Chuck 'n' Duck

"I'm a very optimistic person. When you're optimistic, the good opportunities, good fortune, good everything will come with it." - Jae Seo Chuck 'n' Duck: the New York Mets from an Eternal Optimist's P.O.V.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Strickland Stays!

Scott Strickland should not be allowed to leave.

I read this article over at Mets.com, and that's the only thing I can think of. Here's the blurb:

Staying or leaving: Scott Strickland, assigned to the minor league complex last week, has until Saturday to determine whether he will remain with the Mets or declare himself a free agent. The Astros, Rockies and Brewers are said to have interest in the 28-year-old right-handed reliever who didn't pitch in the Major Leagues last year. There was no indication that he would have a major league job with any of the three clubs. The Mets' sense of Strickland's readiness for Major League duty is that he still hasn't regained the arm strength he had before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in 2003. One minor league colleague indicated he thought Strickland was inclined to use his contractual right and look elsewhere.

I don't know what Scott Strickland did to Omar Minaya, but it must have been pretty bad. Just a recap, for Scott's career Omar has traded him from a solid Expos team to a lousy Mets team, and then three years later takes over the Mets, rebuilds them into a competitive ballclub, and then banishes Scott to AAA. Did Strick key Omar's car or something? Maybe Omar and Willie don't realize this, but Scott Strickland is actually a pretty good relief pitcher for a team that needs some pretty good relief pitching. Somewhere there's a conncection missing.

While Strickland has been pretty lousy against lefthanded hitters, he's been death on righties, as they've hit .194 against him over the past three seasons. That means that the majority of the hitters in baseball have trouble hitting Strickland, whereas they've seemed pretty successful against the rest of the makeshift Mets bullpen.

Now I know what the blurb says. The Mets don't think his arm strength is back to where it should be. He's coming back from a huge surgery, and they don't want to put him on the big league club where he's going to get clobbered and might cost the Mets some games. They'd rather he pitch for the Tides, get his strength back, his control better, and come back up to New York when he's ready.

But the problem with that is it's the ideal situation. It's not the likely one. What Omar needs to be asking himself is would he rather Strickland be pitching for the Mets or the Astros? The Mets or the Brewers? God forbid the Braves or the Marlins pick him up. What then? The Mets get shut down in August and September by a now healthy Scott Strickland? It doesn't sound too appealing to me.

If the Mets can convince Strickland to stick around for a month, or even two weeks, just to get himself back to around normal and then promise him a callup to the big league squad, then that's what they need to do. But if he's going to run for the door the second the calendar hits Saturday, it's a huge mistake. This is a ballclub that gave bullpen spots to John Franco and Pedro Feliciano last year, and are giving one to Felix Heredia this season. Like an injured Scott Strickland couldn't outpitch either of those three guys healthy?

This is one of these moves that seem small on the surface but will mean a lot later on down the line. If worse comes to worse, just let Strickland heal himself on the big league roster. Take twelve pitchers, and let him pitch in blowout situations. It'll mean a lot more when the Mets are chasing the pennant then it will on April 15th.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Who's Running this Place?

I was going to gripe and grumble about David Wright's drop in the order (more like a plummet, actually), but then found Faith and Fear's take on the matter, and wouldn't be able to add anything or say anything better that what they have already.

But I will say that the problem I have the most with this drop is the fact that it's basically because Wright won't complain about it. This has nothing to do with the members of the lineup being better than he is offensively, nor the fact that he's twenty-two, nor the fact that he might not be ready to hit anywhere from second to sixth. It's the fact that Mike Cameron is switching to rightfield, so they're going to throw him a bone and let him hit higher in the lineup.

And I also have a problem with the direction this team is seemingly being taken by Randolph. Instead of fielding the best team, he's fielding the most experienced one. This may work for the Yankees, who have the ability to fill positions with good, experienced talent, and if that fails patch it up with more money and more experience -- but this isn't the Yankees. This is the Mets, and on this team you need to utilize youth in order to succeed. That means bringing Heath Bell to New York instead of Felix Heredia, and hitting Wright above Cameron and Mientkiewicz because he's the better hitter.

I know these decisions haven't been made official yet, and until the season opens with Felix Heredia are go-to lefty reliever and David Wright's hitting in front of Pedro Martinez there's no reason to be upset over these moves. But as a Met fan, who has waited four long years to field a competitive ballclub, I can't help but observe the detriments down the road.

Especially when they're being placed there by the manager of the team.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Felix Freakin' Heredia

It is never good to go into a season already hating a player. You see, Spring Training isn't just about getting players ready for the upcoming season, but getting fans ready as well. You can trot just about anybody out there, put a positive spin on them, and if they get some hits or throw some strikes most guys are usually forgiven. I mean, even Armando Benitez was able to last four and a half seasons here.

But there are other guys -- Bobby Bonilla and Roger Cedeno leap immediately to mind -- that you just couldn't stand the season before, that ultimately return for another year. It's not good for them, and it's certainly not good for you, and no amount of stories about their children or their adjustments or their charitable donations will change it.

And the Mets worked really hard to change that. They gave Al Leiter and John Franco, two guys who had become synonmous with meddling and subpar baseball, their walking papers. They replaced Art Howe with the exact opposite of him in every way, Willie Randolph. And they went out and did what they could to bring back excitement to the tune of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. And while this was all greatly, greatly appreciated, somewhere along the lines Omar Minaya got a little too wrapped up in his purging of the "Old" Mets and made one real bad move.

He brought in Felix Heredia.

The fact of the matter is, I just can not stand the guy. I watched what he did for the Yankees, and gleefully took it all in. I would smile when Mike and the Mad Dog talked about how awful he was, and I would laugh when Joe Torre came on -- acting like a first time owner who just couldn't figure out how to get his puppy to stop peeing on the rug.

And then, all of a sudden, he was a Met. How could this be? The guy should, by all means, be out of baseball or pitching for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (pick your poison). When you fail on the grandest stage of all, you're not supposed to be traded off to a slightly smaller stage. You're supposed to just disappear, that's how baseball works. And yesterday only confirmed my suspicions. This spring he's pitched awful but hid behind his 2.25 ERA. In four games he has five hits and four runs, yet only one was earned. His hand has been numb, his stuff has been infinitely hittable, and yet you got that sneaking suspicion he still was going to find a way on the plane to New York.

As I put up over at MetsGeek yesterday, his line was atrocious: 1/3 of an inning pitched, one hit, three runs, two walks, no strikeouts. But even though yesterday he finally got hit -- and how! -- I can't seem to shake that feeling that he's still going to be a member of this bullpen. It's a horrible, terrible feeling, made worse by the fact that I stated before that a true test of Willie's managerial skills will be to see what he does with Felix. If he brings him back to NY with him, I'm going to have a hard time trusting Willie off the bat.

