Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Quick Complaint Before Opening Night

So the "Baseball Gods" are playing yet another joke on me.

Ambiorix Burgos has made the ballclub, with Chan Ho Park having been sent down to the minor leagues.

I'm not mad because Burgos has a 7.16 ERA this spring and he's on the ball club. Oh no. Chan Ho Park would have been a fish out of water in the bullpen, and he's better served starting in New Orleans for a few weeks in preparation for his inevitable entry into the rotation when (yes, when) Orlando Hernandez gets hurt.

You know what gets me though?

I'm going to have to spell "AMBIORIX" all season.


But like it or not, he's here to stay. Ambiorix "Blue Wave" Burgos. A test of my typing dexterity, night in and night out. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Your 2007 N.L. East Preview: New York Mets

You know, I didn't plan this out very well.

Everything I would probably say in this space I've already said here, here, here, and here. Now what am I going to talk about for five odd paragraphs or 400 words in this Mets preview?

No wonder I wasn't included in that Sports Illustrated's because your blogger is a moron!!!

You know, I was in Philadelphia last year and...

All right, seriously. Let's summarize. When you're in New York, everything is magnified...including and especially your flaws. So the Mets rotation is a famous flaw that I don't believe will be in play as much as others do. But every team in the National League is flawed. The Braves lack lineup depth. The Phillies lack a bullpen. The Marlins lack experience, and the Nationals lack a starting rotation. So everyone is flawed. The Mets though have more makeup to cover up their flaws than any other team in the division. So while the Nationals come into 2007 lookin' like a hockey player, the Mets can make themselves look like a hockey player's girlfriend.

Somebody commented on this site not long ago (I can't remember when or where, and I think it was one of those anonymous characters), and allow me to paraphrase but it went something like "Metstradamus is going to come on here before the 2007 season and predict that the Mets are going to win the division, but so what! It's the rest of the league that has improved and it's what you do in the playoffs that count" (and then he spewed some stuff about free range chicken, the Geneva convention and Kelly Clarkson...if I remember correctly).

Well with apologies to Steve Martin, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse meeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Yeah I am predicting them to win the division. But there's no "so what" involved here. To hear the majority of the baseball community tell it, the Mets don't get the benefit of the doubt known as "they're the champs until somebody beats them". Just as many people are picking Atlanta and Philadelphia (Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips, and John Kruk, for example) than there are picking the Mets (Ken Rosenthal on the Joe Beningo and the Other Guy Midday show). So you can't have it both ways.

(Oh, about the rest of the league: if we have to worry about them in October, then that means that there will actually be baseball in October so I'll worry about them then, thanks. And let's get something straight: the Giants are old, the Cardinals have Braden Looper starting, and for all the Soriano hype floating around, the best pitcher the Cubs signed this off-season is Jeff Samardzija. So I'll worry about the Dodgers later.)

This is going to be an interesting season. Obviously, the Mets are going to have to get through the first 50 games without Guillermo Mota and see where they are. In fact, the first nine games are going to tell a lot about where this team is headed with games against the Cardinals, Braves, and Phillies. I can't wait to see the jarring change in fans as we're going from ho-humming our way through another spring training to starting the season against the three most hated rivals of the distant past, recent past, and present. Why not just schedule the Yankees on April 12th so we can all check into the hospital for mental exhaustion two weeks into the season?

But it's going to be a horse race this season, and not Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes like 2006 was...more like Empire Maker winning in 2003 and getting booed for ending Funny Cide's run to the triple crown. It truly is different to be the hunted and not the hunter. We'll find that out early this season. But even if ailing troops like Filthy and Pedro never get healthy (which I'm not counting on), the Mets should have enough hitting and pitching (yes, pitching) to pull away down the homestretch and have a comfortable lead in September to win their second division in a row.

Then the fun will truly begin.

Prediction: First place, 91-71

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Your 2007 N.L. East Preview: Atlanta Braves

They say that teams like the Atlanta Braves don't rebuild, they reload. Well, John Schuerholz had to do a lot of rebuilding for the 2007 season. But they also did some reloading as well.

It all means that it's time to ratchet up the hate machine again.

I'm doing my best to try to suppress these feelings about the Braves being competitive. But that would be as unhealthy as my general eating habits (as I wolf down some salt & vinegar potato chips and a Coke Zero). Let's face it: I can't go around spewing about how it's the bullpen that wins ballgames and then turn around and say that the Braves are going to suck moose appendages. Bob Wickman, Rafael Soriano (great f'n trade Bill Bavasi!), and Mike Gonzalez represent a huge upgrade from how the Braves started 2006. Those three join lefties Oscar Villareal (9-1 in 2006) and Macay McBride (4-1 in 2006) to form a very good unit. The questions lie in former Met Tyler Yates and former Yankee Tanyon Sturtze, but when everybody's favorite school system expert Mike Hampton comes back from injury, Lance Cormier will probably join the 'pen and strengthen it.

The rest of the rotation will feature Tim Hudson (who single handedly ruined my fantasy team last year ,but is having a good spring), Chuck James (who will single handedly ruin my fantasy team this year, but is also having a good spring), Kyle Davies (who battles inconsistency), Mark Redman (who battles being with crappy teams like the Royals), and of course John Smoltz who doesn't want to retire anytime soon. When Hampton comes back (and if Hampton can return to his peak form), the starting pitching is deep and serviceable.

The highlights of the lineup will lie in Andruw Jones and his contract year, Edgar Renteria...who is happy to be out of the American League once and for all, and the newly minted Brian McCann...a .300 hitting lefty catcher who just signed a huge contract at the age of 23. You can put Jeff Francoeur on that list too, but he strikes out an awful lot, and walking seems to be a concept foreign to him (his OBP was a paltry .293 last season). By the way, Francoeur's middle name is Braden. Just thought you should know.

