It’s appears that the Yankess and Mets are switching roles. The Yankess have always been the traditional big spenders, eschewing their farm system to sign high priced free agents. The Mets have been known to show fiscal restraint, and have opted to build their club through their farm system.
The tide is turning, and the roles have reversed. The Mets are now signing the high priced free agents, including Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner. They gave up four highly regarded prospects to get Johan Santana. What did the Yankees do in the off season? Not much. Their lineup is essentially intact, and they were relieved that Santana went to the NL and was kept away from the AL East, particularly the Red Sox.
The Mets will have to convince both themselves and their fans that there are no residual scars from last seasons September collapse. They lost a 7 game lead in 17 days and ultimately the division title to the Philadelphia Phillies. The collapse brought the inevitable comparisons between them and the 1964 Phillies, who lost a 6 ½ lead in 7 days and blew the pennant to the St Louis Cardinals.
Gene Mauch was the manager of the Phillies, and is known as the manager with the most career wins without a pennant. His 1,902 career victories are the 8th most all time, but he never won a pennant. He came close on two other occasions (1982 and 1986 with the Angels), but unfortunately he will be best remembered for the Phillies collapse.
Between September 21 and 30, the Phillies lost 10 straight games. Mauch essentially went with a 3 man rotation, but relied primarily on two pitchers (Jim Bunning and Chris Short) during this losing streak. Bunning had three starts, Short and three, and two other pitchers (Art Mahaffey and Dennis Bennett) started twice. Ray Culp, a highly regarded 23 year old, who was part of the rotation throughout the year, was not used at all.
The official version told to the press was that Mahaffey and Culp had sore arms, and that Mauch had lost faith in Bennett.
This writer has inside information which I would like to share with you. I knew one of the players on the 1964 Phillies. He confided in me that Mauch hated Ray Culp, and refused to pitch him because there was personal animosity between the two. Culp was healthy, and could have contributed. History may have been a lot different if Culp was utilized during this stretch.
The Phillies did win the division in 2007, but fell short against the Colorado Rockies in the playoffs. They should be contenders for the NL East in 2008, along with
Jimmy Rollins has laid down the gauntlet by stating that the Phillies and the Mets don’t like each other and there may be some “headhunting” going on. Pedro Martinez, never one to shy away from chin music, was quoted as saying although he likes Rollins; he won’t back down from any potential altercations.
Two teams that are both very talented and are separated by 95 miles on the New Jersey Turnpike now both share a monumental collapse. They are headed for a collision course.
I can’t wait.