Sam Donnellon | Best bet is rooting for other teams to fail

Posted: June 11, 2007

THERE'S JUST one option left when watching your

favorite baseball team becomes akin to watching a child run with his shoelaces tied together.

Root for the teams ahead of you to screw up, too.

Yeah, all of them.

With six National League teams above the Phillies' .508 winning percentage, this too would seem an exercise in futility. Whoever heard of leapfrogging so many teams?

The San Diego Padres of 2006, that's who.

Or the Houston Astros of 2005.

After the games of June 10 last year, the Padres stood two games over .500. St. Louis was

11 games over .500. Cincinnati (yeah, Cincinnati) was 10 games over .500, and four other teams had better records than San

Diego. Tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers with 88 wins at the end of last season, the Padres were officially the division winner based on tiebreakers.

The Astros of 2005 were 11 games under .500 after the games of June 10. They won the wild card with 89 victories.

It's funny how Bud Selig's new baseball works. Just a couple of weeks ago it seemed the only chance your team would have of making the postseason would be through the wild card. Now it looks to be the more difficult road. Of the National League's four best team earned run averages, three belong to the Padres, Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. And their records reflect that.

The other belongs to the Mets. Maybe last week's sweep at Shea was a mirage, but it would now seem that the veteran Mets are the weakest link here, the best route to the postseason. They are old. They are banged up. And it is early June.

While Shawn Green is expected to return today from the disabled list to help their depleted outfield, Carlos Beltran is not Carlos Beltran, his legs and bat hampered by a painful quad pull. Moises Alou, out since May 13 with hamstring problems, was supposed to return to action over the weekend in Detroit. He was instead sent for more tests yesterday.

Like the Phillies, the Mets were beaten by a football score Sunday, their ancient lefthander, Tom Glavine bludgeoned like a "Sopranos" character by the

defending American League champion Detroit Tigers, 15-7.

Getting from the starters to Billy Wagner has become problematic lately. Without the run support its lineup supplies when healthy, New York's relievers have been exposed and sometimes beaten up. And like the Phillies with Jamie Moyer and Jon Lieber, the Mets are leaning heavily on the elderly arms of the 41-year-old Glavine and

Orlando Hernandez, who has been 37 years old, it seems, for the last decade.

Anyway, the Mets led the

Phillies by 5 1/2 games at this

juncture last season, then were 9 1/2 games ahead a week later,

after six straight Phillies losses, five at home. When June ended, the Mets were up by 11 games, and they put it away with a 16-9 July and a 19-9 August.

The Phillies were 9-18 in June. They are 6-4 so far, with their next six games at home. Despite what you just saw in Kansas City, despite injuries to Tom Gordon, Ryan Howard, Brett Myers, and now Freddy Garcia, they are 18-12 since May 8, and have shown a refreshing and much-needed ability to come from


Their rivals have some flaws. The Dodgers are so devoid of power that Derek Lowe pitched a four-hitter against Toronto on Saturday and lost, 1-0. It was Lowe's third complete game of the season. All have been losses.

The Padres, who had baseball's best bullpen for the first 2 months of the season, blew two late leads over the weekend to Seattle, including a 5-1 lead on Saturday.

So no gnashing of teeth, OK? Not yet anyway. If we've learned anything over the last few years, it is that playing as if your shoes are tied together is not enough to get you eliminated from this tournament. At least, not until you get closer to the finish line. *

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