Remember Larry Jones? Sure you do. He battled nagging injuries last season, and appears to be doing the same this spring. If they continue, he'll be relegated to less of a factor than he usually is...although he will get his quota of big hits against the Mets. You can be sure about that. Kelly Johnson is learning a new position at second base, Ryan Langerhans could platoon with Matt Diaz in left, and former Yankee Craig Wilson will platoon at first base with second year player Scott Thorman.

If Andruw Jones fulfills his expectations for a contract year, and if Tim Hudson bounces back, the Braves are going to be serious contenders. For me though, the mediocrities of their starting pitching and the relative lack of firepower in their lineup (along with the uncertainty of whether they can go out and get a big ticket item at the trade deadline with the transference of ownership from Ted Turner to Liberty Media) will keep them from reclaiming the throne they feel is rightfully theirs. But that isn't going to stop those incessant chops and chants from coming out of the deep south. Buy your earplugs, boys and girls.

I'll miss Captain Planet.

Prediction: Second place, 86-76

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Your 2007 N.L. East Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Memo to Jimmy Rollins: Print this post.

Because maybe if it's on paper, it'll read that you're the favorites to win the division.

The Phillies are the chic, trendy pick to win the N.L. East this season. Now when I think chic and trendy, I don't think of a guy eating a cheesesteak from Tony Luke's with Cheez Wiz dripping down the corner of his mouth to his chin, finally settling on the second "L" on his Aaron Rowand "Phillies" jersey. But yes, picking the Phillies have become as trendy as chai tea and half caf lattes at Starbucks.

It probably has to do with America's love affair with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. It's merited. Chase Utley had a hitting streak of 35 games last season (snapped by the Mets in early August), and hit .309 in the three hole last season. Howard? He's a beast. Batting average: .313...OBP: .425...58 HR's and 149 RBI's are just monstrous numbers.


Jimmy Rollins, unfortunately for Mets fans, has the talent to match his bravado, hitting a decent .277 from the leadoff spot, with 25 HR's. The starting pitching is plentiful in Philadelphia, as there are six decent starters to choose from (a problem the Mets wish they had). And Aaron Rowand provides a heart and soul guy not seen in Philly since the days of Lenny Dykstra (yeah, that Lenny Dykstra).

But I'm about to lay the smack down as to why the Philadelphia Phillies will not only not win the division, but why they aren't even going to contend for the wild top 10 reasons why the Phillies will come up empty:

  1. The Bullpen: They got away with one last year. By all rights and purposes, Tom Gordon should have been reduced to fossil status last season. By the end of the year, he almost was...check out his ERA by month: 0.84, 2.19, 2.70, 4.63, 9.64 (in 4.2 August innings), and 3.60 in September. WHIP: 0.84, 1.05, 1.10, 1.63, 1.50, and 1.60. Batting average against: .114, .213, .229, .288, .263, .282. And outside of Ryan Madson, the names that Charlie Manuel has to choose from for middle relief don't exactly strike fear in my heart. Antonio Alfonseca? Holy extra digit, Batman! And do you realize that at press time, Matt Smith is the only lefthander in the Phils' pen?

  2. The Starters: Let's not make these guys out to be the Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, and Avery of their time. Cole Hamels is studly, but may very well have a sophomore jinx tagged on him (I doubt it...but it is a possibility). The Met hating Brett Myers is good as long as he hits the strike zone as well as he hits his...(come on, you know where I'm going with that, right?) Freddy Garcia was a good pickup, but is he going to keep the ball in the yard (little known fact: Citizens Bank Park is the size of your average suburban backyard)? Is he going to stay healthy? Is his fastball ever going to rise above 85 mph? And how come we have to hear Julio Franco jokes from the peanut gallery known as the national baseball media, yet Jamie Moyer is simply known as crafty? He's old! Not quite as useless as Julio on the field, but almost as old. Adam Eaton, mark my words, will turn out to be the biggest waste of free agent dollars in the 2007 season. It's going to haunt the Phillies if this is the guy that causes Jon Lieber to be traded somewhere.

  3. Pat Burrell: Burrell's numbers aren't bad as a whole (25HR's, 95 RBI's). But his .258 average and 131 K's are not what you want protecting Ryan Howard. You want more damning stats? RISP in 2006: .222 in 153 AB's. RISP with two outs: .167 in 78 at bats. Bases loaded: .240 with 17 RBI's in 25 at bats. These numbers are bound to hover around that area or worse considering that the Phillies have been trying to trade him all winter...and that the Phillies "faithful" have made Burrell their official whipping boy, as detailed by me here.

  4. Charlie Manuel: Look at the managers in the National League east for a second. You have Manny Acta in Washington, Fredi Gonzalez in Florida, Bobby Cox in Atlanta, Willie Randolph here in New York, and Manuel. If you had to pick one manager to potentially have rumors of an in-season firing surrounding him who would you pick? Who would you pick if you had to lay $100 bucks on it? Acta? With the lack of talent surrounding him that would be cruel. Gonzalez? Would there be a worse P.R. move than firing Gonzalez after letting go of Joe Girardi? Cox? He's been in Atlanta since the civil think he's going anywhere at this point? Randolph? We're talking about the Wilpons here, even Art Howe got one year longer than he should think they're going to develop a short fuse all of a sudden with Willie? Guess who that leaves...

  5. Wes Helms: If you put the Mets and Phillies infields side by side, you could make the argument that Howard, Utley, and Rollins cancel out the Mets trio of David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado. That leaves Wes Helms vs. Jose Valentin. That's a tough call, but considering that Valentin provides power to the lowest power position on the board, and that Wes Helms, who's never had more than 274 AB's in a season, I gotta say that Wes Helms has some proving to do. He hit .329 last year in 240 AB's, but also had 55 K's which would translate to about 120, 130 K's through a full season. Do you want Wes Helms in the same lineup with Pat Burrell?

