By Jason Keidel
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Beyond the bouquets Mets fans sent Ramiro Pena (and perhaps a rose for Rivera, the closer nonpareil who reminds us once a month or so that there is indeed blood in his veins), what did we learn this weekend?
Not much. The Yankees are better than the Mets. We knew that. Though that fact is less by dint of toughness than talent. Carlos Beltran aside, there wasn’t a Met on the field yesterday who would have started for the Yankees.
In the world of theory – where most debates reside – Terry Collins and Joe Girardi could reasonably split the crown of best New York manager this season, as each team has dealt with decimation on their respective squads, Collins making makeshift lineups on the fly while G.I. Joe cuts-and-pastes his starting pitching and bullpen. Had you told Girardi that he would have no Cliff Lee, Andy Pettitte, or Phil Hughes for half a season and still be in first place (while going 1-8 against Boston, no less) he would have asked where he should sign.
Mets fans learned that Jose Reyes’s hamstring, the most cherished muscle in the five boroughs, isn’t pulled beyond a minor strain.
And perhaps you heard a collective exhale now that there will be no exile for Reyes, the electric shortstop who plays under an odd confluence of circumstances – his supreme year in his contract year, while his employer shops the best player in the National League under the financial hammer of poor ownership and Madoff.
The Yankees again took a wrecking ball to the National League (including 5-2 against the Mets), and have the best inter-league record since the 1990s, when such combat began.
A week or so ago Lori Rubinson asked me what we learned about the Yankees without Derek Jeter.
We learned, sadly, that the Yankees are just fine without Captain America, who now shrinks in the shadow of his former eminence. We learned, sadly, that the Derek Jeter Era is over. His club went 14-4 without him, including a scalding 7-for-8 streak from his replacement Eduardo Nunez during the Mets series before he came up lame for Sunday’s game.
Brett Gardner is doing just fine, thank you, and is a superior leadoff hitter who is younger, faster, hits for a higher average, and has a better on-base percentage. And thus Joe Girardi has quite the quandary on his hands when Jeter returns, perhaps as early as today. Does Girardi placate an aging icon and slide Jeter back into the leadoff slot or have an earnest chat with his shriveling shortstop who does little more than bang ground balls into the infield these days and put him in the 9-hole, where, honestly, he belongs?
Either approach is understandable, but at some point the player doesn’t preclude the team, especially the New York Yankees. Let’s just say we’re all overjoyed that we needn’t make that call.
Meanwhile, for Mets fans, you saved a game, face, and the face of your franchise. Not the disaster it felt like 48 hours ago. And you know your club won’t quit, which you couldn’t say a year ago. And thus the cap gets tipped to the skipper, Mr. Collins, the strangest toast to our town.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com