This Mets run has been characterized by strong play, without question, but also by strokes of good luck. Part of that luck has been opponents' incompetence. The other team doing the kind of stuff - a baserunning error, a managerial mistake - that the 2009 Mets would do so often that you could set your watch to it.
Well, before this big Mets-Phillies series even starts, the Mets have benefited from a big-time Phillies brain cramp. Ryan Madson is on the disabled list after kicking a chair in San Francisco on Wednesday, and breaking his right toe.
"He was embarrassed by it. I could tell," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I know him. I could tell. Very apologetic. You could tell he knew exactly what was going on."
So just as the Phillies activate their closer, Brad Lidge, they lose their primary setup man, Madson, who had been serving as the closer - and whose poor results prompted him to kick the chair and injure himself.
Common sense says the Mets will start losing some games, and settle into the .500 neighborhood. But what's transpired these last two weeks or so - going back to when Tony La Russa begged the Mets to win the 20-inning game in St. Louis - is not common-sense-type stuff. It's more of the mystical brand.
--Charlie Manuel is one of my favorite interviews, because there's no refining function in his speech. He just lets it fly. I asked him whether the Mets' surge surprised him, and he said no. When I asked why not, he offered this:
"Because they’ve got some good players. They’ve got some different players, too. Their lineup is different. They’ve got different guys. I’ve bveen watching them. They’ve bveen getting pitching, and they’ve been wanting to play.
"I was very impressed at last year’s All-Star Game with K-Rod and Santana. When I talked to those guys, I liked both of those guys. They come across as wanting the ball, determined to get you out. I like that about them. But also, they’ve got some different guys in their lineup. They’re playing well.
"In this game, when you want to play, you want to go out there, you can accomplish way more than you ever dream. That’s the whole key. Keep going. You’ve got to have that. That spark. That passion. That determination. That passion, that love for the game, enjoying what you’re doing. I’ve been watching that. Yeah, they’ve been playing good."
--Mike Pelfrey spoke in advance of his start tomorrow against Roy Halladay, and Pelfrey admitted that he gets "extra motivation" when he faces a really good pitcher, that he knows he's going to have to step up his effort.
I thought that was interesting. Most pitchers dismiss that question with a, "I'm pitching to the lineup, not the other pitcher." The one exception: David Cone, who used to admit to approaching games differently when he went up against a Pedro Martinez or Mike Mussina.
--I saw Phillies reliever Jose Contreras, a good guy since his Yankees days. Contreras told me that his mother, Modesta Camejo, will be in the stands for tonight's game, after emigrating from Cuba. Once Contreras attained his U.S. citizenship, he was able to help his mother, who flew from the Dominican Republic to New York yesterday. Contreras said his mother has never seen him pitch before. So while I don't care about tonight's outcome, I would like to see Contreras pitch,.
--Thanks to Twitter, I read Ken Rosenthal's breakdown of the Ryan Howard contract. I saw that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. smacked down the notion that RBI aren't important, saying, "The sabermetricians are welcome to have their opinions about our business; however, I choose to ignore their opinions."
But the main objection to the Howard deal isn't sabermetric. It's economic. It's a simple matter of supply and demand.
If the Phillies had entered next year with Howard as a pending free agent, they could've continued to monitor Howard as well as the other soon-to-be available first basemen in Albert Pujols (who, let's face it, will be re-signing with the Cardinals), Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez. The Yankees won't be in that chase, and it's a safe bet that neither the Mets won't, either.
That would've left the Red Sox and Phillies, and maybe the Angels, going for Fielder, Howard and Gonzalez. I would've liked the Phillies' chances to get a better deal than the one they just got.
--Saw Nelson Figueroa, now a Phillie, who voiced no hard feelings toward the Mets. "It's business," he said. 'Hopefully, I'll do bigger and better things here."