So let's just do me a favor, and cut bait, eh? I sat through the Armando Benitez era, the Roger Cedeno era, and the John Franco era. This is the "New" Mets, so let's really complete the 180.

*

Sidenote: Jose Reyes has a kid?! How did none of us know this? He's like a year older than me! I was amazed by that turn of events.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Mets Geeks Unite

Past the fact that Pedro's back is fine (was anybody really worried anyway?) it's a pretty slow news day. But that's okay, because, hey, big announcement!

As you may have seen elsewhere already, I have joined a few (make that seven) other Mets bloggers for the creation of MetsGeek.com. What can you expect from MetsGeek? Essientially, it's a Mets information and analysis site. We'll give you the news, we'll give you the humor, we'll give you the stats, the predictions, everything all rolled into one wonderful website! And I promise it won't be stuffy and it won't hurt your head, or your money back.

I just noticed that I broke 30,000 hits a long while ago, and to do that in six short months I find amazing. I'd just like to take this time to thank everybody who's supported this page. I don't plan on leaving Chuck 'n' Duck behind, so you can all continue to come on back for my insanely optimistic ramblings and slapped-together posts about Doug Mientkiewicz. For MetsGeek I'm envisioning a lot more focus on pitching, as it's my statistical forte, so there will more than likely be even less stats talk here. Prepare for a season full of "Why the hell does Mike Cameron always strike out in clutch situations?!", even if it isn't remotely true. Good times.

But definitely add MetsGeek to your everyday rotation. If not for anything, you'll get to read about how I talked to Bob Klapsich for twenty minutes and see all the wonderful and interesting things he said about our Mets. And, of course, the other writers are enormously talented, and you more than likely know all of them as they've all been around much longer than I.

So, feel free to check it out.

Friday, March 25, 2005

I See Future Aces!

I'm like the Amazing freakin' Kreskin over here. One day after predicting a promising start from Victor Zambrano, he kept me from eating Mike's proposal of ground beef and shrimp with chocolate syrup and vinegar.

Zambrano's stuff was said to be anywhere from "nasty" to "baffling" yesterday, and his numbers from yesterday were a very promising three hits in four innings with six strikeouts, although he continued his "walk an innings" way with four base on balls. The fact remains however that Zambrano did not let his wildness get the best of him, escaping mostly unscathed (one earned run) although he had seven runners on in four innings.

As I said yesterday, this is still only the beginning. Zambrano's a huge question mark when it comes to reliability, but he certainly has the makings of a dominant pitcher. Continue to keep an eye out for this guy.

Anyways, I'm going to be pretty busy up until Easter Sunday, so posts will be few and far between. But I'll more than make it up to you come Sunday night, I promise!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Today is the day, ladies and gentlemen!

I have recieved my fair share of flack from friends and family over my predicting of great things to come from Victor Zambrano. But two days ago I recieved an e-mail from "James" saying that he got a laugh out of my Baseball-Reference.com sponsorship of Zamby's page. Only, I wasn't kidding around. Zambrano's stuff is ridiculous and he has the poise and the competitiveness to be a big league pitcher, if only he could master that pesky strike zone. And while the early returns were good (undefeated lifetime as a New York Met! 14 K's to just 6 walks! One measly wild pitch in fourteen innings!), spring has been none too kind to Chuck 'n' Duck's favorite pitcher. While he has won two games, his ERA remains a very managable 10.00 and he's only walking a guy an inning.

But, as I said before, today is the day! Zambrano has been coming off injury shortened season in which he had barely thrown a ball for six months. He's been wild and hittable as he's adjusted to getting back his stuff and facing big league hitting. In his last start it appeared that his pitches, as well as their velocity were pretty close to what they were last season. After the moonshot homerun to Carlos Delgado to lead off the inning, he had settled down and pitched well, even though he eventually let two other runs score in his four innings of work.

But enough about that! This is the day that all turns around. This is the beginning of the rest of Victor Zambrano's career. He'll go out there today, and he'll look good. He won't be dominant, he'll walk a guy or two, and he may even let a run score. But it'll be his turnaround game. It'll be enough for the media to go, "He looked all right". And fans will feel okay with him. The season will start, and he'll do well. He'll pitch six innings and give up two or three runs. He'll have an occasional nine K game, and people will nod in approval. And then he'll explode. Like his fellow Venezulean, Johan Santana, did last season Zambrano will begin to slowly but surely start to fool hitters. Not that I'm expecting Santana numbers out of Victor, as I'm not even expecting a sub-3.00 ERA. But this will be the season Zambrano learns to utilize his wildness and use it to his advantage. He'll learn to really pitch.

And it all starts today. You'll be witnessing history!

And if it doesn't happen, I'll eat... well, not my hat. Maybe some potato chips?

***

I liked the end of this article: Interesting sight on a back field yesterday morning at the Mets complex, where the entire front office was watching a young left-handed hitter take batting practice. After finishing BP, the kid met Fred Wilpon and Omar Minaya. Onlookers said the kid's name is Fernando Martinez and that he is a 16-year-old Dominican right fielder. Minaya declined to comment on him.

Remember the name Fernando Martinez! I'm expecting huge things out of him now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Nine Levels of Baseball Hell

Just like the Nine Levels of Hell, I have a Nine Levels of Baseball Hell. The first level is filled with your regular guys that you just don't care for -- guys like Andruw Jones or Marcus Giles -- people who never really did anything to you, but are simply guilty by association. Then, as you move up, you'll find your John Rockers, your Keith Lockharts (seeing a pattern here?) and your Barry Bondses.

The highest level of Baseball Hell is reserved for guys that have done you, or your team, wrong. Brian Jordan used to be there for all the pain he put on the Mets, but then his career fell apart and I can't really hate him with the fire of a thousand suns anymore (unless he becomes the Brian Jordan of old this year). Roger Clemens used to be at the top (or the bottom?) as well, but after Piazza extracted his revenge in the All Star Game he fell (climbed?) to the eighth level. You need to be in top form night after night in order to stake claim on the ninth level and stay there in my book. Mike Hampton, who spurnned the Mets for the big money of Colorado, only to two years later force a trade to the freakin' Braves is there. Michael Kay, an unabashed Yankee shill/Met hater to the point that I can no longer listen to any programming on ESPN Radio, resides there as well. Vinny has covered Kay before, and says it better than I could. Today, however, a new name propelled itself to the top of the heap: Steve F'N Phillips.

Steve Phillips is better known as the General Manager who was lucky enough to stumble upon Jim Duquette and Omar Minaya during his reign and managed to field successful teams in 1999 and 2000. Later, Phillips, exhibiting his awesome talent and ability of putting together fantasy teams in real life brought you the 2001, 2002 and 2003 Mets, along with Art Howe to keep the whole machine running smoothly! Melvin Mora is a nobody! Trade him off! Mo Vaughn? He seems like a good bet! Make it happen! Good times!

