Mets should chew things over before trying another bite of baseball's Big Apple

December 02, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

WHENEVER I see the New York Mets make another bold attempt to one-up the Yankees, I'm reminded of one of those funny signs you see on the bulletin board at the office.

"You don't have to be crazy to work here ... but it sure helps."

The Mets reportedly have offered free-agent pitcher Pedro Martinez a three-year deal worth $37.5 million with a vesting option that could make the contract worth $50 million through 2008.

That's a lot of money for a guy whose ERA nearly doubled from 2003 to 2004, a guy whose hits-to-innings ratio has risen drastically while his strikeout-to-innings ratio has moved subtly in the other direction.

Don't misunderstand, Martinez still is a great pitcher, but the Mets are in danger of spending a big chunk of their payroll for his past instead of their future. Didn't they learn anything from Tom Glavine, who brought his lofty credentials to New York two years ago and is a combined 20-28 in the first two years of his big three-year deal?

It might make sense if the Mets were one player away from a serious run at the National League pennant, but they finished 20 games under .500 and 25 games behind the Braves in the NL East last year.

Of course, in the caldron of baseball fanaticism that is New York, it's not just about the standings. It's a constant battle for the heart of the city - a battle the Mets are not likely to win by outbidding the Yankees.

New Army coach Bobby Ross has made some strides at West Point, and a victory over Navy on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia would be a nice way to punctuate his first season. So why is he downplaying the importance of a victory in what traditionally is the biggest game of the year for both academies?

"It would be a building block," Ross said this week, "but it would only make us 3-8. It would be another step. We're climbing a mountain and we're going slowly, but it would be another big step and a nice step toward getting there."

That may be true, but I hope he can come up with something slightly more enthusiastic than that for his pre-game pep talk.

The Cadets apparently will have their top rusher back for the game. Carlton Jones, who suffered a groin strain against Alabama-Birmingham on Nov. 20, said he will be 100 percent on Saturday.

Jones has rushed for 1,171 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. He needs 167 yards against Navy to break Mike Mayweather's single-season Army record, set in 1990.

Desperately looking for a bright side after watching Maryland's 12th-ranked men's basketball team suffer their first loss of the season, at Wisconsin?

The Terps played poorly. They turned the ball over repeatedly. They didn't even remotely resemble the team that dominated then-25th-ranked Memphis a few days earlier. And they still had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds in a hostile arena where the Badgers have won 31 straight games.

I feel better now. Don't you?

If you're a fan of the '70s comedy Animal House, you might remember a moment in the movie when one of the characters responds to a seemingly hopeless situation with this call to arms:

"What we need now is a completely futile gesture!"

That's what popped into my mind when I heard The Palace of Auburn Hills had banned two of the fans involved in the notorious basketbrawl two weeks ago. John Green, the alleged cup thrower, and Charlie Haddad have been informed they are no longer welcome at the Palace or another venue owned by the same company.

Now, all you have to do is give every security guard and ticket-taker at each facility photographs of the two nondescript fans and tell them to keep an eye out for them ... forever.

That ought to do the trick.

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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