SI Vault
 
Joy Ride
TOM VERDUCCI
July 17, 2006
Fueled by putdowns and cutups, the slaphappy Mets-a franchise whose revival is way ahead of schedule-are dominating the National League
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 17, 2006

Joy Ride

Fueled by putdowns and cutups, the slaphappy Mets-a franchise whose revival is way ahead of schedule-are dominating the National League

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5

Another time Martinez returned to his locker after batting practice to find his wildly styled loafers strung up from his locker, a team custom to mock fashion statements that invite ridicule.

"A lot of times you'll see somebody's shirt hanging in the middle of the clubhouse," Martinez says. "Cliff [ Floyd], his stuff seems to be hanging a lot."

Floyd also has drawn attention for the music that accompanies each of his at bats at home: the theme to Sanford and Son. The tune was picked by Lo Duca, who thought it apropos for the oft-hobbled leftfielder.

And then there's Wagner, who still hasn't lived down the time he asked the clubhouse caterer if he could have a gallon of milk to take home to Greenwich, Conn.

"You're making $10 million a year, and you won't spring for a gallon of milk on the way home?" Lo Duca told Wagner. "Reach into that wallet once in a while, will ya?"

When the Mets are rolling, as they have been for most of the season, they seem to have it all: pitching (they were second in the league in ERA at week's end), hitting (first in runs), speed (first in steals), power (second in homers) and that immeasurable but unmistakable element called chemistry, which develops when you can, with only the finest intentions, refer to your teammates as Visine, Moses and Captain Red Ass.

So charmed are the Mets that they entered the All-Star break 20-8 (.714) in one-run games-only six teams in the post-1961 expansion era have played better than .700 ball in one-run games over a full season-and had flourished despite having to use 11 starting pitchers in their first 88 games.

"Their versatility is very impressive," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said last week as the Mets took three of four games from Pittsburgh. "They have switch-hitters who hit equally well from both sides; they have guys on the bench who complement one another, which makes it hard to match up with them late in the game; and they can run and pitch. They can win games in a lot of different ways."

If the Mets keep this up, they will break or challenge franchise records for runs, home runs, stolen bases and opponent strikeouts while accelerating Minaya's time line for a pennant. Minaya has said that his goal for 2005 was to restore the franchise's image-Delgado, a free agent that off-season, chose to sign with the Marlins in January '05 rather than the Mets because he deemed Florida the better team-and for 2006 was to contend for a playoff spot. With such a large lead in the division, however, Minaya's revamped agenda is to fortify his rotation to carry the Mets through three rounds of playoff series. Unless the team's '05 first-round draft pick, righthander Mike Pelfrey, who allowed three runs in five innings to win his big league debut last Saturday, sticks, Martinez, 34 and with a sore hip (he was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Thursday, retroactive to June 29), would be their youngest postseason starter, fronting Tom Glavine, 40, Orlando Hernandez, 36, and Steve Trachsel, 35. In a humorous but telling moment last week Glavine stopped short when he stepped into the trainer's room to find a deli-counter-length queue. "Oh, my goodness," Glavine said, "what number are we serving in the whirlpool, number 9?"

"When we went 9-1 on the road trip [to Los Angeles, Arizona and Philadelphia in June], that's when I knew we had a good team," Minaya says. "But we still can be better. It's all about pitching, pitching, pitching. That's what I'm looking for every day."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5