  6. 10,000: This team is headed towards a distinction known by no other franchise in professional sports history. They are 43 victories away from 10,000 losses in their history. Think about's mind boggling! The San Francisco Giants, who have been playing baseball just as long as the Phillies, have a total of 8,702 losses. That's almost 1,300 less losses than Philadelphia. If the Phillies languish around .500, you don't think that 10,000 is going to hang over them like a scarlet number? (By the way, if the Phils start out 39-42, loss number 10,000 could come against the Mets on July 1st, Sunday night, on national television.

  7. Karim Garcia: Come on. You expect me to take a team that has Karim Garcia on it seriously? Really? The Latino Bambino? Enemy of pizza delivery men everywhere? I frankly don't care if he makes the team or not. His aura already wafts through the city like that smell that hit NYC back in January.

  8. Adam Eaton: I know I mentioned him way back in reason number two, but allow me to reiterate: This signing was so bad, it deserved it's own write-up. Adam Eaton got $24.5 million over three years for going 18-9 with a 4.55 ERA in 193 and 2/3's innings. Sound reasonable? Those were composite stats over the last two seasons. When Kris Benson got his "overpriced" contract, he at least pitched 200 innings in one season. And one more thing that may or may not have anything to do with anything, but Adam Eaton once landed on the disabled list...for stabbing himself in the stomach.

  9. Pat Gillick: Genius my ass. His big plan was to trade Bobby Abreu to the Yankees for nothing, but have all this salary to improve the team. His big purchase with that extra money: Adam Eaton. And now, he's going to have to figure out what to do with Aaron Rowand. With trade rumors swirling around him, Gillick is going to have to hit a home run in dealing him. Does he get bullpen help? Does he get another starting outfielder back? Does Jon Lieber get traded for bullpen help? Is there any chance that Braden Looper can be returned to the Phillies in that deal so that he can log important innings for the Phils (insert evil laugh)?

  10. John Kruk: He isn't going to make a throw, field a grounder, hit a double, or even put on a uniform (praise Buddha) for the team that he once starred for this season. But you know what he will do? Piss me off without fail. What that has to do with the Phillies finishing out of the money in 2007? I don't know. But John Kruk was a Phillie, he pisses me off, and he's already predicted the Phillies would win the division. I don't know how, but he will cause the Phillies demise...someway, somehow. This might be a good start:

Prediction: Third place, 82-80

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Your 2007 N.L. East Preview: Florida Marlins

Some of the greatest lies told in history:
  1. "The check is in the mail."
  2. "I'll respect you in the morning."
  3. "I knew the Marlins would be good last year."

No, it's not. No, you aren't. And didn't.

The Marlins were the most surprising story of 2006 after "Fire Sale II: Electric Boogaloo" that previous winter. Who dared to give the Marlins a chance to hang around the .500 mark one season after unloading the likes of Josh Beckett, Luis Castillo, Juan Pierre, and two players who were major Mets contributors in Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca.

But every break that the Marlins could have gotten in terms of the development of young players, they got. Hanley Ramirez was the Rookie of the Year without leading the rookies in his own team in HR's and RBI...that honor went to middle infield partner Dan "Rule Five" Uggla. Josh Willingham went .277/26/74 in his first full season. Mike Jacobs overcame a lousy first two months and an injury riddled last two months to hit .262 with 20 HR's (shows you how good those middle two months were). Anibal Sanchez went 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA and a no-hitter to his credit (that's four no-hitters for the Marlins in their history, none for the Mets...just thought I'd throw that out there). Scott Olsen went 12-10 with a 4.04 ERA and almost killed Miguel Cabrera.

The Marlins' rookies were so good that the one rookie I thought would shine probably had the tamest season of them all.

The Marlins shored up their bullpen today by trading prospect Yusmeiro Petit for Julio Jorge (no,'s Jorge Julio) , who will be their closer. (It always scares me when former Mets are traded for each other...when another circle of life closes like that, the ramifications for Mets personnel and fans alike can't be good.) Sure, Julio was ineffective in New York, but he's a more seasoned option than Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom (see, more former Mets involved...very scary), who were the leading candidates to close before the trade. It improves the club, but it does so in a small market kind of way, as part of Julio's charm for Florida was his relative inexpensiveness, as they were also looking towards trading for Armando Benitez (that makes five former Mets used in context regarding another team in one paragraph. I think I just opened up a porthole to an evil alternate universe.)

The Marlins' surprise season made them the odds on "trendy pick" to win in 2007 until the Phillies got hot over the last two months of the season. The big "if", however, is what will happen to this team because of the ouster of Joe Girardi in favor of...well, technically Fredi Gonzalez, but to be real: Joe Girardi was let go in favor of "Not Joe Girardi". Girardi's rules and structure (and general "hard assness") kept a young team together through the end in the wild card race. Can Fredi Gonzalez do the same thing? Well, most managers would be silly to try to be his predecessor. It would also be silly to try too hard to be the "polar opposite" of his predecessor, and I wonder if that's what Gonzalez is going to try to do subconsciously to try to please his owner, Jeffrey Loria ("Sure Mr. Loria, go ahead and yell at the umpires for me...after all, it's your team!")

And don't count out Fire Sale III: Through The Olive Trees as long as Dontrelle Willis continues to be followed by rumors. But even after Willis' brush with the law this offseason, don't be surprised if it's Miguel Cabrera and not Dontrelle that finds a bus ticket out of town under his pillow one July evening.

Prediction: Fourth place, 75-87

Monday, March 26, 2007

Your 2007 N.L. East Preview: Washington Nationals

Poor Manny Acta.

