything getting settled tomorrow.

I cannot wait for Opening Day.