It's Friday the 13th, the infamous day of bad luck. While the Yankees or their fans can't lay claim to any kind of bad luck with all those World Series banners waving in the wind (well, the untimely deaths of Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson are exceptions), for Mets fans, every day seems like Friday the 13th nowadays. Collapses, chokes, Gary Matthews Jr., bizarre injuries, out-of-left-field illnesses, arrests, lawsuits and Jeff Wilpon ensure that Mets fans see Jason peeking around every corner ready to maim and decapitate them. It wasn't always like this, though. For the first 30 years of the franchise's existence, they were usually on the side of good luck (with the obvious exception of the devastating death of Gil Hodges). The black cat running in front of the Cubs' dugout as Chicago collapsed and the Mets ran right by them, winning 100 games and the World Series in 1969. The ball going through Bill Buckner's legs. Even when they lost, such as they did in almost every game prior to 1969 or losing in the 1973 World Series, the team was still lovable, popular and criticism-free. The late '70s were quickly forgotten with the success of the '80s. The Mets were either lovable losers, lovable underdogs or a lovable powerhouse (well, lovable to us). But lovable was the key word. And a team to always believe in.
But then the early '90s happened. And the bad luck began. But it was mainly bad luck for the fans. Sure, there was last year's injury-fest, with over 20 players going on the DL - isn't that mainly due to bad luck, competent training staff or not? - but the on-the-field bad luck has been due to bad decision-making and poor play as opposed to good-old-fashioned bad luck. Maybe trading for Roberto Alomar and expecting a Hall of Fame-caliber player to show up at Shea but instead receiving the likes of Juan Samuel. Or trading for Juan Samuel and receiving the likes of . . . well . . . Juan Samuel. Is that bad decision-making or bad luck? Trading for Mo Vaughn was certainly not bad luck. We could see that failure coming a mile away. The bullpen collapse of 2007? Just old-fashioned bad pitching. So it's mainly the fans who are the unlucky ones. We don't get to make the decisions; we just get to suffer the consequences. A Met fan in the '60s, '70s and '80s was synonymous with always believing. "Ya Gotta Believe," Tug McGraw wailed. And we believed him with all our heart. But since Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla, Kenny Rogers, Vaughn, Alomar, Victor Zambrano, Aaron Heilman, Oliver Perez, 2007, 2008, 2009 and now 2010? Every day is Friday the 13th. I want to believe, but Jason won't let me, as he'll go all K-Rod on me if I express just a glimmer of hope.
Here are the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports:
Hey, There's Joe Buck: We know Joe Buck is kind of smug and grating, and often sounds like he'd rather be anywhere but announcing the game he's calling, but now he's affecting the play on the field as well, if indirectly. Alex Rodriguez gave the sportscaster a friendly little hello, which is fine if you're not standing on the field during batting practice. But if a pro baseball player is lining frozen ropes in your direction, you really should make a mental note to yourself: "Don't acknowledge Joe Buck." But A-rod had other thoughts: "Hey, there's Joe Buck! I should say hello to him, but maybe this isn't the best time to do it. Ok, just ignore him and maybe he'll go away. Why does he keep smiling and waving at me, though? I must use all my strength to control myself. Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it. Damn, I just can't help myself. I have to say hi to him. He's Joe Freakin' Buck." And the rest is history. The "Joe Buck series" against Boston was the Yankees' chance to put the Sox well behind them in the rearview mirror but the Bombers could only manage a split. Francisco Cervelli Castillo'd a pop-up, which led to Friday's loss. They recovered on Saturday, sans A-Rod, to beat Boston behind CC Sabathia's strong performance. Dustin Moseley filled in superbly in Sunday's 7-2 victory. And the bats dozed off during the Monday matinee loss. They then moved on to Texas and lost the first game when Mariano Rivera had a rare bad outing, but gained a split in the two-game series with a rousing comeback victory on Wednesday. Last night they narrowly defeated the Royals, which sets them up to win their first series since the end of July, against Cleveland.
