As the madness at Shea Stadium was unfolding Tuesday afternoon, one of the Mets beat writers smiled and said, ?Schuerholz must be howling right now.?
Knowing that Braves general manager John Schuerholz wouldn?t loosen up enough to even let me know he?d laughed when he learned ?El Duque? was hurt, I just said, ?Nah? and then went out in the hallway to call Turner Field.
As our conversation regarding the Braves’ coaching changes was nearing its end, I asked Schuerholz, ?So are you enjoying the Mets? follies?? Without surprise, he responded with, ?I don?t wish ill will toward anybody.?
Yeah, but this isn?t just anybody. These are the Mets, the team that ended the Braves’ run of 14 consecutive division titles this year. For five months, there was plenty of reason to believe they?d also do something the Braves haven?t this decade — advance to the World Series.
In fact, for about the first four hours Willie Randolph was at Shea Stadium on Tuesday, there was legitimate reason for him to confidently hold that belief. But then Orlando Hernandez went for a jog that consequently caused Randolph to begin his media session with: ?Before we get into everything, I have some news.?
The news was that El Duque had injured his right calf and the response was ?Well, what are you going to do now, Willie?? It was exactly one week ago that Pedro Martinez proved his health issues extended beyond a pulled calf muscle. So now the Mets manager may be forced to go for Option No. 3 in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Having started just three days ago, Tom Glavine never seriously became the third option for Game 1. Instead, these not-so-mighty-anymore Mets were forced to choose between John Maine and Dave Williams. Hey, things could be worse. They could have listed Oliver Perez in that list of options.
Barring an unforeseen miraculous recovery by Hernandez, Maine is likely to take the mound on Wednesday to make his first career postseason appearance. Based on the 15 walks he?s issued in his last 28 1/3 innings, it can be assumed the pressure will lead him to resume his recent control problems.
When I got to New York yesterday, I started crunching all the numbers to give me the ability to feel like I actually knew what was going to happen during this Division Series. Factoring in a healthy Hernandez, I still gained the belief that the Dodgers would win this series in four games.
A quick comparison of the lineups might lead one to assume the Mets have the better lineup. But statistically over the final two months, the Dodgers have been much better offensively. If you want to erase September, when the Mets were seemingly sleepwalking, you?ll still find Los Angeles? offense was just as impressive in August.
With this Hernandez injury added to the mix, there?s no doubt the Dodgers have the better pitching staff. It?s one that has seen steady improvement since the acquisition of Greg Maddux, who I believe was the best pitching coach the Braves have had in Atlanta over the past two decades.