As if crippling my ball club for four years wasn't enough, Phillips later found that nobody is looking for a horrible GM in this crazy baseball market, and took up shop as an announcer for ESPN. And ESPN, in a just delightful move, decided to make good ol' Steve the play-by-play guy for the Mets Spring Training games! A bitter, ignorant, egotistical former employee with an axe to grind covering the organization that fired him in the first place? How could this move possibly fail?!

So now, you get the option of muting the game (which I eventually did) or sitting and listening to the unsufferable ramblings of a guy who apparently knows nothing of the game of baseball. Included in yesterday's telecast alone:

Carlos Beltran isn't a New York kind of guy. No mention of the fact that Beltran is tearing the cover off the ball. Or that he's taught Reyes of a better way to steal bases. Or that he's taken David Wright under his wing. Or the fact that, up to this point, there have been no problems with Beltran whatsoever. But, no, he isn't going to make it in the big city.

Tom Glavine made a mistake in coming to New York. Apparently Steve forgot that he was the guy who signed him to the deal in the first place. Phillips, who did the wining, dining and convincing of Tom Glavine -- as well as signing him to the ridiculous three year, thirty five million dollar deal (and don't forget that ever reachable fourth year option!) now thinks it was a huge mistake. Delightful, Steve! How about Roger Cedeno? Or Mo Vaughn? I'm guessing those were mistakes, as well, huh? Glad to see we can all look back on those days and laugh.

Pedro Martinez is a six-inning pitcher. This has been talked about to the point of exhaustion, and then was promptly dismissed by Mets fans. Pedro pitched at least seven innings twenty times last season. In fact, he topped 200 innings. Phillips then went on to say that Pedro needs five, six or seven days rest to be successful, and ESPN put up a stat that showed the last three years of career which promptly refuted what Phillips had just said. So he stuttered and stammered for a few moments, before saying that last year he pitched better with extra rest, and perhaps it was the start of the trend. Your statistical opinions are phenomenal, Steve.

The Mets bench isn't that great. Steve thinks that the Mets are going to have a problem next season with the bench, and that the offensive/defensive replacements are going to have a problem when compared to the rest of the benches in the NL East. Huh? Somebody better let Miguel Cairo or Chris Woodward know that they should be expected to perform worse than Damion Easley or Nick Green. And Eric Valent can't possibly keep up Jeff Conine, Ryan Langerhans or Jason Michaels. Please.

And that was just twenty-four hours ago. Let us not forget that he also thinks that letting Leiter go was a huge mistake, that Carlos Delgado was a better signing than Pedro/Beltran combined, and that the Arizona Diamondbacks are going to dominate the NL West.

I wonder why Steve can't find a job in baseball.

**

And just because I wanted to fit this in: after reading MetsBlog yesterday, Matt Cerrone had spoken to Ken Rosenthal and he said that the Tigers want a "promising" prospect, not a top prospect, and for the Mets to take on a lot of money. How about Jeff Keppinger and 3.5 of Urbina's 4 million? I wouldn't be against that deal at all and it would mean a reliable eighth and ninth inning out of the bullpen. I've seen plenty of Urbina this spring and I'm not seeing the guy that fans are claiming is a shell of his former self. I see a power pitcher hitting 94 and looking like the Urbina of old. I'd be all for it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Who Gets Hurt?

There really isn't much in the way of news today past Kaz Ishii. In case you didn't feel like reading: neither Ishii or Rick Peterson are concerned about the walks, and Ishii and Kaz Matsui will get along. My favorite line from all the articles today, however, is this one: "He's got tremendous stuff," said Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca, who was Ishii's catcher in L.A. before the trade that sent Lo Duca to Florida last summer. "Obviously, his only weakness is he gets in trouble throwing strikes. But he's got 20-win stuff, and when he does throw strikes, he can be dominant."

Let's hope Peterson's figured out some magical way to cure all walking ills. If he does that, then everybody on the staff is a twenty game winner, and Peterson can get his own book deal.

After that, however, there's no news coming from the Mets. So, I figure I'll ask you all a question:

Who's the first person, after Steve Trachsel, that's going to be injured and miss time? Cliff Floyd seems healthy, has played games without any sign of injury, and is hitting okay. Reyes has been on fire, and besides, he can't possibly get injured again, right? Even Mike Piazza has looked good and it's his contract year. So, who goes first? And how bad is it? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Über Fifth Starter

In today's New York Times, Omar Minaya says something that speaks volumes about this trade: "I still believe that championships are won in large part by starting pitching. We have five solid guys. Then with the potential of Trachsel coming back in the second half, I think that puts us into position to win as many games as possible."

It got me to thinking about what Omar did here, where he's taken a guy who pitches his best games before the All-Star break (Ishii), and then gives the rest of his starts to a guy who historically pitches well in his first two months of his season (Trachsel). While Trachsel's season is usually like a roller-coaster, and he can be up and down from month to month, over the past three years his splits show that his best work is done in the second month of his season (9-3, 3.12 ERA in 18 starts). The way Trachsel's surgery has his season setup would mean that that second month would actually come in September. So, say we give Ishii April, May, June and part of July, and then Steve gets the last part of July, August and September.

What would be reasonable predicitions based on past success for both pitchers? Ishii, like I pointed out in my last post, has always pitched fairly well in the first half of the season. Let's say Rick Peterson works some of his walks out, and the Mets offense stays healthy and keeps Ishii in the ballgame. One could expect Ishii to get anywhere from six to eight wins and post an ERA around 3.80. Then, Trachsel comes in fresh off his injury, after a few rehab starts for Binghampton and Norfolk. Factor in a couple of starts where he'll be getting adjusted to major league hitting, as well as any new players acquired from other teams/leagues. Then let him pitch the rest of the season. Steve has never been a guy who wins a lot, but if his numbers stay in line with his past records, he too could win some ballgames. I'd give him about six to eight wins as well, and an ERA around 3.60.

That's a number five starter with an ERA of 3.70 and somewhere around 15 wins for this club. That's right around, if not better, than the numbers we were expecting out of Trachsel all along. It's an effective rotation platoon, and better than what Ginter or Seo could have realistically put up. Also, having Trax pitching at the end of the season may have a positive effect on the bullpen, as his inning eating will be done in the late months of the season. And all for a second-string catcher that wouldn't have made the ballclub anyway.

Yes, it's absolutely sad to see Jason go. He was part of that young group (Wiggy, Scutaro, Danny Garcia, Jeff Dunc... okay, not him) who came up and played exciting baseball when Mo Vaughn, Roger Cedeno and Roberto Alomar were slowly killing us all. But Omar did the best he could to go out and get a fifth starter, and Ishii is exactly that. He didn't give up a lot (and some feel he gave up next to nothing), he didn't end up with a Pete Munro/Chan Ho Park-type, and he's got a lot of money coming back in the deal, as well. It's a solid overall move for where the Mets are at.

