Brutal loss by the Mets in their home opener today. This isn’t about panic over a 2-4 start…panic after 6 games is absurd. But the Mets let Jamie Moyer make them look silly, faltering on several circumstances where they could have put the hammer down, and the bullpen spit the bit. Add the Delgado error (throwing a DP ball that would have halted Philly’s take-the-lead rally off Chase Utley’s back, letting 2 runs score), and it’s not just a loss but an ugly loss.
If you fear something as a Mets fan, it’s this team lacking a killer instinct. We saw a lot last year that this team refused to bury a team. They would get 2 runs in, but have the bases loaded with 0 or 1 out, and get nothing further. Right now, the bullpen and the top of the order are having a real bad time…that’s a good way to, well, start 2-4.
Opening Day couldn’t have gone much better for the Mets. Johan Santana was outstanding, giving up two runs over 7 innings, striking out 8. Wright, Beltran and Reyes each get two hits, Wright drives in 3 and Ryan Church and Angel Pagan each drive in a run. Not too shabby. Sure, it’s the Marlins, but the Mets need to beat up on the bad teams and play well against the good teams. And this, for many reasons, was a nice first step.
OK, none of this start in Japan or, as the Nationals have on their field, “Opening Week” nonsense…Monday is Opening Day, so as far as I’m concerned these are on time. If you want, watch the season anyway, but this is what’s going to happen.
The Josh Beckett injury will come into play, and the fact is that the Yankees’ aren’t much changed from last year. Look for the Sox to take a step back, the Yanks to stay the course, and that will be enough for the Yanks to win the division. As for the excitement about the Devil Rays, they will improve, but we need to calm down a bit about this team. Baseball Prospectus projects they win 88 games…if the Rays win that many, I’ll eat a Devil Ray (the animal, not a player, though I’d eat Rick Peterson if it would bring Kazmir back to the Mets.)
I know everyone’s raving about Detroit, but pitching wins, and Cleveland still has more of it than the Tigers do. This is a two-horse race by the All-Star break.
Forget the hype about the Mariners. They can’t score, and Bedard and Felix Hernandez only pitch 2 games every 5. The Angels pitching has been hit by the injury bug, but they still win this division by 5+ games. My friends over at BP actually say the A’s will be better than the Mariners, but I don’t buy it. Oakland takes a step back this year.
Forgotten in all the talk about Brandon Webb and Dan Haren is Randy Johnson. Expect the Unit to miss time with his balky back, but when he pitches he’ll be effective more often than not. So good young bats make the D’Backs the class here. I know the Dodgers have gotten a lot of love, but I don’t buy it. What I do buy is the Giants struggling to win 70 games…I say they miss.
I know everyone seems to be picking the Cubs, but I don’t quite get why. I don’t love their pitching as much as a lot of other people seem to, and I just think the Brewers are on the rise and that continues this year.
Call it a homer pick if you want, but look at it this way: The Mets’ collapse last season obscured an 88 win season. A historic collapse is unlikely to occur again. How have the Mets gotten worse? Church over Shawn Green? A wash worst case, an improvement best. Schneider over LoDuca. Two years ago I wouldn’t have said this, but right now I’ll take Schneider’s staff control over LoDuca’s presence, which was his greatest gift and wore out. A full year of Luis Castillo at 2B is an improvement, and Pedro and Santana replace Glavine and Jorge Sosa/El Duque. That’s a big improvement, and the reason the Mets take the division. I think the Braves top the Phillies, too, as the Phils have too many pitching questions right now, and I’m no big fan of Pedro Feliz or Geoff Jenkins at this point in their careers. I will say, though, that the idea that anyone is counting on something from Mike Hampton is purely comical. What could stop the Mets? Health, obviously. But I’m betting on Delgado not being worse than last year even if he’s no better, and a big year from Pedro, who’s playing for a contract and to retain his “Acehood.” For someone like Pedro, this matters.
Tigers over Yankees
Indians over Angels
Indians over Tigers
Mets over Brewers
Diamondbacks over Braves
Mets over Diamondbacks
Mets over Indians
If there’s one thing wrong in these predictions, it’s that the D’Backs absolutely can knock off the Mets, in what should be a great pitched series. But I still think whoever wins that series wins it all. Injuries could just as easily put the Mets in third in their division…that’s how fragile things are for this team. I’m putting a lot of faith in Pedro, honestly. We’ll see if that is rewarded.
