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Big League Stew

Jailed in Egypt since June, freed New Yorker told Mets won Series

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Imagine being Ilan Grapel, an Israeli-American law student from Queens, N.Y., and you've just been released from jail in Egypt after spending 4 1/2 months locked up on bogus spying charges. You're not even free 24 hours, standing at a press conference in Tel Aviv, being flanked by your mother and a U.S. congressman who helped broker the incredibly complicated prisoner swap that sprung you from what must have been hell on Earth. And then Rep. Gary Ackerman tells the media (via the New York Post) about the really big news that happened since you were taken into custody June 12:

"We told him the Mets won the World Series," Ackerman said.

Oh, come on. The guy was in jail for 4 1/2 months — not 4 1/2 years. In picking the New York Mets, Ackerman went with the one team that was even more unlikely to win the World Series than the St. Louis Cardinals. Why don't you throw in a six-year contract extension for Jose Reyes while you're at it, Ackerman? {YSP:MORE}

Grapel, a sports fan, shot Ackerman a big smile — only to quickly feel the let-down most Mets fans are all too familiar with when he quickly figured out that the team had tanked — again.

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The Post reports that Grapel was in Egypt working for a legal-aid group in the wake of the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak back in February. A (presumably) Jewish man, holding a dual U.S./Israel passport, and who speaks fluent Arabic, he apparently got caught up in an atmosphere of chaos and deep distrust. You know, like the Mets front office.

On the day Grapel was arrested, the team was closer to being forfeited by the Wilpons than they were to winning the World Series. The Mets had a record of 32-33 after Chris Capuano and friends shut out the Pirates 7-0. Although the Mets managed to get four games over .500 in late July, bless 'em, they never contended for the playoffs, much less won them. They finished with a record of 77-85, a full 25 games out in the NL East, and 13 behind in the wild card standings. They were eliminated Sept. 14, with two weeks to spare in the regular season.

As practical jokes go, Ackerman's gag was closer to the evil column written in the Orange County Register about all of the great sports moments Jayce Dugard missed while in captivity than it was to, say, the unforgettably awesome time when the Phillies traded Kyle Kendrick to Japan. What must have gone through Grapel's mind after being told the Mets won? How could they have done it?

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• Johan Santana must have gotten healthy. Instead, he spent the whole season starting and stopping rehab assignments.

• Reyes (above on the left) wouldn't have missed 30-some games with injuries.

• David Wright (above on the right) would have played in more than 102 games.

• Jason Bay's bruised brain must have recovered quickly, so he could have been the guy the Mets thought they were getting all along.

• Mike Pelfrey and Jonathon Niese needed to pitch closer to bloated expectations.

• Sandy Alderson must have made seven or eight big trades!

• Several unknowable bad things must have befallen the other contenders.

But, if the Mets could have won, say, three more games from the Atlanta Braves, plus two more apiece from the Cardinals, the Giants, the Nationals and Marlins, it would have gotten them to 88 victories — enough to get into a one-game playoff with St. Louis. And, as the Cardinals showed from there, who knows?

But the Mets? Winning the World Series? That's a hot one!

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