Now let's just hope he doesn't end up like another Japanese pitcher we traded for from the Dodgers.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Excellent Ishii

I may be the only guy who wears a Mets hat saying this, and I'm expecting a lot of negative feedback for it, but I like Kazuhisa Ishii.

Actually, let me rephrase that: I like the first three and a half months of Kazuhisa Ishii. You see, Ishii's career is reminescent of our old friend Pedro Astacio's first year in a Mets uniform. If you were to look at Pedro the First's stats from that year, and didn't know what he did, you'd go "Ugh. Another lousy Mets pitcher." But in fact, it was quite the opposite. Astacio was dominant through the first three months, definitely worthy of "Ace" status and there were a lot of disappointed Met fans when he didn't make the All Star team. Then, for whatever reason, he just broke down. His stuff was left up and remarkably hittable, he broke down, and he's really never recovered.

Ishii is the same way, only he manages to do it every season. Every year, without fail I manage to land Ishii around the nineteenth round of my fantasy drafts. I then allow him to do his thing, which last year was ten wins and four losses at a 4.00 ERA, while hitters hit .237 off him. Although he did walk a ton of guys, this isn't the norm for his "Pre All-Star Break" career. And, just so you don't think this is a one-year fluke, in that illustrious career he has been 29-12 before the All Star break, with an ERA of 3.50 and 250 K's to 190 BB's.

So after we hit the All-Star break, I asses my needs (usually needing somebody speedy), and deal him off for somebody who needs pitching help. And then Ishii implodes. The guy has a 5.77 lifetime ERA after the break. His K/BB rates stay around the same, but it just seems as though every guy who gets on base finds a way home. He loses all ability to pitch. Whether it be because he gets tired or bored or mad that he didn't make the All Star team, I don't know. But every year I bank on Pre All-Star Ishii.

What it comes down to, however, is this: we all know Jason Phillips isn't going to make this team. Omar doesn't seem to like him, Willie doesn't seem to like him, and his numbers last year show that he's either really bad or really unlucky (I personally think his 2003 numbers were too high and his 2004 were too low, and he's somewhere in the happy medium). Regardless, Phillips isn't beating out Castro for the backup spot no matter how many more hits he gets.

So, what's the harm in trading the starting catcher for the Norfolk Tides for Ishii?

"But, Andrew, didn't you just say that Ishii implodes after the break? Why would we want to get a pitcher such as this?"

Well, here's the way I see it: Ishii would be our number five starter. He'll pitch his solid Pre All-Star game, and he'll put up numbers even Trachsel wouldn't. He'll get his 6 - 10 wins, he'll keep us in ballgames, and maybe Peterson can even coach the walks out of his delivery. If the Mets are in it at the All-Star break, and right now the belief seems to be they'll have a chance to, does anyone really expect Omar not to trade for a quality starting pitcher? I mean, Javier Vazquez makes just too much sense at this point, and Omar loves to trade for guys when he's in it. It's what he does. And if/when the Mets get this pitcher, who'd be bumped from the rotation? Not the top four starters, guys the Mets have time and money invested in, it'll be Ishii. Whether it be to the bullpen, or whether Omar pulls the Andrew Hintz patented "Kaz Ishii Trade 'n' Run", it doesn't matter. Ishii will have done his part, put up his solid numbers, and we won't have to worry about his horrendous starts.

And even if the Mets aren't in it, then what does it matter? I say let Ishii start every game and then the Mets can get the first round pick. It's really good things all around for this ballclub if you think positvely!

Seriously, though, it's better than Tim Redding. And as much as I like all the available Nationals starters, they've all been rumored for Wily Mo Pena. So that gives you an idea of what Bowden is looking for in trade, let alone the fact that he'll be trading these guys to a team in his own division which would probably mean he'd ask for even more from the Mets. Ishii just seems like, to me, the right move right now.

Hey, I'm the optimist blog, what were you expecting?

Friday, March 18, 2005

My Kingdom for a Quality Starter

I'm trying really hard to find some good out on the free agent/trade pitching market, but it's just not happening. Though I shouldn't be surprised, as most players that are good usually stay with their teams this time of year, there's nobody out there who's even kind of tempting. Lists have popped up with names that may be available through trade, including:

Brian Anderson - He is lefthanded, he throws down in the zone like Rick Peterson preaches, and is yet another former "talented but erratic" pitcher. But his one good year is looking more and more like it was a fluke, and he's being paid around 3.5 million next year because of it. On top of that, he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball last season and his K's per nine innings have been consistently declining since he first started pitching. His career ERA is 4.69, and that's with his flukey 3.78 career year. Bad all around.

Byung-Hyun Kim - Otherwise known as Benitez with the ability to start. He has the talent, he has the stuff, and he has a wacky delivery. He also has a long injury list, would probably require something of value in a trade, is the exact opposite of clutch, and has a Jae Seo case of the "uncoachables". Although he's an extremely talented pitcher, I'd much rather have a guy like Matt Ginter who'll listen and learn for free than Kim who'll do neither and cost a solid prospect. Pass.

Chan Ho Park - Five words: Two years, twenty-seven million. Nuh uh.

Shawn Chacon - This is the only guy who may have a chance to be better than the bunch of "in house" guys being considered. Chacon (a former All Star!) is only twenty-seven, has a 92-94 MPH fastball, a nice changeup, an average cutter and a really nice curve. He was given the closer role last year for some reason, and it was not a success (7.11 ERA, 128 base runners in 63 innings). But the guy has talent, and getting him out of Coors and into a rotation would do wonders for him regardless. He's relatively cheap (1.85 million) and considered a solid teammate. If the asking price isn't too steep, I wouldn't mind the Mets taking a flier.

And that's about it. I don't care if Pete Munro is from Flushing, he could have been born in Shea for all I care. If the guy's control isn't absolutely on, he gets hammered, and the latter happens way more than the former. Aaron Heilman would be a better option than Pete.

So, there we have it. If Petit isn't making the jump for AA (and all indications are he will not), then the Mets have to pick and choose from guys in the organization who have been below average starters the past couple seasons, or try and spin another team's straw into gold. Either way, it'll be a long and frustrating experience for all involved.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

WFAN's reporting the Mets have opted to release Joe McEwing instead of trading him off for anything that moves.

Regardless, I can't lie, I'm kind of sad. Not because I thought McEwing should be on this team (I didn't), or because I thought McEwing had a chance in hell to make it (he didn't). But he's one of those few guys in baseball that really, truly gave this organization everything he had. I'm sure his heart is set on continuing to play, but I would love to see the Mets offer him a role in the organization as a coach somewhere, and give him a job as manager of one of the minor league teams down the line. McEwing has a way with getting along with everyone he comes in contact with, and that's not something to be underestimated in baseball.

Good luck, Super Joe. I'll keep an eye out for you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

%#$@!in' Herniated Discs

Let's all have a moment of silence for Steve Trachsel's 2006 team option.

