AMAZIN' YOUTH WINS NY BATTLE
By JOEL SHERMAN
Posted: 3:08 am
August 21, 2008
DANIEL MURPHY came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning. The Brave-Mets New York Mets game was scoreless.
Atlanta's fine young starter Jair Jurrjens got ahead 1-2. But one piece of information we have learned about Murphy quickly is that he has some Wade Boggs in him. He is unflappable behind in the count. He again demonstrated extreme discipline in laying off the kind of just off-the-black changeup that will seduce even the most experienced hitters.
"It was a good one," Murphy said. "It just wasn't a strike."
So Murphy furthered the at-bat, and, on pitch No. 7, he delivered a two-run single. That sparked a five-run inning that propelled the Mets to a 6-3 triumph.
The hit also helped make a winner of Mike Pelfrey Mike Pelfrey , who eliminated the need to include the Mets' shaky bullpen by delivering his first career complete game to take over the team lead in wins (12).
So this game was yet another reminder that - forecasts to the contrary - the Mets' young players are outdoing their Yankee counterparts in 2008. That is among the reasons the Mets are in first place and the Yanks New York Yankees are barely hanging in the wild-card race.
Pelfrey, at 24, is just 11 months older than Ian Kennedy. Yet while Pelfrey was becoming the first Mets hurler 24 or younger to win 12 games since Bobby Jones went 12-7 in his age-24 season in 1994, Kennedy was losing last night at Triple-A. The starting center-fielder behind him was Melky Cabrera, who hit so poorly this season that Johnny Damon was in center in Toronto on Tuesday night to mess up a game. Cabrera was flanked by Shelley Duncan, who was supposed to supply righty pop for the Yanks this season. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is where a lot of 2008 Yankee dreams have gone to die this season.
Robinson Cano isn't a batting champ as projected. He is a disappointment. The four young starters the Yanks were most counting upon this year - Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Jeff Marquez and Alan Horne - have tanked so badly physically and via performance that Carl Pavano likely will start a critical game Saturday. Hughes, Kennedy, Marquez and Cabrera were among the players the Yanks did not want to part with when they were first in line to obtain Johan Santana.
That enabled the Mets to sneak in and land him despite not giving up Pelfrey. Nick Evans has joined Murphy in a left-field platoon bringing not only production, but energy. And for the record, both David Wright and Jose Reyes are younger than Cano, and Wright is definitely an MVP candidate, and Reyes will probably be part of the discussion, as well.
When it comes to Kennedy and Hughes, the Yanks should actually take encouragement from Pelfrey. He was dreadful the past two seasons, including beginning 0-7 last year. He was not even sure to make the rotation this year. But he has grown up before our eyes, throwing that overpowering sinker with such conviction and success that Jerry Manuel said, "Mike has evolved into one of the bright young pitching stars of the National League."
Though Murphy has played in just 19 games - and reached safely in 18 of them with a .491 on-base percentage - his disciplined batting eye and willingness to drive the ball with authority to left field strongly imply that he is going to be a successful hitter. "Remarkable," Carlos Delgado called Murphy's advanced approach for someone so young. "You can't teach what he already can do."
Murphy appeared on no Top-100 - or even Top 300 - prospect lists before the season and Pelfrey - not Hughes or Kennedy - seemed the pitcher most likely to end up back at Triple-A. But here they both are playing major roles on a first-place team. The Yankee system got the praise, yet the Mets had enough pieces not only to land Santana, but to sprinkle their roster with youngsters thriving in late August.
There are thirtysomething games left in the season, and the Mets are winning the battle of New York because - surprisingly - their twentysomethings have been more impressive.