Lighting Rod

Samori Benjamin

K’Rod’s exuberant style, will fit right in, onto a Mets team whose flamboyant nature has garnered hate from division foes.

The Mets now sign closer Francisco Rodriquez to a $37 million deal over three seasons so he can finish what the Mets could not a season ago.  When they blew 29 saves and surrendered 61 homeruns after the 7th inning.  Then found themselves one game out of a playoff spot when the final team crossed the finish line of the 162 game marathon.  This after they had the worse mid-September collapse in baseball history in 2007.  Rodriquez last season set a new saves record with 62 while pitching for the Anaheim Angels.  No question the Mets filled their biggest off-season need, not only by landing Rodriquez, but also by trading for Seattle closer J.J. Putz, who saved 76 games between 2006 and 2007, before he missed a lot of last season with rib and elbow injuries.  Putz will setup for Rodriquez, and the Mets hope this flame throwing duo can give the Mets the best late game bullpen in the sport since John Wetteland and Mariano Rivera in 1996. 

Rodriquez, who has the nickname “K-Rod” because of his strikeout prowess, adds a lot to the Mets and upgrades the talent level, but Rodriquez sure brings another quality that will keep the fuel burning between them and their national league east division rivals.   

In 2006 the New York Mets had themselves a great season.  They ran away with the division from the start of the season and did not look back.  Everything came together for a team who had tremendous talent sprinkled throughout the lineup.  They danced and celebrated through every win all season long.  Jose Reyes carried on with teammates inside and outside of the Mets dugout whenever he or a teammate did something special.  It seemed as if the shortstop with the innocent mega mega-watt smile had a different handshake for each teammate.  We looked at the surface of it and saw a team mixed with youth and veterans, and we thought all the theatrics the Mets exhibited on the field was good for team chemistry and represented a team united. 

We took a look cross-town at the boys in the Bronx and saw them mired in their annual mid-season struggles, a team filled with veterans who had been together for awhile without accomplishing the World Series goal.  The Yankees businesslike approach looked unenthusiastic and stiff, in a going through the motions type of way.  They were hardly as outgoing as their 2006 counterparts over in Queens, and some of us used this as insight into where both teams were headed.  Then we saw the Yankees go out listlessly in the first round to the Detroit Tigers.  Unfortunately for the Mets, they were upset in the National league championship series against St. Louis and failed to make the World Series.  The Mets failed to back up all the dancing they did at the feet of their opponents all season long.  The only thing they accomplished that season was bad will directed at them from the rest of their division.  Baseball is a game where too much outward emotion and chest boasting gets frowned upon. A sport where the old-timers insist, back in the day, a batter would've had a pitch thrown towards his neck had he or his teammates conducted themselves in such an animated manner.

Since last season there were rumors that the other teams in the national league east had a genuine dislike for the Mets in between the white lines.  All because teams became annoyed by the Mets exploits on the field, and they all had their noses rubbed in it when the Mets were Kings of the division and steamrolling through everybody.  After the Philadelphia Phillies won the world series this past October shortstop Jimmy Rollins noted to reporters that he believed a big reason for the Mets September collapse the last two seasons had to do with the fact that other teams in the N.L. East gave it their all against the Mets, even though they themselves had nothing to play for, because they had a dislike for the Mets resulting from all their on field shenanigans over the years. 

Now the Mets bring in Rodriquez.  A man who has no problem letting loose of his emotions in mound.  After every strikeout he emotionally pumps his fists on the mound and shouts from his mouth.  After each save the Venezuelan righty wails his arms emotionally towards the air with his head looking up at the sky as if he’s taking part in some sort of ritual ceremony towards the ancestors.  Rodriquez even found himself in tension last season after opposing teams took offense to his animated and style, and words were exchanged.  Rodriquez now becomes another member of the Mets who will draw haters to the new house of citi field, in the opposing dugout, come April 2009.  His extroverted style will add more fuel to the fire of hate that burns in the belly of the Mets division rivals.  It won’t hurt any that Rodriquez has already gone on record that the Mets will win the national league east division in 2009.  How many more days until pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie?

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