Despite losing the weekend series to the Giants (more on that in a moment), I like where the Mets are going these days. They won a string a key series (Yankees, Phillies, Diamondbacks) going into the weekend and with Pedro and Glavine lined up for the next two nights, I like the Mets' chances of taking the Dodger series, too, especially if Delgado is about to break out of his slump. But the best news of all comes from skipper Willie Randolph. He's finally over "he's my guy" syndrome. Last year Matsui remained the starting second baseman long after it was clear that he was not producing. Willie's rationale: He's my guy. Same with Zambrano. He continued getting starts in the #5 spot even when it was obvious he was about the tenth or eleventh best pitcher on the team. Again Willie's rationale was "he's my guy." Loyalty's a virtue, but it has it's limits.
Enter Willie Randolph, 2006. Kaz not hitting? Hit the pine, son, Jose Valentin has your spot in the line up. Back in mid-May, when Cliff Floyd was slumping, Willie sat him for a couple of games in Milwaukee. Valentin stepped in and drove in six runs in two games. (Notice how these things are related? Willie's first move, resting Floyd in favor of Valentin, lead to the second.) Willie is much more flexible these days and he's the better manager for it.
Back to the Giants series...Saturday was the longest baseball day of my life. First came the nearly three-hour rain delay. Then came the double header (which, oddly enough, was never announced at any point, via P.A. or scoreboard, at Shea. It was like they wanted to rush through the game and didn't care to have anyone watching. There couldn't have been more than seven or eight thousand people left in the stands. It made me wonder: Has there ever been fewer people watching a first place team play a home game in June?). Finally, there were extra innings in game two. We spent over nine hours in Shea that day. There were a number of on-the-field highlights (about half of which were undermined by the bullpen's refusal to hold a lead in game one). But the day's highlight went down at the merchandise stand, on the upper deck, behind home plate. After shivering our way through game one, my brother, enjoying his first MLB game since 1981, realized he needed a long sleeve shirt.
Casey, my brother, speaking to the woman behind the counter: What's the warmest thing you've got?
Merchandise lady: Me.
Casey: Wow. For nine innings?
Merchandise lady: Sure, come back and I'll warm you up.