The Mets are desperately trying to win a series. Any series. Or about even a game? Please. Swept by the Diamondbacks? That's a fireable offense. They did have a team meeting between games two and three, in which Jerry Manuel apparently said, "Ok, guys, keep playing lifeless baseball. Don't work counts. Don't even try to work out a walk. We don't need base runners; that's not going to help us score runs. Who cares if we keep on losing? We'll win ‘some other time.' And I'll just keep on laughing. Now get out there, feel free to take a nap and don't exert yourselves too much." They then went out and lost the next four out of five. Though they were probably distracted, the way I was, by the fact that Larry King was sitting behind home plate the first few games in LA. I mean who can hit when he's lurking right behind you? It's like having the grim reaper staring you down while you're trying to save your season. Meanwhile, for the Yankees, after mourning one organizational death after another, it was finally back to baseball as usual for them, if that's possible. It doesn't matter who gets injured for the Yankees or if they have a number of consecutive subpar outings by their starting pitchers, they just win. Not every game, but almost every series. And that's the way to stay on top. After two straight weeks of having to honor a non-playing legend that died, we're back to business as usual here at the Player of the Week, as well, though I could have easily chosen Ralph Houk. But we need to move on. So the winner is . . .
Mark Teixeira: This was a tossup between Tex and A-Rod, but Teixeira had one more homer and a higher average so he's the winner. Teixeira is hotter than the weather at Yankee Stadium these days. He's humid, he's muggy, his dew point is pushing 100. It's only his Alfalfa haircut that's feeling the negative effects of the sultry summer weather, as it's turned all frizzy and whatnot. He even beat out an infield hit in the ninth inning of Saturday's game - oh wait, the umpire had other ideas about that. It took longer than anyone thought for him to find his stroke, but he's now off and running. For the week, he batted .434, belted two homers, drove in eight and scored 10 runs. And now his average is up to .264, to go along with 20 long balls and 70 RBIs.
Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod hit one home run this week in case anyone was paying attention (and batted .384, with eight RBIs). Every at-bat of his is now met with anticipation and flashbulbs, but I've come here not to praise A-Rod, nor to bury him, but just to express my disappointment in him. With every long ball and grand slam he hits, A-Rod moves up the ladder on one all-time list or another. It's just too bad that none of it really matters. I'm sure I sound like the cranky old man who's telling the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, but so be it. Like Barry Bonds before him, when nobody outside of San Francisco cared a wit when he broke the single-season and all-time marks, A-Rod's homers are tainted, as he's a confessed PED cheat. Sure, he only took them for his three seasons in Texas - nod, nod, wink, wink - but it's a shame he had to do it at all. He has all the talent in the world without needing any artificial help, but we don't know when he started using or if he's even stopped, so how many of his accomplishments are due to hard work and baseball ability and how many due to his little helper? Who knows? But he's just one more name on an ignoble list of a generation of players who let the game of baseball down. Do Mark McGwire's, Sammy Sosa's Rafael Palmeiro's, Manny Ramirez's or Bonds' homers mean anything? Of course not. Yes, they're officially in the books, but we all know they did it illegally (yes, steroids are illegal, and they've been on baseball's banned substance list since 1991, so yes, it is cheating). And is "Everybody was doing it" really a good excuse? I'm sure many Yankee fans will embrace his march to the top, but A-Rod's the one who shot a needle into the baseball history books, and not only let baseball fans down but, as Mike Brady might say, let himself down as well.
Johan Santana/R.A. Dickey: The Mets' ace is back to pitching like an ace. He went seven innings on Friday, only allowing one run. In his last five starts he's 3-0, with a 0.71 ERA. For the season he's now a deceiving 8-5, with a 2.79 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. And here's how good he's been and how bad his team has been - the Mets are 4-13 in their last 17 games, and all the wins have come in games that Santana has started. Maybe if he was ambidextrous he could pitch twice as much. The Mets might have to start thinking outside the box if they want to start winning again. Dickey's doing his job, though. In his two starts this week, he threw 12 and 2/3 innings and only gave up three runs, lowering his ERA to 2.55. And he had to be dragged off the mound yesterday. That's the kind of spirit you want to see. Let's just hope his injury isn't serious.
Milestones and Captains: Two old Yankee standbys and a relative youngster had an impressive week. Who says Jorge Posada is a defensive liability? He doesn't even have to tag runners at the plate in order to have them called out. What other catcher can do that? He also drove in his 1,000th career run on Friday. Most catchers are sitting in a rocking chair with a blanket across their lap reminiscing about their careers and showing off their mangled fingers to their nurse by the time they're 38 years old, but Posada just keeps on hitting. This past week he swatted a home run and drove in five. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter banged out 10 hits, batted .370 and hit an inside-the-park home run in six games this week. And Robinson Cano notched his 1,000th hit. The only homegrown Yankees to reach that milestone quicker than Cano were Jeter and Don Mattingly. Cano also drove in seven runs this week.
Josh Thole/Colin Curtis: Thole and Curtis both belted their first career home runs this week. After looking like the Mets were sitting pretty with their catching situation in April and May, all of a sudden, the young, inexperienced Thole is their best option. Barajas finally hit another home run this week, but they've been few and far between, and now he's injured anyway, but Thole's catching up to him in hits in one-tenth the number of at-bats. In his limited time with the team this season, Thole's batting .419. And how many times in baseball history has this happened: Curtis stands in for Brett Gardner, after the Yanks' left fielder was ejected from the game in the middle of an at-bat, with an 0-2 count, works the count to 3-2, and then bashes a three-run homer. Have any major leaguers hit the first career home run in that situation?
Middle Relief: Let's give a little love to the grunts in the bullpen. Chad Gaudin pitched three innings on Friday after a rain delay and only allowed one run, and Dustin Moseley threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings mopping up for Sergio Mitre to give the Yankees hope in their failed comeback. The Mets can barely scrape together a win these days, but don't blame Raul Valdes or Bobby Parnell. Valdes threw eight and 2/3 scoreless innings this week, while Parnell threw five of his own, which lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.02 (with a 1.08 WHIP).
Jason Bay: Anybody who smashes his face in the wall making a running catch deserves to be on this last no matter what he did the rest of the week. But not only did Bay stay in the game, he drilled a bases-loaded double to break open the game a few innings later. Maybe a face mashing is just what the doctor ordered for him. He got four hits in those last three games, so maybe he'll finally turn things around. Though it may already be too late as his team is fading off into the sunset.
Ralph Houk: When I first started following baseball Ralph Houk was the manager of the Yankees, and Gil Hodges led the Mets. It doesn't get much better than that. Two tough, no-nonsense leaders, who knew how to run a team and deal with any type of player. Houk always flew under the radar when it came to listing the great managers of the team's past, maybe because he was at the helm during the team's dark years. He did go to three straight World Series in his first three years as manager, and won the first two. And he somehow nudged the 1970 team to 93 wins with Jerry Kenney, Danny Cater, Gene Michael and Ron Woods making up half the lineup. Unfortunately, the Orioles won 108 games that season. But he was a Yankee through and through, spanning the Joe DiMaggio era all the way to Graig Nettles. R.I.P. Major, we'll miss you.