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Sunday reading: The Mets, Diamondbacks and George Steinbrenner

 Off yesterday's brutal Mets loss, I went all positive on your behinds. Really, if you stop, move four paces away from yesterday and take a deep breath, it has been a remarkable first half for the Mets.

Does that mean they'll simply duplicate their 45-36 record at the halfway mark and finish 90-72, which would quite possibly put them in the playoffs? I wouldn't bet on that.

But as I noted in the column, there are obvious positive signs looking ahead, including an easy schedule and the return of Carlos Beltran. And this didn't make the cut for the column, but don't forget the Phillies' mismanagement coming back to bite them earlier than anticipated (I thought they'd enjoy at least one season of Roy Halladay-infused bliss before really paying the price for poor decisions like Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco), as well as the bad luck of Chase Utley's injury.

For my Sunday Insider, I noted how many of us would've predicted the Mets as the NL team most likely to jettison their manager and GM midseason - rather than the Diamondbacks. So I wrote about the lessons we can learn from Arizona - some positive, some negative. 

--Jose Reyes still doesn't appear that close to returning, but the Mets believe that, just as Reyes said, his condition is similar to Angel Pagan's. Pagan now is back in the lineup, and he needed about a week to get there. The hope is that Reyes will have a similar timeline, getting him back in action by next weekend's big home series against Atlanta, at the latest.

--It's the 25th anniversary of the Mets' 19-inning, 16-13 victory over the Braves. I remember hearing about the result at sleep-away camp, and it took me weeks to catch up on all of the details. I'd love to see a DVD released; how about with commentary from Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez?

--Happy birthday, indeed, to George Steinbrenner, who purportedly turns 80 today. Great piece by Mark Herrmann today, who does his job by quoting Steinbrenner's spokesman Howard Rubenstein - who says that Steinbrenner is not dealing with any health issues besides a "football knee."

I'm sorry, but that is just ridiculous. There obviously are other health issues. I won't profess to know precisely what they are, but they're certainly more than mere old age. As Bill Madden reported in his new Steinbrenner biography, there are issues of confusion and forgetfulness involved.

He's obligated to tell us nothing, yet there are better ways of dealing with this than "He's fine!" I prefer the wording of Steinbrenner's own son Hal, who says that George is "slowing down." That leaves a little more room for interpretation.

--Joe Torre was among those who wished Steinbrenner a happy birthday, as Barry Bloom reports.

--On the field, meanwhile, the Yankees won. I'd be shocked if Andy Pettitte didn't make the American League All-Star team today.

--Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman expressed support for Joba Chamberlain and the bullpen. The market for relievers will not be very inviting - Octavio Dotel, Chad Qualls and not much else - so the Yankees will hover but not go too hard, not with Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves rehabilitating.

The key, of course, is Chamberlain, who really has been quite dreadful this season. Returning to his 2007 self isn't realistic, but he has to find a way to be more reliable. 

 But also keep in mind that the Yankees will need only four starters in the playoffs. If the veterans Pettitte, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez are all pitching well - hardly an outrageous consideration - then perhaps Phil Hughes can switch back to that late-inning role, to help Chamberlain and everyone else.

--I didn't have room to put this in the Sunday Insider, but Yankees Francisco Cervelli and Colin Curtis - as well as members of Hank's Yanks -  visited the the children's cancer ward of Mount Sinai Medical Center this past week to make the case for a bone-marrow donation for a six-month-old girl named Sophia Lopez. Here is more information on how you can help.

--Before we head on our way for this hot holiday, check out the standings, as teams approach that halfway mark. Close races everywhere, with the Rangers' 4 1/2-game AL West lead the largest. As bad as the Angels have looked these last two days, losing to Kansas City, write them off at your own risk.

--Have a great day. Remember, All-Star Game announcements today. Feel free to post your thoughts here. Me? Um, maybe later today, but maybe tomorrow.


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