By Brad Carroll
This week's Sunday Five looks at the amazing turn of events the New York Mets have undergone over the last two-plus weeks, the meaning, or lack there of, when it comes to NFL preseason, the New York Yankees making a statement to the streaking Toronto Blue Jays, the unbelievable amount of young stars the Chicago Cubs have across the diamond and how Philip Rivers' new deal with the San Diego Chargers effects the New York Giants and New York Jets.
ONE: The Amazing Mets
On July 30 the New York Mets suffered what was thought to be a season-killing defeat. Leading 7-5 in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres, closer Jeurys Familia got two quick outs before a torrential downpour forced the game into a rain delay. When the game resumed 44 minutes later, Familia got within one strike of ending the game with Derrick Norris at the plate. But Norris singled and Matt Kemp followed with another base hit before Justin Upton delivered what could have been a death blow to the Mets' postseason chances, hitting a three-run home run. The Mets had to sit through another rain delay heading to the bottom of the ninth before going down quietly to lose a gut-wrenching game. That could have ended the Mets season right there. But a little over two weeks later and not only are the Mets still alive, they are in control of the NL East. The Mets answered that devastating loss with a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals. They then swept three more from the Miami Marlins. After losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Mets swept a four-game series with the Colorado Rockies. The team's winning ways have stalled after losing a pair of games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, including a tough, 14-inning defeat Saturday night, but if any team can bounce back from a tough loss, it's this Mets squad. Even with those two losses, the Mets are on an 11-4 run and have put plenty of distance between them and the second-place Nationals. Things should get better in the coming days as well, with nine total games against the Baltimore Orioles, Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies. All are on the road, but the Mets should feast on that schedule, especially the final seven against Colorado and Philadelphia.
TWO: Preseason's Just Preseason
Preseason NFL games mean absolutely nothing, but watching both the New York Jets and New York Giants play their openers was completely depressing. The Jets defense, which was supposed to be much improved from a year ago, was gashed by the Detroit Lions, in particular former Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who has shot up fantasy football draft boards. The Giants offense, which has one of the best wide receiver groups in the league, struggled to get anything going, collecting just 38 yards and one first down in four series. The starters played into the second quarter, which is sure sign Tom Coughlin wasn't happy with the effort. But, again, preseason doesn't mean anything. Until it does, of course.
THREE: Yankees Make A Statement
The Yankees won the two biggest games of their season Friday and Saturday, topping the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays and reclaiming first place in the AL East. A sweep would be great, but winning at least two of three is exactly what the Yankees needed, especially after getting swept at home by the Blue Jays last weekend. Carlos Beltran has rediscovered his past form at the plate, at the perfect time, and Masahiro Tanaka excelled in the most important start of his Yankees career, with a complete game victory Saturday afternoon. Winning Sunday would be great, but the Yankees have already made a statement they aren't going to lay down for the Blue Jays.
FOUR: Cubs Have Young Stars Everywhere
They might not have the best team in baseball, but the Chicago Cubs sure do have the most talented, young roster in the game. Just look at the young stars the team has across the diamond: Anthony Rizzo (26 years old) at first, Addison Russell (21) at shortstop, Kris Bryant (23) at third base, Kyle Schwarber (22) in left field and Jorge Soler (23) in right field. That's an unbelievable amount of young stars and should have the Cubs in contention for years to come. In fact, with those players, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Cubs finally won another World Series, their first since 1908. They currently have the fourth best record in all of baseball, and yet still reside in third place in the NL Central. What a division that is, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates holding the first and third best record in the majors, respectively. The Kansas City Royals, if you were wondering, have the second best record. But nobody has the wealth of young talent the Cubs currently have.
FIVE: Rivers Gets Deal Done, Eli Should Follow
With Philip Rivers signing a four-year contract extension with the San Diego Chargers, for a reported $84 million, with $65 million guaranteed, it helps the Giants and Manning get closer to an extension for the two-time Super Bowl champion. With Rivers joining Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roesthlisberger in getting new deals, Manning is the only one from the vaunted draft class left without a big pay day. But he'll get his, now sooner rather than later. The Rivers deal also means he won't ever reach the free agent market, continuing the well-known trend of star quarterbacks never becoming available unless something drastic happens (Peyton Manning's neck injury and the ability to draft Andrew Luck being the one instance where a star did become available.) That, of course, is bad news for the Jets, who are still searching for a franchise quarterback to call their own.