Seven games up and 17 to play.
The Mets blew it; they choked and the Phillies caught them and then passed them on the last day of the regular season. Two teams headed in different directions.
How bad were the Phils? I could not believe that they hired Charlie Manuel as their manager; at times, he seemed pathetically clueless as the team was eternally stuck in the doldrums. Evidently, team management knew what they were doing... Charlie did not panic and neither did his team – wonderful qualities to possess when playing from behind. I do not agree with Jimmy Rollins regarding Philadelphia being the team to beat; both Atlanta and the Metros had far too much talent, far too much pedigree for Philly to have had that peculiar status. Seems young James was right after all. Seven games back and seventeen to play. The Phillies never said die, never gave up, never quit believing in themselves. Something fair-weather fans [of all teams] would do well to learn from.
How bad are the Mets? Physically, not bad although Carlos Delgado suffered a broken bone in his hand whilst being struck by a pitch on Sunday; Carlos has had a down year anyway and perhaps was in need of replacement regardless. Mentally, they are a Mess. I really feel badly for both the club and for Willie Randolph. I liked Willie as a young second-sacker fresh from Pittsburgh, I liked what he represented and what he brought with him to the Yankees, and he played an important role in the championships won by the vaunted Bombers of the late ‘70’s. I’ve liked the Mets for even longer, having cheered them on to victory in 1969 over the Orioles [I still abhor the O’s!!]. The Ol’ Perfesser was their first manager, too, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for them.
Now, having said all of that, I fear that Willie Randolph may be on the way out in Flushing Meadow. From the rumblings I have heard, it sounds as though he has lost the clubhouse. Can’t fire all the players, gotta fire somebody. Omar Minaya will not fire himself, so Willie is the logical scapegoat. Too bad. He’ll land somewhere, and mark my words: Willie Randolph WILL manage again. I’ve been impressed by the ballclub Minaya has assembled, and for the most part I think he has done a pretty good job. He’ll need to do so even more, for finding a good manager will be perhaps his most difficult task yet.
An ominous shadow darkens the horizon of the N.L. East, and no one seems to have noticed. The Braves have been sold [remember the Braves? 14 division titles in a row?]. New financing is being promised which should at least get them around $95 million a year in salary, and perhaps close to 100 mil. Dancing in the streets may be breaking out in Philadelphia, but my suspicion is that it will be short-lived. The only dance being performed at Shea is Danse Macabre`.