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Morning Briefing

Vote for Pedro? Not in New York

October 03, 2006|Mike Penner | Times Staff Writer

"Met Fans, It's Not As Bad As It Seems," read the headline in Friday's New York Post.

"Mr. Irrelevant 2006: Pedro," read a Newsday headline a day later.

The topic was the season-ending calf injury to New York Mets starting pitcher Pedro Martinez. The thrust was how the Mets could weather the loss of their No. 1 starter in a postseason that begins Wednesday against the Dodgers.

"The Mets survived just fine during the regular season as Pedro Martinez spent more than two months on the disabled list with hip and calf injuries," Newsday's David Lennon wrote. "They even added to their division lead in his absence."

In the Post, Mike Vaccaro took the theme and the cause further, writing, "Look, there isn't a Mets fan alive who wouldn't feel better if they had a vintage Pedro Martinez ready to pitch the playoffs. There isn't a fan of baseball anywhere in this city who wouldn't prefer that, in truth, because when he's on, when he's right, that's about as good as New York baseball has been the past couple of years.

"But we haven't seen that Pedro in a long time, maybe not since his epic scoreless duel with Arizona's Brandon Webb on May 31. We've seen flashes of it. But, really, ever since he went back to Boston and was blitzed by his former mates on June 28, flashes is all we've gotten. And flashes is all we would've gotten, if we're being honest with ourselves."

Perhaps. But in a best-of-five series, wouldn't a single flash of old Pedro be worth more than the long, slow burn of Orlando Hernandez, who turns 37 next week, or Steve Trachsel, whose ERA nearly turned 5.00 before the end of the regular season?

Road to nowhere

Is this NL playoff field of the Dodgers, Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres the worst since Major League Baseball expanded to four playoff teams per league in 1995?

Worth considering:

* Only one NL team, the Mets, finished the regular season with more than 88 victories. And the Mets start the playoffs with Martinez on the disabled list and Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Cliff Floyd hampered by injuries.

* The Cardinals barely finished the regular season at all, losing nine of their last 12 games, with ace starter Chris Carpenter yielding 12 runs in his last two starts.

* The Padres were swept in their two most recent postseason series -- last year's division series against the Cardinals and the 1998 World Series against the New York Yankees.

* The Dodgers have won one postseason game since 1988. Other than Derek Lowe, they have no starting pitcher with an ERA lower than 4.20. And their Game 2 starter will be a rookie with a 1-5 record.

Then again, perhaps none of this matters. The National League last won a World Series game in 2003, a sentence that easily could be written again next October.

Trivia time

Who was the most valuable player of the 1988 National League championship series between the Dodgers and the Mets?

Dusty's road

As several readers e-mailed to point out, Dusty Baker ranks among former Dodgers players to have managed a team to the World Series. Eight ex-Dodgers won World Series titles as managers; nine, including Baker, managed pennant winners.

Baker's San Francisco Giants won the pennant in 2002. He might have had another in 2003, but Steve Bartman's hand got in the way, and he'll have to change addresses before he wins another. After four seasons, Baker was fired by the Chicago Cubs on Monday.

Trivia answer

Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser was named MVP of the 1988 NLCS after recording a victory and a save with a 1.09 ERA while throwing a league championship series-record 24 2/3 innings in four appearances.

And finally

Readying for another big series in another stick-and-ball sport, English cricket player Monty Panesar discussed with BBC Sport the abuse he expected from Australian fans during a coming Ashes cricket series.

"I have prepared for the worst-case scenario," he said, "but it could be even worse than that."

mike.penner@latimes.com

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