Okay! At least there's some good in this. Really, though, this is bad all the way around. While the normal number five starter is an average pitcher who goes up there and puts up an average ERA and tries to keep the damage to a minimum, our number five starter was an innings-eater. While it may take him two and a half hours to get through seven innings, the fact remains that he got through seven innings on a regular basis. The Mets now have a gaping hole in a rotation that was supposed to be among the better in Major League Baseball.

Eddie Coleman, our man in the know, was on WFAN tonight and basically said that he didn't see Omar seriously giving the spot to Jae Seo or Matt Ginter. Omar's spent too much money and too much time to give the fifth spot in the rotation to a guy who won't listen to his pitching coach or a longman in waiting, says he. So, with my mind buzzing in the memory of June 27th, 2002: Omar Minaya's Expos trade Grady Sizemore, Lee Stevens, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee and Tim Drew for Bartolo Colon, I find myself wondering "Is this far away from happening?"

I have always felt Omar Minaya's job in Montreal should have no effect on how we view his future as Mets' GM. He had no direction or goal in Montreal, and as far as he knew no future, so he did his best to field winning teams for his own future employment's sake. Any one of us would have done it, as well. But the fact remains that he does have these trades under his belt. Can we really trust that he doesn't have the ability to go Colon crazy again?

Omar's a talent scout, first and foremost. So I'm going to stand by the belief that Milledge and Petit and even Reyes will stay on this team unless somebody the quality of Johan Santana is being waved in Minaya's face. But what will Omar trade for then? At this stage of the game, most rotations are being set for the upcoming season.

This will be insight into what we can expect out of Omar's reign as General Manager. Does he stand pat and hope for the best with a Jae Seo or Matt Ginter? Does he trade those guys off for a middle-of-the-road kind of pitcher (somebody in the Ted Lilly mold?) Or does he make a Bartolo Colon-type trade, and ship off Petit and Concepcion for somebody like Livan Hernandez?

Hey, at least for all of you that were complaining about Spring Training being too boring, you got your wish!

Trax Back.

So, it certainly sounds like there's something wrong with Steve Trachsel, doesn't there?

A day after he was supposed to "skip one start" and his back pain was no big deal, Trax is on schedule to go see a third back specialist to get a look at his MRI and X-Rays. I don't know about the Mets front office, but this doesn't scream "Things Are Okay" to me. In fact, some person familiar with the situation thinks it might require surgery while others think simply that "it can't be good". As anybody who has played, watched, or glanced at baseball at any point can tell you, a back injury to a pitcher is usually never a good thing. While Trachsel isn't the most important pitcher on the staff, the Mets were really banking on the health of all their starters, because the backup plan is pretty lousy.

Just who is included in this backup plan? Aaron Heilman, Jae Seo and Matt Ginter. Wonderful.

Ginter, who won a lone game in his fourteen starts last year (he got fourteen?) was really nothing special. He gave up a whopping 82 hits in 69.3 innings pitched, striking out thirty-eight while walking twenty. Better known for his banjo playing abilities than his pitching ability, Ginter came into spring training this year with an eye on the long-man role out of the pen, and thus far has pitched all right, not giving up an earned run in four innings. He will more than likely be the guy to get the job if Trachsel's back is bad enough to delay the start of his season.

Jae Seo, we can only assume, is finished for the New York Mets. Rick Peterson pretty much slammed him after his start against the Dodgers where he gave up five runs on six hits in two innings of work, claiming Seo refuses to learn from his mistakes. A spring training ERA of 14.40 in five innings might back up that claim.

And then we're left with Aaron Heilman. I still like Aaron a lot, his mechanics are solid, his approach is sound, and his stuff is there. His psyche may not be, though. I don't know what it is about Aaron, if he's nervous out there or just unaware of what he's doing, but somewhere in his start -- whether it be four pitches in or four innings in -- he just falls apart. His stuff can look great in one pitch, and in the next he's trying to hit corners or come inside and that ultimately leaves the ball four hundred feet in the opposite direction. Rick Peterson is a mechanics guy, but he's not a psychologist. He can only tell Aaron so much about approaching hitters, but it's still ultimately up to Aaron himself to figure out how to pitch. His stuff is good enough that he doesn't need to nibble the corners like a Tom Glavine or move the ball all over the plate to get guys out. If he stayed down in the zone, like Peterson's preached to all the Mets pitchers, he could be a solid pitcher. Right now, he's just a AAA headcase.

The only other option the Mets have for a fifth starter is a longshot guy who gets the ball tomorrow, Yusmeiro Petit. While Petit's past pitching record indicates he has the ability to get hitters out, he's still very young and he's only pitched twelve innings above A-Ball. The mere fact that he's getting a start tomorrow however indicates the Mets have some faith in the kid, and that these factors are less important to them than they are to the naysayers. Petit, who's a month younger than me, wouldn't be the first guy to make the jump to the Mets at the age of twenty, and in fact a guy who he's been most compared to -- Sid Fernandez -- made his big league debut at the same age (albeit for six innings). Keep an eye out for Yusi, because if he shows the Mets that he can work his magic at any level, you may be seeing him proving it at the big leagues sooner rather than later.

After that, there's not much left. Humber isn't pulling a David Clyde and coming straight to the bigs, and no one has stepped up and showed that they can be a fifth starter (although no outside of the aforementioned three has really been given the chance to, either).

So, I imagine you will all join me when I say "Get Well Quick, Steve".

Monday, March 14, 2005

What's Up With Doc?

Throughout my life I've been a fan of pitchers above all else. Pitching through most of my scholastic career, I've come to appreciate the art of pitching more than the average fan. The mechanics, the arm slot, the delivery, the approach, the whole ebb and flow of a pitcher is an artform, and none did it better for the New York Mets than Doc Gooden.

While Tom Seaver was very, very good for a long, long time, Gooden was something else. He was something no one had ever seen and no one may ever see again. His 1985 season is one of the most amazing seasons by a pitcher in any season, and it was all done in a Mets uniform. It's why Gooden was my favorite player growing up, and has remained in my top three to this very day.

So it pains me to read that Gooden once again finds himself in jail. Allen St. John, who sponsors Darryl Strawberry's player page at Baseball-Reference.com puts it better than anywhere else I've read: "Choosing a favorite ballplayer is more like falling in love, than, say, picking a mutual fund..." And it's true. No matter what Gooden has done, including testing positive for drugs three times, driving under the influence twice, and a long history of spousal abuse -- coupled with pitching for the Yankees and remaining with them after retiring, I still stand by the guy. I wasn't even around for his "peak years", and I still consider Doc Gooden a personal favorite.

But I never thought I'd see the day where I had more faith and confidence in Darryl Strawberry's future than in Doc Gooden's.

