2005-05-06 / Sports

Mets Show Signs of Life: Yanks Show Signs Of Impending Doom

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

By Michael Avallone
Sports Columnist

While the Big Apple continues to wait for some sign of spring, the Boys of Summer are already a month into their season. Both the New York Mets and New York Yankees now have almost 30 games under their belts, a small sample to be sure, but enough to make some pointed observations.

Some of the moves made in the off-season have worked out (Pedro Martinez) while some have not (Jaret Wright, on the disabled list). But that’s what makes baseball so great. With games virtually every day for six months, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Mets

Willie Randolph has brought a fresh attitude to his first stint as manager. So far, the Mets are a much more exciting team to watch than in years past. One could make a case that this group of players is the most talented and exciting set since the 2000 National League Championship squad.

Unfortunately, excitement doesn’t always translate into wins, and in a tough N.L. Eastern division, every victory is precious. One month does not a season make, so April’s stats have to be taken with a pretty large grain of salt. Here’s a look at the some of the positives from New York’s 11-13 April.

Pedro Martinez – After only six starts in a New York uniform, he’s already one of the most popular Mets of all time. Of course, he has to keep pitching the way he has thus far for the Shea faithful to continue the love affair. But so far, so good. Pedro has won three games, leads the league in strikeouts, has an ERA of 2.51 and has allowed a measly .191 opponents batting average. Yep, that move to the National League is working out just fine, thank you.

Cliff Floyd – This is what the Mets expected when they signed him to a four-year, $26 million dollar deal in December 2002. After playing in 108 and 113 games his first two years in New York, Floyd has been healthy and coincidentally or not, so have his numbers.

He’s currently riding a 19-game hitting streak and is hitting .386 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs overall. While his track record indicates he’s an injury waiting to happen, his left-handed bat is a big reason the Mets are among the league leaders in runs scored.

David Wright – The crown jewel of the franchise is showing that his half season debut last year was no fluke. The 22-year old is hitting .279 with four homers and 12 RBIs and has played a solid 3B. A telling sign of his maturation are his team-leading 16 walks, which is two more than he had last year when he had 177 MORE at bats.

Even more importantly, Wright hasn’t shown any signs of a sophomore slump and has adjusted well to any challenges the opposition has thrown his way.

Yankees

For the first time in a long time – as in over a decade – the Yankees have serious problems.

The pitching has been a mess, the offense has been spotty and George Steinbrenner has already begun to belch fire. Joe Torre may not be on the hot seat yet, but a 10-14 record the first month of the season is not what the Boss, the Yanks or their fans had in mind.

After signing Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano and bringing back Tino Martinez, it was supposed to be a foregone conclusion that 2005 would be another 100-win season. It could still happen, but if the Yankees are to reach that mark, they’ll have to go 89-46 the rest of the way. That equals out to a winning percentage of .659.

Of course, it might not take 100 wins to clinch the A.L. East, but the point is New York still has to play .585 ball just to reach 90 wins. It’s premature to say the Yanks are in trouble, but storm clouds are on the horizon. Still, April wasn’t all bad, at least not for these guys.

Derek Jeter – His horrendous start last year seems like a lifetime ago. The Yankee captain is hitting a robust .340 and has scored 21 runs so far. His impact goes a lot further than just stats and that’s what makes him one of the most valuable players in baseball. It’s hard to believe that this is his 10th full season in the bigs. Don’t expect a drop-off anytime soon.

Alex Rodriguez – Sure, his numbers are a bit skewed by his three-homer, 10 RBI performance against the Angels 10 days ago, but to be fair, he does look more like the player he was in Seattle and Texas. He already has 27 RBIs and nine home runs to go along with a .295 average. The key is getting consistent production all year when his team needs it most. In other words, no three-run bombs when New York is winning or losing by 10 runs.

Gary Sheffield – The runner up in the 2004 A.L. MVP race is at it again this year. It’s not easy being a right-handed power hitter in Yankee Stadium, and although he’s knocked just three balls out of the park so far, his .349 average and 19 RBIs more than make up for his early-season power slump. Whether you love him or hate him, the 36-year old plays the game with an intensity few can match. And when he connects solidly with that sling-blade type swing, watch out….

Is this the year that the New York Mets start to creep out from the Yankees shadow? Or are the Bronx Bombers early-season struggles just that?

It’s too early to tell, and that’s just one of the reasons why baseball is so great.

The season is a marathon, not a sprint. Where a team finishes in April doesn’t necessarily dictate where they’ll be in late September. The Mets and Yanks have made the chilly spring a bit more bearable so far. Yep, the Boys of Summer are back.

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