By Rich Coutinho
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Yankee Stadium has never been a pleasant place for Mets fans to visit. The Flushing faithful have experienced some rough moments there, including the now infamous Luis Castillo drop.
But riding the subway to the Bronx might feel better this year as the two teams get set to tangle for the first of six games this season. The Mets have survived an early season swoon, registering a 16-9 record in their last 25 games while their neighbors in the Bronx have floundered both on and off the field.
Sure the Mets are missing David Wright, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan and Chris Young. But quite frankly, right now this Mets team is better than the Yankees. When the two teams take the field, look out there and ask yourself these questions:
Who is the most exciting player on the field? Answer: Jose Reyes.
Who has been the best run producer on either team? Answer: Carlos Beltran.
Which team has the better closer right now? Answer: K-Rod.
Who would you rather have as an 8th inning guy, Jason Isringhausen or Rafael Soriano? Answer: Izzy.
I know this is a tough pill for Yankees fan to swallow, especially since their team’s payroll trumps the Mets’ by about $100 million, but the simple truth is the Amazin’s have shown themselves to be more resilient and more exciting. And they have maybe the most important thing of all — a better clubhouse.
The Yankees look old and beaten down and the Mets, despite all their issues, look like they’re really having fun playing baseball. Now don’t get me wrong, the Mets have tons of question marks but they have survived their rough start, thanks to Beltran and Reyes, coupled with the dynamic duo of Izzy and K-Rod at the end of the game. Manager Terry Collins calls them “fearless,” and those two have transformed the Mets’ bullpen into one of the best in the game.
While I’m on the topic of Collins, he gets high grades from me on how he handles “tough situations.” Joe Girardi might learn from watching Collins work.
Observing Girardi and Jorge Posada develop into a bad episode of “As the World Turns” made me stop and think how the Mets manager gracefully handled moving Carlos Beltran to right field in spring training. He did it by allowing the player to weigh in on the decision — and it was a brilliant strategy. The results are obvious: Beltran has been an offensive force and sits near the top of many NL hitting categories.
Let’s face facts here. The Mets left spring training with Bernie Madoff on everyone’s mind. The team became a punchline for joke-tellers. The irony is that all those people who threw dirt on the Mets may have done them a favor. It galvanized this team so when they got off to a 5-13 start, they did not crumble. They believed in each other and in their manager.
Collins spoke often in spring training about the symbolism of Castillo’s dropped pop-up and how they had to exorcise that ghost from the team’s collective soul. What better way to do that than on a spring Friday night, a return to the .500 mark in the very place that horrific moment happened. And for Mets fans, in a place where they’ve always heard catcalls from an obnoxious fan base.
Then the Mets can start thinking about moving north of the .500 mark. That could make for a very interesting summer — especially if their neighbors in the Bronx continue to struggle.
Agree? Disagree? Let Coutinho know in the comments below…