I’m thrilled that the Brett Favre fiasco is officially over and I can look forward to being a 100% Jets fan again, but right this minute, I am so ready for Spring and the baseball season to get started!
Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog.com has been whetting my appetite the past few days with his great on-field reports and video clips of the early days of spring training as Jerry Manuel puts the team through their paces with an emphasis on a “Team First” mentality. The last two seasons have ended in huge disappointment, but I don’t believe there’s any question that the Mets go into 2009 as the frontrunner again, not just for the NL East pennant, but the League Championship, too, and Manuel’s upbeat personality is a big part of the reason why.
No disrespect to Willie Randolph, but his Zombie Joe Torre impersonation just wasn’t the right fit in Queens — just like it wasn’t the right fit in the Bronx once Torre had to stand on his own two feet and actually build upon what he’d inherited from Buck Showalter and Gene Michaels — particularly because he was never able to develop the same rapport with the media and turn them into drooling sycophants like Torre did. Manuel loves talking to the media, and the media loves a good Manuel quote, so I think the “collapse” meme will be relatively muted in comparison to last Spring, especially with A-Roid hogging the spotlight and having zero acting ability to spin the moment to his advantage.
The Mets’ starting rotation is poised to improve greatly on last year’s pretty good performance, and I’m expecting Maine, Perez and Pelfreyto post career years and effectively make the 5th starter a moot point. The revamped bullpen looks good on paper, and should be able to shut the door from at least the 8th inning, if not sooner. And, as of right now, expectations are that Delgado, Church and Castillo will return to form, and Daniel Murphy will continue to improve, meaning the offense will be one of the most dangerous in the league, especially if Manuel’s mantra sinks in throughout the lineup.
In the meantime, the Knicks are unexpectedly rekindling my long-dormant interest in basketball with their energetic play and Nate Robinson looking like the second-coming of my all-favorite Knick, John Starks. I went to a game a couple of weeks ago, their dramatic comeback against the Rockets, and while their defense is horrible, they’re an exciting team to watch, for all the right reasons.
The only time I ever really followed basketball was back in the early 90s, while I was in the Army and Michael Jordan was in his prime. I hated Jordan and all of his drooling fans (especially opposing players who kowtowed to him) and became a Knicks fan primarily because of Starks’ gritty play and their aggressive defense. Surprisingly, despite this by all reasonable expectations being a rebuilding year, they have an outside shot at making the playoffs as the 8th seed, and while they’ll surely get bounced like the Miami Dolphins did, I’ve found myself checking in on their games and watching the standings.
I don’t know a thing about hockey, but between the Mets and Knicks, there’s a lot to be excited about in NY sports right now, even despite A-Roid’s latest controversy making it easier than ever to despise the Yankees.