2005-04-08 / Sports

Mets Fans Should Look At The Brighter Side Of Life

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

By Michael Avallone
Sports Columnist

By the time this article goes to print, the Mets will have completed their first 3-game set of the 2005 season with the Cincinnati Reds. Hopefully, the ninth inning of game no. 1 isn’t a harbinger of things to come.

A brilliant performance by the two newest Mets (Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran) as well as some familiar faces (Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes) was wasted in less than 10 minutes by closer Braden Looper’s decision to feed fat fastballs to Adam Dunn and Joe Randa.

The “W” is what matters, but for the first game, GM Omar Minaya said “I told you so” in regards to spending $53 million for no. 45. Martinez finished his Met debut with a dazzling line: 6 innings, 3 hits, 3 runs, 2 BB, 12 K. The last number is what the Mets have lacked from a starting pitcher since David Cone was busy having a little “warm-up” in the bullpen over a decade ago.

Pedro may not be the dominating, 300-strikeout pitcher of 1997 and 1999, but this much is clear: the man can bring it. How impressive was Martinez in his first start as a Met? After giving up a three-run bomb to Adam Dunn in the first inning, he proceeded to strike out 12 of the next 14 batters he faced, setting a new Mets Opening Day record in the process.

He won’t always reach double digits in strikeouts (though he’s done so 100 times in his career, 4th most all time) and there will probably be games where he looks more like Pedro Astacio than Pedro Martinez, but veteran pitchers know how to adapt and Pedro’s done just that. He has reached the stage of his career where he can win with a 91-mph fastball and a devastating changeup. He doesn’t need to blow every hitter away like he once did.

Unfortunately, the Mets bullpen, talked about all winter as a potential black hole, reared its ugly head. But, as long as Martinez stays healthy, he should thrive with his switch to the National League and pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium. Facing the opposing pitcher at least two times a game is sure to save his arm some wear and tear as well.

At the very least, Pedro gives the Mets rotation some swagger. Even when Cone was blowing away hitters as a Met, the intimidation factor wasn’t there. That belonged to another flamethrower, one who flushed his promising career down the toilet. Dwight Gooden didn’t just strike out hitters, he instilled FEAR in them. That’s the type of aura Martinez has and what will serve New York well on the days he pitches.

Every game he starts has the potential to be something special. He proved that already and the Mets haven’t even played game no. 2 yet. His mere presence should give the team confidence that they can win when he toes the rubber. Who gave them that type of invincibility in recent years? Al Leiter? Maybe in ’98 or ’00, but you never knew what type of performance you’d get from him.

Now the Mets know…and so does the opponent.

Pedro should be 1-0 in his Met career, but like someone once said in baseball, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” The pessimists still try to paint Martinez as an over-the-hill pitcher with an arm that is hanging by a thread. In all honesty, no one but Pedro himself knows what’s going on inside his right shoulder, but it sure looked fine on Monday.

The Mets have an identity now, but more importantly…they have an ace.

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