From what little is said about him, I believe Gooden is clean. But the guy needs a serious reality check, and it may come real soon. George Steinbrenner has been incredibly supportive of the guy, rehiring him after a DUI arrest two years ago that would have ended a lot of other people's Yankees career for good. Not even a week ago, Bob Klapisch wrote about Gooden and how it's taken time, but he's regained the trust of "The Boss" and would be reporting as an adviser directly to him. In the same article, the Mets were said to be considering retiring Gooden's number along with Darryl's. Both of those seem less likely right now. I know I'll be watching closely to see what happens with Doc, but I'm greatly disappointed in the guy right now.

But then again, that's nothing new.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Strickland's Disses

Burn of the Mets century, courtesy of Scott Strickland:

Strickland moved closer to the end of his comeback from 2003 elbow surgery in the ninth inning of the Mets' 3-2 victory against the Cardinals, recording the final out, a line drive to left by Mike Bell with the bases loaded. But it had been Strickland who had imperiled the Mets' lead in the first place.

"I'm taking Armando's place -- minus the boos."

Oh snap. I laughed pretty hard at that. I really like Scott, and I'm hoping he gets out of Norfolk quickly and comes back to help this team.

Also, in the same article, Willie Randolph said he's thinking of batting David Wright eighth. Huh? Really? I'm not thinking Wright's going to be the top offensive player on the ballclub (at least not this season), but he's already a better all-around hitter than Cameron, and a better power guy than Mientkiewicz. That, at the very least, slots him sixth, which seems like the right place. Why risk killing a rally with a patented Mike Cameron strikeout in the six-spot? At least give a guy like Wright, who makes contact more often, a chance to drive some runs in. Hitting him eighth is just a strange, strange move.

Finally, Mike Vaccaro has a great article in today's Post, at least for the first couple paragraphs. I got my hopes up, and then it basically falls apart into a listing of reasons why sports fans should start caring about steroids (convienently leaving out "It gives me a lot to write about"). I, and I know I'm not alone, just don't care.

I'll admit I'm upset that Bonds cheated, and is now going to pass Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, and already has passed Willie Mays. Those three guys will remain my Top Three until Albert Pujols passes them the way you're supposed to when he turns 38. But past that, I really, honestly just could care less. So Jason Giambi did steroids? Great, now the Yankees are stuck with him for another four years at a ridiculous amount of money. Mark McGwire? The guy's retired and he made another team a lot of fun to watch while he was playing. Steroids just aren't that important to the majority of today's baseball fan.

If only everybody else could get that.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Arrivederci, Joey

I've got a super busy weekend, so updates will be short and sweet, and possibly plentiful.

But I just wanted to throw this out there, from the New York Times: Three days after the Mets signed pitcher Joey Hamilton to a minor league contract, they released him after he was arrested early Friday and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, Omar Minaya said. Hamilton, 34, is a right-hander who pitched 10 seasons in the major leagues, half of them with San Diego. Lance Davis, a minor league pitcher who was with Hamilton, was also released for missing curfew, Minaya said.

I'm glad Omar stepped up and cut bait, instead of letting them stay on the team. I know it's just minor league pitchers who had no shot at making the big leagues this year (if ever), but it's still nice to see. After years of guys bringing bad publicity on the Mets involving everything from bleach to urine, it's nice to see people getting swiftly punished under this new regime.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Bettering of Benson

I'm beginning to think I might be wrong about Kris Benson.

This is the problem with making predictions based solely on gut feelings and instinct instead of statistical analysis and trends and the like -- occasionally, your gut can change course. Whether it be because you see a guy play again and it opens your eyes, he says something on TV that makes you think twice, or just something you read about him in the papers, these tiny details can change your entire view on a guy's future. It's what scouts did back before Moneyball, I imagine.

The story that did it for me has been making the rounds today, about how Benson sat in on Pedro's simulated game. While Benson listened to Pedro's dialogue with the coaches, he began to pick up on the little things that make Pedro Pedro. Essientially what Benson's learned is this: he used to throw his second strike somewhere in the zone, where it would be hit. Why he has continued to do this unsuccessful thing over a five year big league career is unbeknownst to us, but Pedro's session has showed Kris that he doesn't have to stick to pitching in the umpire's zone, which ultimately left his second strike hittable. Whether this means Benson plans on now painting the corner, or simply pitching inside/outside, this gives Benson the ability to expand the zone, giving him more places to throw his second, and third, strikes.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know a Spring Training story when I hear one. And I know that Benson doesn't own a 47-53 lifetime record because he gets hit hard going for a second strike. And I also know that sometimes, these little learning experiences don't help a guy out (for example, Al Leiter trying to pitch outside like Tom Glavine, and walking the ballpark from 2003 on). But I feel differently about this for some reason.

Because Benson does have some similarities to Pedro. They're both righthanded pitchers, they both feature fastballs that go from the high 80's to the low 90's, both are considered "intelligent" pitchers, and both rely on offspeed stuff as their "out" pitches. And if anybody could and should be learning from Pedro Martinez, it's Kris Benson. Benson's long been thought of as having the talent, and my perception has always been that he has needed to figure out a way to stay ahead in the count. I don't know if such a place exists, but it'd be interesting to see what Benson's numbers were when he's got two strikes on a guy, as opposed to when he's behind in the count. From what I saw last season, Benson starts overthinking his pitches when behind, kind of like what plagued Ron Darling for many years.

So, if Benson's figured out a way to get two strikes on a guy, there stands a chance he will have improved by leaps and bounds. And if this is so, I'm even more excited for this upcoming season. I have a lot of faith in Pedro and Zambrano. I hold the belief that Glavine and Trachsel will continue to get it done. But if Benson can pull it all together as well, than the Mets have the best rotation in the National League. And that usually gets you a little farther than 162 games.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Prediction Time

Not much in the way of Mets news, so I figure I'll sum it up for you: Cliff Floyd thinks he'll be healthy enough to start running more, Sammy Sosa thought he was going to be a Met, and Mike Cameron's decided the Mets aren't so bad afterall.

Rumors of being traded to the Diamondbacks (52-111), Mariners (63-99) and Tigers (72-90) will do that to you.

So, without any real Mets news, and me being a DishTV subscriber I have nothing to complain about, I figure it's prediction time.

Eric over at Amazin' Avenue is asking for predictions about what Jose Reyes is going to do next season. While there may have been a time when the sky was the limit, and Jose was expected to hit .320 with fifteen homeruns and seventy stolen bases by now, the current predicitions seem to be around .280/.320 with around 35 stolen bases. Certainly not horrible numbers, but not what we were hoping for three years ago.

In the same vein, I find myself wondering, how many wins will the Mets put up next season? I've already made my predictions known, and am sticking with 88-74 as a best case scenario. In an incredibly competitive NL East, that just might do it, too.

