Monday, April 5, 2010

Offense, Subs and Pitching

As excited as as anyone can be for baseball to return to Earth, there's a point when Opening Day adrenaline leaves the system during a laugher like today's win over the Marlins. Eyes wandering during a meaningless Luis Castillo at-bat with the Mets ahead 7-1 in the eighth inning, you start getting into a Christopher Hitchens column during commercial breaks and maybe miss the first out when the game is back. Still, you watch until the end, because like Gary Cohen reminded us, day two of baseball isn't Opening Day, it's just baseball. But that's starting at the end and skipping all the wonderful parts of the beginning and middle.

My personal Mets victory anthem, BTO be damned.

Wonderful parts like Johan Santana opening the year with a crisp strike. The crowd at Taxpayer Field, obviously afraid that Johan's elbow would fly towards the plate along with the ball roared in approval as Chris Coghlan watched the pitch cross the plate, Santana's elbow stayed bolted in place and the game was on. Even without being dominating, Santana was controlling the flow of the game, impressing Keith Hernandez with his change-up and keeping the Marlins from putting together any sustained rallies. Speaking of Santana's change-up, Cameron Maybin is definitely going to be having nightmares of a yellow, blue and red colored man chasing him through Willets Point.

The Mets had an Opening Day lineup that inspired horror and mockery: Gary Mathews, Jr! Mike Jacobs! Alex Cora! All they did was go out and back up Santana better than the '27 Yankees could have. OK, maybe that's going a bit far, but my brain kind of melted when I saw Mathews chasing balls in the gap, running them down deep in center and picking up two hits to boot. Since it looks like he can still play he's obviously going to be super pissed when Carlos Beltran comes back. Hell, let's hope he takes the Wigginton Route too. David Wright stung the ball and his home run in the first inning probably caused a few wet spots to spontaneously show up around the New York metro area (I'll show myself out guys, no worries). Jason Bay proved himself to be strong of bat and of arm, his throw to almost get Jorge Cantu on his double was more impressive than his triple, if only because I didn't expect it. Jeff Francoeur walked! Oh and Mike Jacobs was terrible. Wow was he awful. Daniel Murphy can't get healthy fast enough.

Credit where it's due though, to the Marlins. When your organization cuts corners the way they do, aspects of your team will suffer. In their case, it's defense, with Jeff Francoeur's "double" the most obvious example of that, falling in between Cameron Maybin and Hanley Ramirez like an unwanted VHS copy of Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills . Gabby Sanchez, along with his officially noted error, was lectured twice by Ron Darling and Keith for failing to stretch properly to snare a couple throws, including the second half of a possible double play (that Dan Uggla didn't charge well to begin with) that set up Wright's home run.

Looking at the larger picture, and trying not to look too far into the future, this is a game that played like an exorcism. The Mets are supposed to bring out the very best in the Marlins, who according to media reports live to destroy the hopes and dreams of the Wilpons. Yet a potential year-long Adam Eaton situation was disarmed when the Mets tagged Josh Johnson with his first career loss against them, and the rest of Johnson's teammates played tentative, sloppy and all around weak baseball. The Mets meanwhile, got outs when they needed them, had their heads up and played the kind of baseball they seemed genetically unable to play last year.

1 down, 161 to go. On to the next one.

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