For the fan in enemy territory

Friday, July 1, 2011

July Begins, Ends with Bang For Mets

The New York sports landscape collectively turns the calendar to July today. As it does, the very first thing that comes to mind is Independence Day. Of course, I'm not referring to the Will Smith movie when he freed us from the aliens, rather the summer holiday that commemorates our declaration to England that we were going to be free from their tyranny.

Like most people, this holiday always makes me think of fireworks. There are many ways to observe the annual summer spectacle that is known as 4th of July fireworks. I prefer to grab a blanket or a lawn chair and settle in for a great show. As far as fireworks are concerned, they usually do give a great show, but it has a particular pattern.

First, the show starts with a few loud bangs. Next, a sporadic series of pops and sparks. Then, a slight lull in the action, like when the popcorn is almost done popping.

Finally, a tremendous crescendo of sparks, bangs, pops and explosions combine to culminate into a moment of euphoria as the show dazzles through its' finale. This should begin to sound familiar to what New York Mets fans are expecting for this month.

First, the Mets open up with a bang. They host the cross town rival, New York Yankees. There should be plenty of fireworks that still remain in those clubhouses for this series. Both teams give their all on the field and it should make for a great series.

The Yankees took two of three in their last meeting in May in the Bronx. However, many baseball fans can agree that this is a different Mets team. They are playing with confidence after taking consecutive series from division leaders Detroit and Texas.

They are playing cohesive, fundamental baseball. This will be a tough series for both teams, a continued test for the Mets who have nothing really to lose and test of endurance for the Yankees that have the higher expectations for a productive season.

Next, they battle on the west coast against the Los Angeles Dodgers ans San Francisco Giants, respectively. That takes them to the All-Star break where the spotlight will most likely be on Jose Reyes, as far as Mets fans are concerned. Baseball fans will have some more sporadic pops and sparks during the Home Run Derby and the All-Star game.

Then, fans face a lull that begins with the second worst sports day of the year: the day after the All-Star game. Major League Baseball is off for the following day of that game and it is an excruciating day for fans (more so now than before due to the NFL and NBA lockouts) . This year that day is Thursday, July 14th.

In case you were wondering, the worst day is the day after the Super Bowl (especially now that the NFL has scheduled the Pro Bowl for the week before the Super Bowl on a consistent basis).

The Mets will see some sparks immediately after that lull, though, as they face off with the hated Phillies, Marlins ( for one game) and Cardinals at home just after the break. This all builds to a crescendo on July 31st. On that date, MLB imposes their trade deadline.

I don't need to tell the hardcore baseball or Mets fan how huge that date is for the sport or for their team. Many teams have become champions on that day with a savvy trade, while many teams plummeted down into a funnel of desperation for years to come by giving up a marque player for a handful of beans.

This year, the fireworks for that day will center around three names in particular: Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. All three are having tremendous seasons and should be highly sought after by contending teams. I believe it will depend on what the Mets' record is by the deadline though.

If the Mets are near the .500 mark and they make moves, it tells their fans they are giving up on the season. If they don't make moves, they are telling those same fans that the franchise is trying to see how far this group of hard-nosed, rag-tag no names can take them this year.

There is an equal risk to both. If they give up on the season, fans will most likely protest by not showing up at Citi Field. That will be a tremendous hit to the Wilpons' wallet.

If they remain unchanged, or even worse, become buyers in the trade market, and they fizzle out late in the season, it will be the catalyst to a chain reaction that most likely sees payroll decrease and talent (Reyes) going elsewhere with nothing to really show for the gamble.

It's a tough spot to be in for GM Sandy Alderson. He was not brought in to spend money, but rather save the Mets money while building a contender on the cheap like he did in both Oakland and San Diego.

In any event, one thing is for sure. While the Mets and Alderson may not come out of this month swelling with pride and awe from the fireworks the sports landscape have to offer, it will be quite a show.

Therefore, as a fan, there is only one thing left to do. Enjoy it. Grab your lawn chair or your favorite blanket, metaphorically speaking. Spread it out and settle in for an amazing spectacle. It should be a fantastic show.

Happy Fourth of July!