Oh, I mean, what a lucky guy that Manny Acta...he's finally a major league manager. That's the good news.

The bad news is that he's the manager of a team that some experts are saying could lose 130 games this season.

While I'm not willing to go quite that far, this team could very well be famously bad. Of course, we all thought that about the Florida Marlins last season, and they contended for the wild card. But the difference here is that the Marlins had some talented minor leaguers to build around, notably in the pitching staff.

The Nationals, meanwhile, signed Pedro Astacio.

Here is another big difference between Jeffrey Loria's current franchise and his former one: for as much crap as the Marlins have taken...and rightly so...for their infamous fire sales, they at least have gotten grade A quality prospects for them. The Nationals, meanwhile, made a fatal miscalculation in letting Alfonso Soriano get away for absolutely nothing, leaving the franchise having to sign guys like Pedro Astacio.

The Nationals rotation includes John Patterson (who because of injury pitched in only eight games in 2006) Shawn Hill (who has had a good spring, but because of injury pitched in only six games in 2006 and none in 2005) and Jason Simontacchi (who hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2004). Throw in rookie Matt Chico and converted reliever Jason Bergmann and you have more fun than a barrel of Expos. It's so bad that the Nationals may consider bringing up pitching prospect Collin Balester before he's ready.

The bullpen features closer Chad Cordero, and the big and tall twins: Jon Rauch (tall) and Ray King (big). If the starters can ever get these guys a lead they may not be half bad. But if (when?) the Nationals fall out of the race, Cordero may be dealt for prospects...although considering how they handled the Soriano fiasco that's not a given.

Between Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez (and maybe Dmitri Young, who is the new first baseman until Nick Johnson returns from his gruesome injury at Shea Stadium last season), the Nationals should have just enough firepower to steal some games against the more mediocre N.L. teams and keep them from entering the territory of the 1962 Mets. But there just isn't enough on this team to give them a realistic chance of being a Marlins' type surprise.

I just hope that Manny Acta's legacy as manager isn't judged on how this depleted roster performs for him. It just wouldn't be fair.

Prediction: Fifth place, 61-101

Friday, March 23, 2007

What You Already Know: The Rotation

"Ouch, my foot." -Achilles
Yup, this is the part of the program everyone is dreading. It's the starting rotation, ladies and gentlemen. Otherwise known as: "Disaster in the Skies".

But is the Mets starting rotation really the disaster that everyone thinks it is? Check out the ERA's from the spring:

  • Tom Glavine: 1.29 in 14 innings.
  • Mike Pelfrey: 1.29 in 14 innings.
  • John Maine: 1.00 in 9 innings.
  • Oliver Perez: 2.70 in 20 innings.

And keep in mind with Perez that four of the six runs he's given up game in the first game of the spring against the Tigers. Since then, he's struck out Big Papi and his grilling buddy twice each in a game, and has 15 K's overall in the spring. Not bad for someone who started out the spring by drilling a Sports Illustrated reporter in the leg. Also keep in mind that John Maine pitched shutout ball in a playoff game while facing elimination, yet questions surround him. Something tells me that if Maine wore Yankee pinstripes, he's have a Yankeeography already...but that's just me.

So that leaves one more spot to analyze, and don't automatically pencil in 35 starts for Orlando Hernandez. Many, including myself, assumed out of hand that the Mets signing of guys like Chan Ho Park and Aaron Sele were for the bottom of the rotation. But the bottom of the rotation isn't the problem. For all the crap you hear about the Mets rotation problems, ask baseball GM's if they would like to have Pelfrey, Maine, and Perez at 3-4-5. Ask the Nationals. Ask the Rangers. Hell, ask the Cardinals if they would rather have Pelfrey, Maine, and Perez rather than Adam Wainwright, Anthony Reyes, and Braden Looper (bold AND italicized for added effect).

It's the one-two punch that's the problem. The Mets tried to rectify that with Barry Zito. Didn't happen. So Tom Glavine is going to have to gut it out one more season as the ace. It's dicey yet possible. But with Orlando Hernandez and his myriad of injuries (Arthritis? ARTHRITIS??!?) and his mystery age hanging over him, Park and Sele become insurance for Hernandez and nobody else. And the Mets could really use either Park (8.68 ERA this spring) and/or Sele (6.11 ERA after a strong Thursday outing against Atlanta) to step up and take that Hernandez's spot, because in my humble "Monday Morning Quarterback" type estimation, the Mets are a better team with Hernandez as a long man out of the 'pen and not the number two guy in the rotation.

Yeah, I said it. He pitches this afternoon against the Cards and may change my mind (and as of now, he's given up one run in 5 and 2/3 innings so...mea culpa mea culpa mea culpa in that regard). But I heard (or read) somebody say it best: Orlando is going to get bombed every third start, and be spectacular every third start. It's the other third that will tell his season. Well, that's fine...but not for a number two starter.

So what is to be done going forward this season? Let's start here: As far as I'm concerned: Pedro Martinez is out for 2007. It's not because I dislike's not because I don't want him back. It's because these Mets (and Met fans alike), can't hang even one hope on the return of Pedro Martinez...and especially on the return of Pedro Martinez to the form that we come to expect from Pedro, whether it be vintage 1999 or 2000 or even 2005. I want whatever Pedro does to be a bonus, almost like he would be the Mets trade acquisition in August and September.

Otherwise, the closest thing to a realistic acquisition for the top of the rotation would be Mark Buehrle of the White Sox, who is in his contract year. The Mets might also talk to Jamey Wright if the Rangers don't have him on their 40 man roster by March 28th. But is Wright any better than anyone who is already at the back of the Mets rotation? Probably not. And that's why we shouldn't worry all that much. Because gone are the days of having to sign the Jose Limas and the Geremi Gonzalez's of the world now that guys like Maine and Perez are settling in, and that Pelfrey has shown that he's ready for the majors. Heck, if we're really lucky (and if we're all good little boys and girls), then the minor league fairy might deliver Philip Humber under our pillows on a humid night in July. But I'm considering that a Pedro-like longshot for the sake of my own sanity.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What You Already Know: The Bullpen

Something's not quite right.

