2005-05-27 / Sports

Mets, Yankees Face Early Crossroads of 2005 Season

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

By Michael Avallone
Sports Columnist

In the end, the final results were all too familiar for Mets and Yankees fans. The Bombers came into Shea Stadium and took two-of-three against the Amazins’. In the eight-year history of these matchups, the Yankees have won all but three series.

It’s still early to get too high or low over any one thing, but some interesting facts did emerge. First, the Yankees have to be concerned with Randy Johnson. The left-hander was brought in to be the ace the Bombers have lacked the in recent seasons. That lights out flame-thrower who can stop a losing streak or carry on a winning streak no matter who the opponent is. The only problem is that Johnson looks more and more like a 41-year old pitcher.

The Yankees traded for him thinking they’d be getting the 95-96 mph fastball and devastating slider. Both have been MIA in his first six weeks in the Bronx. On Saturday, the Mets rapped 12 hits off the 6-10 lefty and after not striking ANYONE out in his previous start; he fanned only five at Shea. His fastball topped out at 94 and was consistently clocked between 91-92 mph. Add in the fact that his slider is not biting nearly as hard and all you’re left with is an above average pitcher, not an $18 million-per year ace.

As for the Mets, they learned that youth will both giveth and taketh away. David Wright and Jose Reyes both had fantastic weekends offensively, but it was back-to-back errors in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game that will encapsulate this particular round of the Subway Series.

What does it mean? In the long run, not much. Wright and Reyes – 22 and 21-years old respectively – are going to be very good players for a very long time. In fact, the Mets third baseman is already on the verge of superstardom. But with youth comes mistakes, and the Mets and manager Willie Randolph will have to deal with it from time to time.

Sure, the errors were maddening, but everyone has witnessed too many outstanding moments already from Wright and Reyes to believe for a moment that they’re anything more than hiccups.

Patience isn’t a virtue among New Yorkers, but even the most die-hard Met fan knows these two are the future of the franchise. Booing them and losing sight of the big picture would be idiotic. Of course, the Yankees did exactly what good teams are supposed to do, and that’s take advantage. They did so when the Mets right side of the infield imploded on Friday and did so again to steal the 5-3 win on Sunday.

The win gave them 12 victories in their last 14 games, pushing their record to 23-21. It’s still unfamiliar territory, but the team was too talented to play as bad as they had been. Of course, 10 of those wins came at the expense of the A.L. West’s doormats, the A’s and Mariners. But the Bombers did what they had to do.

The real test comes this weekend when the World Champion Red Sox come to the Stadium. Beating up on the dregs of the league is one thing. Doing it against teams ahead of them in the standings is quite another. The series win against the Mets looked good on paper, but so many questions still remain.

Alex Rodriguez is leading the Majors in homers, RBI and runs scored. All well and good. The problem is his inability to deliver the big hit when the spotlight is on. Take Derek Jeter for example. The Yankees captain has put together a terrific career, but it’s the intangibles he brings that sets him apart from A-Rod. His numbers pale in comparison to Rodriguez, but is there any Yankee (besides Hideki Matsui) you would rather see at the plate in a do-or-die situation? He doesn’t have four World Series rings and a team captaincy for nothing.

So what did we learn last weekend? Mostly that both teams have questions as we enter the summer months of what could be an exciting season for New York baseball. Is the Yankees recent hot streak just that, or has the “Evil Empire” finally awakened?

And what about the Mets? What do we make of their 23-23 start? Will the youngsters continue to improve or will the growing pains they’ll most certainly suffer sabotage any chance they have of competing? Stay tuned…

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