Now let’s play ball!
Half the fun of the end of spring training (and yes, there actually is an end in sight) is taking a look at the teams’ expected Opening Day rosters. Though the Mets aren’t dealing with any real position battles, there are some interesting scenarios shaping up. So with that said, let’s take a look at what we expect:
C: Brian Schneider, Raul Casanova
Schneider’s hamstring remains balky, as does Ramon Castro’s. Schneider maintains he could go if he needed to, but he’s had 5 ABs all spring. Even so, I’ll assume Schneider will be there at this point. Fathead Castro is still waiting for his MRI to come back. I think he’s shelved for a while, and Casanova, a respectable backup, will be there Opening Day.
1B: Carlos Delgado
Until the anvil falls on his head cartoon-style, I’ll assume he’ll make it to Opening Day. Seriously…4 stitches from a broken bat? Somebody better break out Cerrano’s JoBu, and load up on the rum…the good stuff, not the bottle on the shelf with Crazy Horse and Olde English 800.
2B: Luis Castillo
Hobbled himself, Castillo took his sweet time coming back, but supposedly feels OK after playing a few games. In fact, he says he wants to run more. I want to be in the shape I was when I played in college…wanting it won’t make it happen. Let’s just try to keep Castillo’s legs functional and let Reyes steal the bases around here.
3B: David Wright
No problems here. Are there ever?
SS: Jose Reyes
Pair of steals today make me think Jose is gearing up for Opening Day. Obviously no issue here.
OF: Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church, Endy Chavez
Beltran feels fine, which was the big concern. Back to back days in the field have been handled well, so that should mean he’s good to go.
Rotation: Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez
Bullpen: Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano
That’s 16 guys we’re reasonably sure about. Sure, Castro depends on the MRI, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Since the final spots are usually weighing bullpen roles, we’ll work backward from there on the final 9 slots.
Mike Pelfrey should get the final rotation slot. El Duque hasn’t even pitched in a game yet, so while Pelfrey hasn’t been as sharp his last two times out as the first two, he’s still the best option here. Leave Hernandez down in Florida to fix his bunions or whatever else is bothering him. Dismissing Hernandez is foolish, as he was their best pitcher last year when he was healthy. But he’s incredibly frustrating to deal with.
Jorge Sosa has been great, as has Scott Schoenweis. That takes care of your long reliever and your second situational lefty.
The team wants Duaner Sanchez ready. But he has to show he’s able to pitch 3 or 4 times a week, and so far the Mets haven’t seen that. Still, what other options are there. The fact is, the team can carry 12 pitchers if they aren’t sure about Sanchez’s workload. Consider him a given, and if they want backup, Matt Wise will make the team as the 12th arm over sidearmer Joe Smith, who many feel has great stuff but needs to develop a bit more confidence/killer instinct. In fact, Pelfrey could even be left off the Opening Day roster since the Mets don’t need a 5th starter until the second week.
Four spots left. Damion Easley gives right-handed pop and infield versatility. Marlon Anderson is a lock as the best pinch-hitter on the planet. Angel Pagan has been outstanding this spring, and while that doesn’t mean he’ll be great going forward, it does mean he gets the hot-hand benefit of the Mets current outfield problem.
With one slot left, the assumption is Jose Valentin. But this new neck problem could mark the end of Valentin, as it’s not really a new problem, but an old one that’s crept back. I like Jose a lot, personally and as a useful role player. But I don’t think he’s making this team out of camp. He may get the "extended stay" in Florida rather than be sent to AAA, but I can’t see them bringing him north with the team at this point. I have an odd feeling Valentin’s career is over, and that’s a shame.
I think Brady Clark is going to get the last spot on this roster. He’s hitting .300 this spring, can run a bit, is regarded as a solid defender and can play all three outfield spots. Don’t be surprised if he is told to grab a first baseman’s glove and pick up some ABs there as well if Delgado needs a breather. Perhaps that’s just me trying to justify my praise of his pickup a few weeks ago on this blog.