No really, the Mets' bullpen, while still very good (and still better than the Phillies bullpen), isn't quite up to snuff from the high standards of 2006.

Guillermo Mota overinjected.

Filthy Sanchez overslept.

Aaron Heilman still dreams of the greener grass on the other side of the fence.

Juan "The Fly" Padilla is shutdown due to a sore elbow.

Darren Oliver is in Anaheim.

The only sure thing about the bullpen is that Billy Wagner will have the ninth inning all season. And despite all the hand wringing over a couple of horrid collapses against the Yankees and the Reds, Country Time having the ninth inning isn't a bad thing. Now that he has a new split fingered fastball in his arsenal, let's see if he can keep hitters off balance while they're coming back from 4 run deficits in the ninth inning.

Heilman, until Filthy and the Cheat get back from injury and suspension, has the eighth inning. The question is: what will happen when those two get back? Does Willie Randolph dare "demote" Heilman to the seventh inning if he's pitching well and risk losing him forever and ever? Probably not...not after Sanchez's repeated lateness episodes in spring training. Then again, would Sanchez have to be moved to the eighth inning because he can't get to the park in time for the seventh?

The success of the bullpen may very well be tied to the success (or failure) of Joe Smith. No, not that Joe Smith, the Joe Smith who was drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft out of Wright State. It's a testament to the improved drafting skills of the Omar Minaya regime that they can get a guy in the third round who makes the majors just nine months later. But Smith is going to have to use his killer slider and Bradford-like delivery to bridge the gap between Scott Schoeneweis and guys like Pedro Feliciano, Heilman, and Country Time.

As for Schoeneweis, he's a good alternative to Darren Oliver for the long man's role. If Oliver was like "Sweet N' Low", Schoeneweis would be like "Equal", but harder to spell. And Feliciano was solid most of last season, spectacular the rest of the time. Anything close to that would be welcome.

And speaking of hard to spell, there's Ambiorix Burgos. Rick Peterson would love for him to be the sixth guy out of the bullpen with his 99 mph heater and as the kids say: "freakish upside". But he's getting lit up this spring, and all of a sudden the Mets have another Jorge Julio on their hands...if Burgos makes the club, it will probably be in that capacity of "let's make this guy the one we put in with an 8-1 lead or 10-0 deficit, and let him work out his problems there. But what good would that be? With a starting rotation that on most nights barely cross five innings, this bullpen is going to need to be deep and effective. It will be when Filthy and Mota return. But until then, guys like Smith and Burgos, realistically or not, are going to have to grow up a little bit and perform in their roles at least until Filthy, the Fly, and the Cheat return.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What You Already Know: The Infield

You may think that writing a preview piece on the infielders could be pointless, what with David Wright and Jose Reyes providing a rock solid left side for years to come, and Carlos Delgado providing power from the other corner.

Yeah, you're probably right.

Quite simply, Jose Reyes is a stud. He's gone from having chronic injury issues that threatened to derail his career to being probably the most unique and versatile talent in the major leagues. Sure, he's a free swinger. But Reyes proved last season that you don't necessarily have to work counts all of the time to be an effective leadoff hitter. For Reyes, the key has always been to lay off the junk in the dirt and be aggressive within the strike zone. That's exactly what Reyes has done, and he still almost doubled his walk total from 2005-2006.

Reyes provides something for everyone. He enters 2006 as one of the top five fantasy players in baseball. Of course, if you believe Murray Chass of the Times (and I'm not saying I do), numbers ruin everybody's love of baseball. Well, Reyes' pure excitement and effervescent personality that are as key to his (and the Mets) success as any numbers would probably attract the likes of Chass as well as the defenders of the VORP.

David Wright is the face of the franchise. He's our golden boy. He's the guy that everyone is going to hate with a passion once the Mets win a World Series (if people don't hate him already for his good looks and his polished interviews). David Wright also has room for improvement. It's scary to think about it in those terms, but it's true. 20 HR's and 74 RBI's before the break vs. 6 HR's and 42 RBI's after the break prove that point. The good part about that is that the average and OBP numbers didn't dip all that much despite hitting .245 in August (dog days). It's being picky, but it is something to watch with David Wright in 2006.

Jim Thome: .288/.416/42 HR/109 RBI.
Frank Thomas: .267/.390/42 HR/105 RBI.
Fred McGriff: .310/.405/32 HR/104 RBI.
Jeff Bagwell: .278/.373/39 HR/100 RBI.

Is there a point to those numbers?

I'm glad you asked. Those three seasons came courtesy of players at the age of 35, which Carlos Delgado will be this season. So for those wondering of Delgado is all of a sudden going to get old and become Mike Marshall before our very eyes, take a deep breath and sleep easy. His numbers, now that his elbow is closer to 100 percent, may very well improve from last season rather than decline with the passing of age.

Paul Lo Duca is another Murray Chass exhibit, because he's much more than mere numbers can quantify. He works a pitching staff, he makes contact, he gets dirty, he spikes baseball's in umpires faces, he tags two runners in a single bound, he kicks ass, he takes names, he curses on SNY, he makes the tabloids...all without breaking a sweat. Now no disrespect to the quiet professionalism of Mike Piazza, but God Bless Paul Lo Duca. God Bless him and all that he stands for.

The best part about Lo Duca's prospects this season is that his backup, Fluff Castro, is more streamlined after losing a significant number of pounds, making him more fit and able to spell Lo Duca for one game a week, or longer if Lo Duca has injury issues, marital issues, or if he starts a bar fight and has to spend some time in the klink (can't you see it?) Unfortunately, it may make it harder for Castro's body to support that giant head of his, but one must make sacrifices for fitness.

Then there's second base.

I knew there was a catch.

If second base is the one question mark in the infield, that's not a bad problem to have. Jose Valentin (who will don the more familiar 22 this season having given 18 to Moises Alou) will get a chance to play as he did last season (18HR's and 62 RBI's in 384 AB's), or play his way out of a job. Considering he's 37 years old, you'd have to consider 18 HR's and 62 RBI's a bonus...even in a 550 AB season. But if there's some impatience or an injury (or if you're simply worried about all the errors Valentin has made during the spring), there's always Damion Easley, David Newhan, and Ruben Gotay. Easley would probably get the nod...first and foremost because he's old (oh Metstradamus calm down, he's only 11 months older than you!) Old seems to go a long way around these parts. But he'll probably get the nod because David Newhan's relatively higher power numbers than the rest of the bench would translate better as a late-inning pinch hitter.

Speaking of old, there's Julio Franco, who will probably need to work overtime on his intangible skills, because his on-field ability will always be in question until he discovers the secret to reversing the aging process (egg whites alone will not do it). If he's going to take a roster spot of somebody with more on field skills, he had better find a way to get Filthy Sanchez to be punctual, heal Pedro's arm, and build Citi Field with his bare hands to make up for it.

If anyone can do it...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What You Already Know: The Outfield

Today is the first of a set of previews regarding the Mets that we're going to try to enlighten you with. Most likely though, it will be a lot of rehashing of stuff that you already know. So humor me as we start with an overview of the Mets outfielders.

It didn't seem like Endy Chavez got as many at bats last season as he did, but Chavez ended 2006 with 353 at bats, which is a decent amount as a fourth outfielder. With Moises Alou's recent injury troubles, Shawn Green's slump (we're just assuming), and Carlos Beltran's nagging injury (again, we're assuming), there's no reason to believe that Endy isn't going to get at least 353 ab's if not more. That's probably why we haven't seen headlines that look mysteriously like "ENDY: PLAY ME OR TRADE ME" in the past month or so.

What worries me about Endy is the number in Endy's slugging percentage in the Venezuela Winter League. Chavez has had problems in his pre-Met days (technically, this is his fourth stint as a New York Met) thinking he's a home run hitter), so on the heels of his strong winter play and his ascension to cult figure status with Mets fans (including myself), Chavez is a prime candidate to fall off his mighty perch, although his strong spring is easing those fears by the day.

There's also Ben Johnson, who the Mets received in the "Ring my Bell" trade with the San Diego Padres during the off season, and former Oriole David Newhan, who was signed by the Mets as a free agent. The acquisitions of Johnson and Newhan signal a change in philosophy by the Mets. They are getting away from the game plan of "hey, let's put some of our spare infielders in the outfield...what can it hurt" (see: Samuel, Juan and Miller, Keith), and moving towards the line of thinking that maybe it's a good idea to have guys who have actually played the outfield in their career come in and back up. It seems to be working as both players are having eye-opening springs.

Johnson has 7 home runs in 195 career at bats. If you project that to a full season...well it's still not that much. But Johnson provides something that the Mets bench, as good as it's been the last 2 seasons, have lacked: pop. Most nights there was nary a true home run threat lurking on the Mets bench as true home run threats like Mike Jacobs and Victor Diaz were either starting for injured players, or in the minor leagues.

Newhan represents versatility. He can play some infield but was primarily an outfielder during his time in Baltimore. Newhan, if he even makes the team, will assume the "jack of all trades" role that was earmarked for guys like Chris Woodward and Jose Valentin who were infielders posing as outfielders.

But there's another reason why the acquisitions of Johnson and Newhan are intriguing:

Oh yeah, Lastings Milledge.

To the astute baseball observer, Johnson and Newhan provide a bridge to Lastings Milledge while giving him the opportunity to spend a full season at AAA New Orleans and not have to worry about riding the bench.

To an insane conspiracy theorist like myself, the two acquisitions are a bridge to Carlos Gomez while Milledge is dangled endlessly in a trade. (Milledge, to his credit, has been noted to have a positive attitude adjustment...whatever that means...revitalizing his chances to be a significant part of this team in the future, and perhaps revitalizing his trade value in the process.)

But besides Beltran, aren't all of these outfielders bridges in one way or another? Green has one more season left on his pricey deal...and one would assume that he isn't in the Mets' long term plans unless he returns to his turn of the century form when he was jackin' 40 dingers a year (and if you're betting on that to happen, I have a Bill Doran rookie card that I want to sell you for the low low price of a thousand bucks). But keep in mind that if Green makes it to October baseball as the starting right fielder, he hit over .300 for the Mets during their run last October.

Then there's Alou, which was a strange signing. There are some that think signing Alou was smart...and it was smart in that it wasn't a 25 year deal at the price of Fort Knox. But others think that his nagging injuries and Cliff Floyd's nagging injuries cancel each other out, while Cliff's relative youth and positive clubhouse influence means a net loss for the Mets. But remember that we don't know much about Alou's clubhouse influence and that it could be just as good as Floyd's. For all we know, Alou could go around the clubhouse extolling the virtues of urinating on their hands to toughen up the callouses while going from locker to locker asking interested teammates if they "need a hit".

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Greetings From Satan's Playground

Otherwise known as: Buffalo, NY.

You are reading history here friends, for this is the very first posting that I've ever made while not sitting in my living room. No no, friends. Metstradamus has gone mobile.

This new found mobility is pretty awe inspiring. I feel like that guy in the Red Roof Inn commercials singing "muuuuuuul-ti-task-ing"! (No, I'm not at a Red Roof Inn). I will say this though: I could be all like "King of the castle, king of the castle", but you know what? A water is still five dollars...even in Buffalo. I hardly feel like a king...more like a sucker.

You may be worried about my lack of posting lately. Don't worry, I'm keeping track of Rickey Henderson's upcoming retirement ceremony, Luis Castillo imminent arrival as the new Mets second baseman (in 2008, mind you...hey let's trade for him now, Jose Valentin has some old age injury), Barry Zito being a punk, and some guy named Jose Jose (No kidding! his name really is Jose the freakin' song!)

But my focus has been geared towards what is going to happen over the next couple of weeks...that's right, lame previews of the Mets along with the rest of the N.L. East. Here's a tentative preview:

March 20: The Outfield (not the band)
March 21: The Infield
March 22: The Bullpen
March 23: The Starters
March 26-March 30: team by team capsules of the N.L. East, along with predictions for order of finish.

Don't get too excited folks, it's stuff you already know, only with my special sauce.

Until then, I'm off to get some Tim Horton's for a doughnut I can take with me while I go over the falls in a barrel (not willingly, I'll probably be forced over by the townspeople after incessantly reminding them of Scott Norwood and Brett Hull).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tiger Taming, Phillips Hating

When the Mets were denied a chance to face the Tigers in the World Series, a great photoshop idea was wasted. In honor of today's second spring game against Detroit, I give you...

Unfortunately, the Mets couldn't tame the Tigers during the spring opener, and they couldn't tame them today either. The key moment in the game came when Aaron Heilman seemingly got the last out of the seventh inning off of Kody Kirkland with a tapper to third while the bases were loaded and the score tied at three. But, after Heilman was already in the dugout, the home plate umpire correctly ruled that the ball hit flush off Kirkland's foot, so Heilman had to come back out and make more pitches to Kirkland. As if there could have been any other result, Kirkland cleared the bases and basically gave the Tigers a victory.

Those developments are somewhat significant because it's looking more and more and more and more like Heilman, a pitcher I once thought should be traded to a place where he can pitch more important innings, may be working the eighth inning after all.

Filthy Sanchez is really pissing off Willie Randolph with his lateness and lack of conditioning. So Randolph sends a message by sending Sanchez home on Thursday after being late again after already being warned. Then, Willie kept him home again on Friday. And the punishment might not stop there (boy, would I like to be a fly on the wall of this meeting on Saturday...whooooooo doggie!)

Unfortunately, we now have a controversy. Fortunately, Willie is attempting to nip it in the bud, and make players accountable. Anyone want to rethink your votes for 2006 Manager of the Year? Well since this is 2007, that wouldn't make any sense now would it?


In 2006, you voted Steve Phillips to the Metstradamus Hall of Hate. Apparently, Phillips has made Ozzie Guillen's hate list after he appeared on SportsCenter and guessed that Ozzie Guillen is the manager that's on the "Hot Seat" (sponsored by Budweiser):

''Every time I talk to him, he tries to be nice to me...If I'm in that position, then I'm in great shape because I have two more years on my contract. And I guarantee him if I'm done with the White Sox, I can go to my house or get another job...I have a better record than his manager (Bobby Valentine) did with the Mets. I have a better record as a manager than (Phillips) when he was the Mets' general manager. We pick better players than he did back then. He forgot about when I was with Atlanta and he was the general manager and we beat him. He forgot I was the guy who hit the base hit to right field to win the game."
Well actually Ozzie, it was a sacrifice fly to center field. And then there was the double to center field earlier that season...but who's quibbling?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Metstradamus' Deep Thoughts

Was anyone as disturbed as I was when they read the article on ESPN's website when David Wells let loose the secret that Greg Maddux enjoys sidling up to rookies in the shower and urinating on their leg?

I got to thinking: When, exactly, did this become an acceptable part of society? When it happened in a major league clubhouse? I mean, a future hall of famer does it and it's okay? Greg Maddux pees on another human being and he didn't get beaten to within an inch of his life? How does this happen? Was it because David Wells approves?

Think about the coverage that a human being peeing on another human being would get if instead of a major league clubhouse, it happened on the subway, or at a flea market, or during a session of congress. CNN, FOX News, even MSNBC would be all over this story every hour on the hour. It would be a veritable "Pee-Gate".

Now think of the type of coverage it would get if it happened in the Mets locker room.

No no, stay with me here.

If Greg Maddux is going around urinating on other human beings and David Wells is admiring it, it tells me that this has happened before in a major league clubhouse. That tells me that it will happen again. So what if, say, a "Mets veteran" was to selectively position himself next to a Mets rookie in the shower (yeah that sounds bad), and let’s fly with some “salt water”?

Now let’s say that this rookie were to react to that the way most people would react to that (I hope), and beat this Mets veteran to a bloody pulp, and this Mets veteran was say…out for the season? Of course the beating is going to make the papers. But who’s going to admit that the reason that this rookie went medieval on the veteran was that he got peed on? What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room, right? How freakin' silly is that going to sound? Who brags about something like this besides David Wells?

And how, exactly, does Willie Randolph handle something like this?

Now let me ask another question: What if instead of this happening to a rookie, what if it happened to Lastings Milledge?

We, as Mets fans, went around and around when Lastings Milledge's clothes were stolen from his locker (and now we know how mild that is comparatively). Think about how this would sound to a Mets fan reading the newspaper: Lastings Milledge, who was seen as cocky and arrogant during his rookie year, beats the crap out of a veteran in the shower. How many of us would just assume that Milledge was in the wrong, or just simply "flipped out"? Heck, if David Wright can get bashed by a small group of Mets fans for saying that he would love to have Alex Rodriguez on the team, think of the beating that Milledge would take in the papers for putting a teammate in the hospital?