Obviously, on paper, the Marlins are the team to beat. In our psyche, the Braves are. And in the Hot Stove League, the Mets seem to have the upper hand (no matter what Steve Phillips thinks). As Mike and the Mad Dog have been saying the past two days, baseball teams may not usually improve by leaps and bounds, but when you spend two hundred million dollars they oughta. Is it, in fact, possible to ride Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez to the playoffs?

So, I ask you, what're your expectations for this season? Best case scenario? Worst case scenario? Let 'em be known!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Some Things Never Change

With the impending renaissance of the Mets there will be a lot of things that are different about this organization. For one, Omar is intent on building this team around scouting and development. While his big, splashy free agent signings go against that ideal for the moment, this team will eventually be built around what comes out of our minors moreso than what comes out of the free agency pool. If this goes as planned, and I for one believe it will, the Mets will be something that is rarely seen: a successful, high-payroll team, built around homegrown products. It's what made the Yankees so successful years ago (Jeter, Williams, Rivera, Posada and Pettitte) and one day, years from now, people may be talking about how the Mets built around Wright and Reyes, Milledge and Balderis, Humber and Petit. The Mets may even be an organization held up with great esteem, the prototype on how to build a winning ballclub.

Things will be different then, but some things never change. Mainly, we'll all still hate the Braves.

Some of you may have forgotten how much you hate the Braves. I've found a lot of watching your own team lose can do that to you. Eventually, instead of hating the Braves, you just grow tired of them. Bored. The Braves put up another 100 wins? Ah well. With time the names Andru boils your blood no longer. You go to Shea, and half-heartedly chant "Larry" at Chipper Jones in his first at-bat. Kevin Millwood, who had our number so long ago has now signed a four million, one year deal with the Cleveland Indians. Heck, Tom Glavine's pitched for the Mets for two seasons!

Yet, as Greg Maddux (now a Cub) once said, "There's no rivalry any longer. The other team needs to be winning in order for there to be a rivalry." It hurt, but it was true. For pete's sake, Chipper Jones named his son Shea, and we all shrugged it off. For shame on all of us. But what were we to do? For every injury risk (Mo Vaughn) we took on, they countered with injury risks of their own (JD Drew). Yet, there's were the ones that paid off. We trade Jason Bay for Steve Reed, they trade Odalis Perez for Gary Sheffield. It's hard to find even a handful of guys that have any rage against the Braves left in them, any burning desire to take Turner's boys down once and for all.

But mention the name "Brian Jordan", and you'll see some fire, from those who lived through the golden days of the Mets. Say "Eddie Perez". You'll find it's like nails on a chalkboard. If I'm walking down the street and hear somebody, even in passing, say "Keith Lockhart" I have to punch them in the face.

If anything, what Omar's developing, the way he's building this team, is providing long-needed ammunition. Beltran and Pedro are bulletproof guys. For every guy who says Beltran's numbers will be hurt by Shea, we are to remind them of the Mike Piazza deal, where the same thing was said of him. For every Braves fan who says Pedro is breaking down, we will remind them of another pitcher that came from the Red Sox to the Mets that was supposed to be finished: Bobby Ojeda. And Pedro's track record is just a little better.

This team is being built to contend, built to win, and built to fight. Built to give the Braves a run for the money. Who cares about the Marlins? Who cares about the Phillies? These aren't teams that Mets fans should bother with, and from the looks of the way they're built, in a year or two they won't matter, anyways. But the Braves will always be there. As long as John Schuerholz pumps oxygen into his cold, black, three sizes too small heart, the Braves will field a competitive team.

Hopefully, Omar can do something those before him the last few years have been unable to do: promise the same for us.


**


Also, an interesting side note in my e-mail yesterday came from "Bill": While searching for David Sloane's e-mail address I discovered that he is the agent for Rudy Jamarillo, who you may recall was being considered for the Mets manager, and then hitting coach.

Sure enough, a Google search turned up numerous articles, including this one, that mentions that Sloane is in fact the agent for Jaramillo, the runner-up for the Mets managerial job. Makes you wonder if Sloane is carrying a vendetta against the Mets organization. Could Sloane be an even bigger jerk than previously thought?

Look at me, I'm like the next Jon Heyman!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Mikey Sez Relax

In an unnerving article from the New York Times, Jose Reyes is listening to just about nobody. While Willie Randolph and Mike Piazza have tried to slow Jose down this spring, voicing the opinion of just about every Met fan out there, Reyes feels differently: "Mike told me to slow down, this is spring training. But that's how I play the game. When I get on base, I have to steal the base."

I don't know what's going on with this kid. He did half his treatment with Mackie Shilstone, played Winter Ball against the wishes of management, and opted against training with Carlos Beltran. And now, after two seasons in which he's suffered through any number of leg injuries -- injuries that have robbed him of the better half of his first two years in the majors -- he's still playing all out, all the time.

While this is an attitude I'll gladly encourage come the start of the season, there is just no reason to risk losing Reyes yet again because he feels the need to steal a base during a meaningless Spring Training game. This is where Mike, Willie and Carlos all can act like the leaders of this team, sit Jose down, and tell him to chill. Willie's the manager, take the green light from him. Fine him when he runs without being told. Do something.

While Miguel Cairo is a fine pickup for the Mets, he pales in comparison to what a healthy Jose Reyes can do for this ballclub, and for the top of the lineup. One only needs to look at this article to see how the first three hitters in our lineup can do: Reyes, Matsui and Beltran are hitting a combined .394 [13-for-33] through four games with an eye-popping 14 runs scored, five RBIs and six walks. This team should not be willing to lose out on that in the upcoming season because Jose's 21 years old and thinks he knows what he's doing.

Willie Randolph was hired for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that he had a very hands on role in the raising and development of guys like Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano and Bernie Williams. Now he's got a new young player in his hands, to mold into a ballplayer. It needs to be done sooner rather than later.

Because knowing Jose, any day can be the day his hammy blows up.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

David Sloane E-Mails

I've recently been able to get my hands on yet another e-mail from David Sloane sent to the New York, Toronto, Miami and Texas media. But, I figured I'd share it with all of you as well:


FROM THE DESK OF DAVID SLOANE

As you may or may not have known, I represent Carlos Delgado. Because of the interest you all have indicated earlier in the Carlos Delgado free agency race, I felt the need to fill you in on some interesting things he has had to say lately. First and foremost, did you know Carlos Delgado's favorite color is actually green? Did you know that? I know before this offseason I didn't. But it was of the utmost importance for Carlos to sign on in a place that had the color green in their overall scheme. After years of playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, he's actually built up quite the aversion to the color blue, which is prominently displayed in the Mets' jerseys and stadium. The Wilpons told us that they couldn't and wouldn't change the blue to a light red, or even a silver. Mistake.

In fact, Delgado said earlier, "Well, green is all right, I guess. I mean, I probably like it better than blue." If this doesn't show you how committed Carlos is to a team's look and it's unity, I don't know what will. The guy just wants to win, people.