Here Come the Kids and There Goes K-Rod: As the Mets said goodbye to veteran Alex Cora and sent Jesus Feliciano back to the minors, and called up Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada (whether they're big-league ready or not - are the Mets starting a youth movement, waving the white flag, grasping at straws, bringing up the kids to give the team a burst of energy or getting ready for next year? Probably all of the above), Frankie Rodriguez was beating up his father-in-law for not sending him into Wednesday's game (did he confuse him for Jerry Manuel?), Johan Santana was being sued, and on the field, the Mets were blowing one game after another (though they did manage to squeeze in another Citi Field series win against the Rockies). Ah, it's a great time to be a Mets fan. The last time the Mets won a road series against a National League team was in 1964 when they defeated the Houston Colt .45s. The last time they won back-to-back games was in 1971 against the Montreal Expos. And the last time they didn't embarrass themselves was when they made the wise decision of hiring Mr. Met back in the '60s, after they found him working as Charlie Brown's understudy in a summer stock production of A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
They May Be Giants (But a Lot of Them Sure Are Injured) and Woody and the Jets: Up in Albany at Giants camp you'll find one injured player after another -- Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Steve Smith, Keith Bulluck, Chris Snee, four out of five tight ends - but they should all be OK for the start of the season. Maybe 'Hard Knocks' should apply to Big Blue instead of the Jets. You also have a defensive back in Kenny Phillips who finally practiced for the first time on Monday and was so excited he practically kissed Tom Coughlin. He'll be a big boost to the Jints' D if he can make it through the season with that knee of his. Meanwhile over at Camp Gang Green, their star DB is nowhere to be seen, and owner Woody Johnson even stated he wouldn't be surprised if Darrelle Revis doesn't play at all this year. It's all about contracts, he-said-she-said claims of lying, boastful predictions, crazy camp-holdout solutions, truces, swearing and TV shows for the Jets. I think they're playing a little football, too, but it hasn't been confirmed yet.
Are You Kidding Me? Isiah Thomas was hired by James Dolan to be a consultant for the Knicks. Just typing those words sends a chill up my spine. Thankfully, the league investigated and voided the hiring because Thomas is still coaching at FIU. Maybe somebody should be investigating Dolan's sanity. I mean talk about a slap in the face to his team's fans. They finally get rid of the guy that helped ruin the franchise, and now he might come back? Oy vey. Thomas' old right-hand man Brendan Suhr said, "If Chuck Daly was alive, he would tell you Isiah always recognized talent better than he did." If James Dolan were alive, he wouldn't contemplate the idea of rehiring Thomas for one second. Donnie Walsh considered quitting, which is a reasonable reaction, and I even started to make plans to move away from the area to get away from Thomas' stench of failure and I don't really even care about the Knicks. And speaking of slapping fans in the face, Fred Wilpon said that Omar Minaya is coming back for another year with the Mets. "Does the sun come up in the morning?" stated the Mets owner. I guess he hasn't noticed that the sun doesn't come anywhere near Citi Field these days. And soon, the fans won't either. But the police are there when needed.
The Other Decision: The arbitrator sided with the NHL in the Ilya Kovalchuk case, so the Devils and the star winger have to start all over on that contract, or maybe just do a little tweaking. Is the decision a conspiracy against the Devils for all those years playing the trap? Against Lou Lamoriello? Against the whole state of New Jersey? Is it because of the poorly run New Jersey Transit train system (don't get me started)? Is it payback for unleashing Snooki on the world? Probably not, but those questions need to be asked.
London Calling: The NBA announced this week that the Nets and Raptors will play two regular season games in London on March 4 and 5 at the O2 Arena. The league insists it's not trying to sell the game overseas, but instead it's trying to push an all fish 'n' chips and steak 'n' kidney pie diet on the players. And the Nets will be bringing Troy Murphy with them, as they acquired the forward in a four-team trade that sent Courtney Lee to Houston.
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