Now, let’s say about six days after the beating that Peter Gammons breaks into SportsCenter with a special report (because who else would have a mole in a major league shower than Peter Gammons…really, that guy is amazing) that Lastings Milledge went ballistic because he was peed on? Now how many of us would think Milledge was wrong?

Hopefully nobody, but I would guess probably a few too many. I can only imagine what the comment boards would look like…
"Milledge should have thought of the team."

"Yeah, but the veteran should have thought of the team too. If he had only peed on Moises Alou's hands, he would have broken out of his slump and the Mets could get out of third place."
You talk about media controversies, this would be one that would make Bobby Bonilla look like a media darling.

Well I for one am glad, for now, that the largest ethical dilemma that we as Mets fans have to deal with is whether to root for Aaron Sele to do well his next time out during the spring, or whether to root for Aaron Sele to bomb so that Phil Humber has a greater chance to make the rotation.

I’m also glad that Greg Maddux pitches far, FAR away from New York.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tease Times Two

And so the latest round of teasing is upon us.

Only this time, the siren hiking her skirt up to show some leg isn't named Barry Zito. No, this time, the vixen is named Johan...not Scarlett "Johan"sson, but Johan Santana. It's sure to start up a whole new road that will ultimately be fruitless.
"If Minnesota wants to keep me, the earlier the better for a contract negotiation...The closer I get to free agency the more difficult it will be." -Johan Santana
No, the Mets aren't mentioned. But you know us fans, we'll start dreaming of Santana opening up Citi Field in 2009. It's inevitable.
But Metstradamus, you warned us about this before...why even bring it up again? -an inevitable quote from a dear reader
Because what choice do I have? It's either discuss the pipe dream that is Johan Santana, or discuss David Wright basically giving up his position so that Alex Rodriguez can become a Met...another impossible scenario.

This A-Rod thing could really turn out to be a cheesy afterschool special. Or it could even be Kit Keller joining the Rockford Peaches to get out of the shadow of Dottie Henson and beat the Racine Belles in the championship. Yes, I can compare A-Rod to Kit Keller and Derek Jeter to Dottie Henson because, as Susan Shapiro Barash notes, A-Rod and Jeter are displaying "very familiar female behavior" (Barash's words, not mine).

But the fact of the matter remains this: David Wright, if he has a flaw, is way too nice. He's politically correct to the hilt, and he isn't going to trash anyone, or especially take on anyone connected with the New York Yankees and their 26 World Titles (you know, like most sportswriters in this town). Here is Wright's quote:
"For Alex Rodriguez? Yeah, he's Alex Rodriguez. He's a Hall of Famer. He does everything in the game exceptionally well. I still think it's a little premature to be testing the waters, but he's a great player. You're talking about a player that makes any team so much better. The point is not to court A-Rod, because who knows if A-Rod is going to opt out or stay with the Yankees. But if it's something serious, I'd love to sit down and talk about it."
Here is what his quote should have been:
"For Alex Rodriguez? You know what, he switched positions for Jeter...if he wants to come here, he can switch positions again. I'm supposedly the Mets' version of least that's what everybody tells me all the time, right? Damn I get so sick of that. But if he can move for Jeter, he could move for me. The Yankees got Alex Rodriguez. You know who we'd be getting? Alex Rodriguez with newly developed mental hiccups. I can't play left field...are you kidding me? Ever hear of Todd Hundley? No way am I leaving a huge contract on the table by looking like Bozo the Clown out in left field so that Alex Rodriguez can stay at a position he's been playing for three know, the same position I've been playing my whole freakin' life! Besides, I can't have Cliff Floyd calling me from Chicago laughing at me. We have a damn good team here. If he wants to come aboard, the more the merrier. Can he pitch?"
Santana? Rodriguez? Not happening. You say the woman is hiking her skirt up looking for a ride? Just keep on driving...she is most likely packing a chainsaw.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Spring Squeeze

So I'm going to expose myself as a true loser here, but one quick question:

Am I the only one who was getting angry that Tom Glavine was getting squeezed by the home plate umpire during the first inning of the second spring training game of the season?

Glavine did look good today in the Mets 4-3 win over the Cardinals (in what Bud Selig should have deemed "Game 8" for the good of the sport), throwing two sharp innings, getting Albert Pujols on a weak tapper in the process. No word on whether Pujols is still not impressed with Tom Glavine.


Speaking of looking good, you know who didn't today? That's right, Steve Trachsel! Trachsel gave up three runs for the Orioles on four hits in one inning of work against the Florida Marlins. No truth to the rumor that Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and Miguel Cabrera all winked at Trachsel before facing him.

Ollie's Follies

All right, all right...I'm not going to sit here and pretend that the first game of spring training really means a whole lot. I'm not even going to panic over Oliver Perez's linescore (two innings, 4 runs, one K, one HR).

But it's a good thing that the boxscore doesn't include a column for potential broken legs caused by wild warm-up pitches. Because if it did, Oliver Perez would lead the league.
"'I got hit pretty good,' said the photographer, John Iacono, who was shooting from near the backstop before the game. 'At the last minute, I saw it coming. I turned my left leg just enough so I didn't get it head on.' Tigers manager Jim Leyland told Iacono to have trainers look at the leg, which was hit just below the knee. Iacono, who stopped shooting the game after the fourth inning, had about 15 minutes of ice and had the leg wrapped. He said after the game that he wasn't feeling too good and that he might have the leg X-rayed."
Oliver Perez has one mission in life and that's not to be wild. So what does he do during the first game of the spring? Why, he almost kills a photographer of course. I guess all those lessons that he put to use during Game 7 last season were all thrown out the window. (Or at least he tried to throw them out the window...he probably missed and hit his dog. Poor dog.)