Also, I want to know what the deal is with Omar Minaya? I mean, Carlos wants to know what the deal is with Omar, not me. But Omar came at him like he knew him. Omar Minaya doesn't know Carlos Delgado, all right? If he did, he would know that Carlos loves the English language. He doesn't even care for speaking in Spanish all that much, and for Omar to slap Carlos in the face with a litany of "Cómo es usted?"s and "Usted es bueno"s, well that's just ridiculous. Mistake. And Omar's got big, goofy ears. Another mistake.

And finally, Carlos just didn't want to play in New York. I know I've been making it like he's wanted to, and that the Mets were really close and he was totally ready to become a Met, but he wasn't. Carlos is a tender little guy, and he doesn't take criticism well. I mean, we cut the Mets out in the first place for putting a forty-eight hour time limit on him. Couldn't management take a hint? They put the same limit on Al Leiter, and look what happened to him!

Regardless, Carlos is going to gladly be a Marlin for the next four years, and... well, there is the fact we didn't get that no-trade clause. So, whatever, Carlos will be a Marlin for the next three years, as long as he hits homeruns. Though that ballpark is pretty big, and has a history of being death on lefthanded hitters. And Carlos is aging, so, two years? Maybe?

I think I made a mistake.

-David Sloane

Friday, March 04, 2005

Babies in the Bullpen

In case you were unaware, Felix Heredia is a really bad pitcher.

See, there's this thing in baseball, where it seems that those in charge believe that a guy who had one successful season has the ability to be that successful again. But just as Brady Anderson hit 50 homeruns, and Shawn Estes won 19 games with a 3.18 ERA, some seasons are made not to be repeated. And, until tonight, it seemed that the Mets were doomed to having a guy aptly nicknamed "The Run Fairy" by Yankee fans, serve as their main lefty reliever.

Heredia has never even had a "great" season in relief, and has had way more bad ones than good. In fact, a strong case could be made that Heredia has been a pretty awful relief pitcher, expect for one fleeting moment in his career. While his first half-season with the Yanks was very good, pitching to the tune of a 1.20 ERA in twelve appearances, last year was horrendous. Somewhow losing only one game, he had a 6.28 ERA, giving up 28 runs (27 of which were earned) in but 47 appearances. Bad would be an understatement. Felix Heredia was fugly.

Now, the curse of the one good season takes ahold. If Heredia never pitched in 2003, he'd probably be a non-roster invitee for Kansas City right now. Instead he's being paid two million dollars to pitch badly for the Mets. While he's had success pitching in New York, don't be afraid to bet 2004 was more the norm for the guy with a penchant for giving up crucial runs. A lefty Benitez, if you will. But with Heredia coming down with a strange ailment in his hand, the Mets may just have dodged this bullet.

Don't get me wrong, I do not wish numbness of any part of the body on anyone, even if I do think they're going to destroy my team's relief corps. But that being said, Heredia's hand is numb, and as of right now there's nothing we can do about it. This instantly brought to mind the once great JR Richard, a guy few of you probably know. Richard, who was overpowering in his days as a Houston Astro, suffered through what he termed as a "dead arm", an unknown numbness. As the arm was misdiagnosed, he was later found to have a clot in an artery leading to his right arm, and he suffered a stroke, never to throw a baseball again. While this is more than likely not the case with Heredia, it is a concern, and one that may lead him to sit out this season. If this is the case, the Mets have more than ample backup in the way of relief help.

Willie and Omar, may I introduce to you Blake McGinley. Blake's had a long history of success in the Mets organization, which includes 28 wins and 8 losses for his minor league career as a lefty reliever. Now at Spring Training, Blake's got a shot to win a job on this team. While he doesn't have the overpowering stuff of a Felix Heredia, he's got a real nice changeup and could prove to be a nice lefty partner with Dae-Sung Koo. And, at 26 years old, he's more than major league ready. It's time to give the guy a chance.

I'm still pulling for Heath Bell, as well, and two days ago he gave a great reason why. Looking like a million bucks after his offseason weight loss, Bell went out and pitched a perfect inning of work, even striking out one. My faith in Willie Randolph as manager of this club will be strengthened even more if he goes with a young, promising, albeit inexperienced arm of Bell over guys like Roberto Hernandez or Mike Matthews. The past three years have been old and experienced and gotten this team nowhere. It's time to inject a little more youth, "babies" Willie Randolph might say, and give some promising guys a look.

Either way, the reliever race has suddenly gotten a little more interesting.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

You Gotta Believe

Today is the first day of the rest of a Mets fans life. With a little over a week of practice, we now have the first official Spring Training game upon us, arriving via ESPN and called by our old friend Steve Phillips.

It's a season that will bring us Pedro Martinez in a Mets uniform, and Carlos Beltran manning centerfield. It's a season that nobody dreamed possible but a scant five months ago, but is now being brought to us in living color by one of our own, Omar Minaya.

It's also a season of great promise. Like the '85 Mets before the '86 team, or the '99 team before the '00 team, this team shows great promise, even if they are a couple players away. It's David Wright's first full season in a Mets uniform, starting a career that many feel will lead him to becoming the face of the Mets for the next decade. It's another year for Jose Reyes to prove he's able to stay on the field for a full season, to try and stretch out those flashes of brilliance we've seen so many times before. Our infield is young and green and raw, "babies" Willie Randolph might call them, but it's filled with incredible potential. Even Doug Mientkiewicz has a chance to play a full, healthy season for a big market ballclub, to show why so many Minnesota fans loved the guy.

Our pitching staff has the ability to be stronger than any in recent memory. Not one, but two future Hall of Famers man the top of the rotation. One utilizing fastballs and the inner half of the plate, another using changeups and the outter. Following them up are two talented, albeit questionable arms. Will Benson fulfill those expectations heaped upon him on that warm day in June nine years ago? Will Victor Zambrano finally learn how to turn his wicked stuff into sustained success? Will Steve Trachsel be able to pitch seven innings in under two hours and forty-eight minutes?

While most cast doubt on the bullpen, most Mets fans look to it as a point of excitement. Will Blake McGinley and Heath Bell get a chance to shine on a contending team? Will Scott Strickland and Grant Roberts somehow manage to stay healthy and put forth a solid season of relief work? Can Rick Peterson work his Mike DeJean magic on one or two of the cast of characters Omar has assembled this spring? While the bullpen is still questionable, the fact that their is talent within our system for it is not. It's just finding the right pieces of the puzzle.

The Mets have something they haven't had in a long, long while: sustained excitement coming into a season. You can't help but have faith in Omar and his plan. Faith in Pedro and Carlos, faith in the future of David Wright and Jose Reyes. It's an offseason in which you truly gotta believe.

And it all starts today. So enjoy the game, folks. And remember spring training games and stats mean nothing.

Unless they win, and in that case, it means absolutely everything.