No sport has a longer regular season schedule than Major League Baseball. In fact, among the four major sports — baseball, basketball, football and hockey — baseball plays nearly double the number of regular season games than its closest competitor (baseball 162, basketball 82).
Still, no game is more scrutinized by the media and the fans on the Internet.
Is it necessary to start pushing or, even reaching in the direction of, the panic button during the first week of the season? How about after the first game of the season?
Division titles, wild cards, post-season series and championships are not won “on the edge,” but in the middle. During the regular season, it’s the teams that play consistent over the long haul, winning two out three games in most series, that rise to the top come late September, early October.
Yet, the media lives on the edges, the extremes. The Mets are experiencing this treatment one game into the season, a game in which they won, 2-1 over the Reds Monday. A fact that is generally overlooked in the intense scrutiny of a particular play, performance or category of the game.
Newsday takes off on the Mets inability to hit with runners in scoring position in the season opener. In fact, the team chalked up a one hit in 12 at-bats with RISP. That’s .083. That’s bad, but is it a reason for concern?
Mets manager Jerry Manuel told the media in a post-game press conference:
“We left a lot of runners on base. We have to make sure we address that situation. That’s going to happen from time to time. There was a pretty good opposing pitcher out there, as well, and that makes it tough in those situations.”
It did happen. It will happen again. But during a 162-game stretch the measuring stick is not if, but how often, will it happen? Will the Mets batting average be .220, .250 or .290 with RISP come October 1? That answer will have a direct effect on the team’s record and post-season hopes, unlike the 1-for-12 (.083) effort Monday.
To the other extreme, the Mets bullpen was exceptional, a point made in multiple times over the last 36 hours. Since the Mets blew 29 saves last year, only second to the anemic St. Louis Cardinals (31) ‘pen, it’s no surprise the off-season moves will be under the microscope.
On Monday, the additions of Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, made Mets GM Omar Minaya look like a genius. The three relievers recorded the final 10 outs. The only baserunner for the Reds in 3 1/3 innings against the bullpen was an eighth inning walk by Putz.
The results gave way to praise and glory for Minaya … at least for now. Next week? That could all change. Minaya knows that saying, “We know there are going to be ups and downs,” he said. “It’s good to see Frankie, J.J. and Green help us win the game. It’s always good in New York to get off to a good start and get that out of the way.”
As long as there’s consistently more “ups” than “downs” over the course of the six-month regular season, the Mets and Minaya will have reason to smile.
How many times have you heard it before, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint …”