Monday, February 28, 2005

The rotation. This is going to be one of the Mets' strengths this year. It's really outstanding. Before I comment further on the '05 Mets pitching staff, I turn to an e-mail from Dave in Brighton, which has been sitting in the johnnymetsmailbox for more than a month:

"Dear JohnnyMets,

NESN is replaying the 1986 World Series this week (after broadcasting the '75 Series last week, and before they show the '04 ALCS and WS starting next week).

Seeing Ron Darling on the mound prompted me to wonder:
Which was/is the stronger rotation...'86 Mets or '05 Mets?

Darling ---------- Martinez
Gooden --------- Glavine
Fernandez ----- Anna Benson's husband
Ojeda ------------ Zambrano
Aguilera --------- Trachsel

And a follow-up question. If you think this team is stronger, and since pitching wins championships, do you think the Mets are World Series bound this fall?

Dave in Brighton"

This, I think, is one of my favorite e-mails ever on the site. I never get tired of talking about the 1986 Mets. I'm going to re-match-up the rotations here, for comparison's sake.

Gooden was the '86 ace - he started Game 1 of the NLCS - if the Mets are in the postseason this year (maybe when??), you better believe Pedro Martinez* is out there.
So #1 - Gooden-----------Martinez*

Let's make #2 - Ojeda---------Glavine

Then #3 - Darling------------Benson

And #4 - Fernandez----------Zambrano

Then #5 - Aguilera---------Trachsel

Besides the obvious differences (ages, like the youth of the '86 Mets' staff, and the relative age of the '05 staff [average age = 33]), I think this is a fair matchup.

I think Gooden in 1986 was more dominant than Pedro Martinez* will be in 2005. That said, Gooden never pitched too well in that post-season, and Martinez* has had some of his greatest performances in the playoffs. So with the goal being a World Series championship, this matchup is a tie.

Bobby Ojeda and Tom Glavine are similar in that they don't overpower hitters - but they are both effective lefthanded pitchers. Let's take a look at the career numbers:

Ojeda - 15 yrs., 115-98, 3.65 ERA, 1128 K's
Glavine - 18 yrs., 262-171, 3.44, 2145 K's

Ojeda's season-high in strikeouts was 148, Glavine's was 181. I'm giving Glavine the edge here, because in his 18th season, he showed he still had something left. Also, he's a potential Hall of Famer, Ojeda was just a solid pitcher.

I think Ron Darling has the edge over Kris Benson now, but I'm looking forward to a full season of Benson with a good team. If he still produces a .500 record and an ERA over 4.20, then I'll believe he's an average to below-average pitcher.

Sid Fernandez and Victor Zambrano is a tough one, because there's not much to go on with Zambrano, and El Sid was actually pretty tough to beat in '86 through '89. I think Zambrano will be better this season than he's been in his career to this point (he's supposed to have a lot better control this season), but Zambrano's health issues give the edge to Fernandez here. (Come to think of it, this wasn't a tough was actually pretty easy to call.)

Finally, Rick Aguilera and Steve Trachsel. Aguilera was never the most effective starter (hence the move to the bullpen after he was traded to Minnesota), and Trachsel hasn't had the most impressive career. But if you look at pitching careers with the Mets, you have to give the edge to Trachsel - if the Mets weren't so bad the past couple of years, Trachsel could have had one or two 20-win seasons. I give the edge to Trachsel here. (In the interest of full disclosure, a friend of mine and I have our doubts as to whether Trachsel would have pitched as well as he has the past few years if the Mets were competitive. We think he isn't a pressure pitcher. I guess we'll find out this year).

So if you break down my breakdowns, it's 2-2-1. A tie. Wow that worked out well. I seriously did not try to fix it that way. I do honestly think these pitching staffs match up very well. Whether that leads to a world championship for the '05 Mets or not remains to be seen (although it's all I got to root for this year), but here's the X-factor. Let's look at pitching coach.

Mel Stottlemyre was the Mets' pitching coach in 1986. He's been one of the best in that position in the majors for a couple of decades now. But the '05 Mets have one of the greatest pitching coaches of all time - Rick Peterson. This guy is unbelievable. This is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about the Mets' pitchers this year. He firmly believes he can fix Victor Zambrano's problems on the mound, and I have no reason to doubt him. I also think Peterson, having a full season to work with Benson, will make Benson a much better pitcher. And he sure can't hurt Martinez*. So maybe the presence of Peterson puts the '05 Mets over the top.

I do believe this year's pitching staff can take the Mets far. And if the hitters support the pitchers (the lack of which was the major reason for last year's disaster), getting them to the playoffs, imagine what kind of staff the Mets can throw out there in a short post-season series, and how much stronger the bullpen gets when at least one of the starters turns into a reliever. The bullpen as it stands could be a potential problem....I'll try to give an update on that later in the week.

Wednesday is e-mail Tuesday night is the deadline to get your e-mails in. One more thing - the reference to Anna Benson's husband...and maybe this is a personal note to Dave in Brighton. Since you wrote that more than a month ago, I wonder, since Mike Piazza has gotten married now, if they announce the battery on days Benson pitches as:

"Anna Benson's husband throwing to Alicia Rickter's husband". Or is that just how you announce it?

Oh, another one more thing...bashing Dave has just reminded me that he will be filing a report for Thursday's blog on Wednesday's televised spring training opener. Thanks, Dave, for being a team player! We'll save you a spot at the DirecTV-sponsored bar when the DirecTV kicks in (end of March).

Here's hoping there's no school tomorrow...........

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Man, if I was psyched about baseball before, I sure as heck am now.

I must start by saying that I did not meet Hall of Famer Gary Carter on Sunday. The situation wasn't right. I will meet him someday, and it will be without a bunch of other Mets fans pushing around me as we wait to buy tickets for the 2005 season. So instead of going to Shea Stadium Sunday morning, I sat at home, and received a call from James from Bayside. (OK, full disclosure, my mom received the call, and relayed the message.) The members of the 1986 Mets who were at Shea Stadium were on WFAN, on "Talking Baseball with Ed Randall". Great interviews. I heard the end of Gary Carter's, heard Tim Tueffel, Sid Fernandez, and a little bit of Ron Darling. Good stuff. It really got me psyched for this season.

A couple of other things - Hall of Famer Gary Carter is managing the Gulf Coast Mets this season. I think I heard that announcement at the end of last season - but it might have come after the blog closed down for the season. Needless to say, the Carter Count will be this year's version of the Wright Watch, and we'll track Gary Carter's path back to the majors...this time as a future Hall of Fame manager. FYI, the Gulf Coast Mets finished in first place last year in their division, and lost a playoff game to the Red Sox. It's a 60-game season, which I think starts in June....maybe even July. I'll keep you posted.

In other former Mets news, Mookie Wilson will be managing the Brooklyn Cyclones this year.

As for the '05 edition of the Mets, future Hall of Famer David Wright and Jose Reyes (possibly THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED) have been invited by Carlos Beltran* to join him working out at night at the Gold's Gym in Port St. Lucie. Wright has already taken Beltran* up on the offer, but didn't tell Beltran* that he had already been working out at the gym at night separately by himself. Reyes, I think, has yet to join them. Beltran* says he asked them because he sees the talent there and he wants them to be the best they possibly can be.

There's going to be an uproar developing about revelations by Carlos Delgado's agent that Al Leiter helped Delgado choose the Marlins over the Mets by badmouthing New York. I think the only reason this might become an uproar is because Leiter badmouthed the New York media, and they hate to be badmouthed (see: Chad Pennington). Again, in this situation, I don't disagree with anything Leiter said - stuff along the lines of, slumps are prolonged in NYC because 7 or 8 newspaper writers are asking you about it, and the talk radio stations are talking about it, and it influences fans negatively. He said it better, though...I don't like the way I just wrote it. Anyway, this might be an interesting side story for the Mets/Marlins matchups this year.

The Mets' first spring training game is on Wednesday at 1:05pm, and it will be on ESPN. Tom Glavine will pitch against the Washington Nationals. I will not be able to watch, because first of all, I will be in school, and second of all, I no longer have cable, as I get ready to move into the House, brought to you by DirecTV. I will try to find someway to catch highlights, at least.

I would love to preview pitching tomorrow, but tomorrow also happens to be closing on said house. Hopefully I'll find the chance to write.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Next week I'll delve into the Mets' pitching staff and bench players (hopefully - there's a lot going on with the move into the new DirecTV-sponsored home, plus I'm back in school next week). But today, before I head to New York for the weekend (more on that later), I thought I'd take on some of the e-mails that have been sitting in my inbox most of the winter (some also arrived yesterday):

"Dear JohnnyMets,

Welcome back. Might I request to
pass the long weeks between the Super Bowl and Spring Training. Felt
like years.

Right off the top, I want to get you on the record on an "Around the
Majors" type question ...
What date do you pick for the annual Ken-Griffey-Jr.-season-ending injury?
I ask this now because spring training dates are still on the board.

I say June 11.

Second up...some online casinos are offering 12-1 odds on the Mets
winning the World Series, same as the Twins and a little bit better
than the 25-2 Marlins. I know you're not interested in such things,
but do those sound like good odds to you?

Dave in Brighton"

Dave, thanks for the e-mail(s). The college basketball thing isn't a bad idea...but don't you enjoy just attending college basketball games with me and hearing me talk about them there? You don't really want me to write about the BU Terriers and how they just don't show up against teams like the Northeastern you?

Anyway, I think Griffey makes it through the entire year without a season-ending injury. But I'll go with 3 separate stints on the disabled list for various injuries. For entertainment purposes only, of course.

As for the Mets' odds....I'd say 12-1 is pretty fair. If I had a friend going to Vegas this year around March Madness time, I'd definitely give that friend some money to put on the Mets. Some of you may remember that last year, I had such a friend, and I gave him 20 dollars to put on the Mets to win the World Series. The odds then were 30-1. So I'd say they improved enough since this time last year to merit a 12-1 odd. I'm a little surprised they rate better than the Marlins...but glad. I'm glad they're getting a little respect, because, dare I say it, I think the Mets will be pretty good this year*. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...prediction time is in a month from now.

Another e-mail from Dave:

"'And one other thing that I just realized - at the end of last year, I took the GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED designation away from Reyes because of the injuries, but I did NOT give it to David Wright. I referred to Wright as future Hall of Famer. I forgot, my bad.'

No sweat. This is why they hold spring training."

For those of you who can't follow quotation marks, Dave quoted my posting from Thursday first, then the last line is his. Thanks, Dave, for overlooking my error.

Oh, look, another e-mail from Dave (from February 9th):

"Dear JohnnyJets, er, I mean Mets,

Did you read Kevin Kernan's fawning column in the Post today about
Pedro's early arrival.
I hope he digs that out in July, two weeks into Pedro's NY media blackout and as he's leaving early for his All-Star vacation. He'll get a real kick out of the line "He smiled. He is
comfortable here."
Of course the flaw in my thinking is that Pedro will be on the NL All-Star team this year, fighting for the starter's spot with Clemens, as they battle for the Cy Young. (Or Cy Old, in Clemens' case.)
Dave in Brighton"

I hadn't actually read that column, and saw Dave's e-mail about it a couple of days later. But I'm a little torn on how to react. Part of me thinks Pedro will keep up this model citizen act all season long and never tick anyone off in New York, and he'll win that Cy Young Award as he leads the Mets to the world championship. But the other part of me thinks we'll see the scenario Dave has laid out for us above.

What my head (not heart) really thinks is that there will be a little bit of both. I think this season, whenever Pedro does something that would set off the Boston media the past few years, the New York media this year will give a "That's just Pedro being Pedro"-type response, and not make a huge issue out of it (in coming years, there will be many a firework). I do expect Pedro to pull a lot of his n0t-so-charming antics this season, but I don't think they'll be blown up in the papers quite yet. And I don't think there will be a media blackout....again, just this year.

By the way, Pedro must be getting comfy in his Mets surroundings. Today he shagged flies wearing a dummy head on his hat, being the clown Pedro you always used to see in the Red Sox dugout. On the other hand, the other day, a fan yelled something like, "Who's your daddy?" to Pedro, and he turned around and grabbed his crotch at the guy (can you grab your crotch AT someone? But I think that's what he did.) That antic was just a blurb in the Daily News, FYI, not back-page material.

Anyway, there's plenty more e-mail to come...and if you want to send me e-mails, the address is, and I'll post responses on Wednesdays.

This weekend, I'm going to New York to see the family. Also, on Sunday, Mets single game tickets go on sale. Now, Saturday, season ticket and game plan packs go on sale, and people who buy those at Shea Stadium get to meet Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and Darryl Strawberry. And a while back I heard that on Sunday, for the single game tickets, Gary Carter was going to be among the Mets greeting ticket buyers. But I haven't heard anything about that since. I wonder if the Saturday players event replaces the Sunday one. I'll update you next week, but there is a chance that on Sunday I will accomplish my life's goal of meeting Gary Carter. I hope he's nice.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Today I'm going to take a look at the probable Mets' lineup for 2005.

1. Jose Reyes - SS
2. Kaz Matsui - 2B
3. Carlos Beltran - CF
4. Mike Piazza - C
5. Cliff Floyd - LF
6. David Wright - 3B
7. Mike Cameron - RF
8. Doug Mientkiewicz - 1B
9. (Pitcher)

I'm seeing lineups where Matsui is the leadoff hitter and where Reyes is the leadoff hitter. I think Reyes will end up the leadoff hitter (where he finished last season), and Matsui number two, where he is better suited. I really like those two setting the table for Beltran*.

After Beltran, I'm worried. The way it looks right now, Piazza-Floyd could be the weakest 4-5 in the majors. Piazza says he will pace himself more this year, since he will be catching all the time, and try to give himself more rest. He says he knows that he has more pop in his bat when he's rested. Unfortunately, that was the idea when he was moved to first base last year (to rest him), and he didn't light it up at the plate at all. Floyd looked awful at the plate for most of last year. Hopefully he has the injuries beat, and he starts hitting. But right now, I'm not too psyched about the Mets' 4-5 hitters. (FYI - Last year - Piazza: .266, 20 HR, 54 RBI...Floyd: .260, 18 HR, 63 RBI)

I am very psyched about 6-8. I don't think THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED, David Wright, will be hitting in the sixth spot for very long. As he gets more comfortable at the major league level, I see him moving at least to the fifth spot, perhaps even higher. As for Cameron and Mientkiewicz, I hope, first of all, that they don't pout, and realize that 7 and 8 are the best spots for them in this lineup (that goes mainly for you, Mientkiewicz, you big mouth). I think Cameron will benefit most, because he will be pressure-free in the 7 spot, and I think he will thrive there. Mientkiewicz I expect a high average from, but not much production elsewhere.

Then there's the pitcher, which I will comment on probably tomorrow (their pitching, not their hitting).

And one other thing that I just realized - at the end of last year, I took the GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED designation away from Reyes because of the injuries, but I did NOT give it to David Wright. I referred to Wright as future Hall of Famer. I forgot, my bad. It's not that I disrespect Wright, it's just that Reyes has the speed, which gives him all the tools to be THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED. Now he's just got to show me that he's healthy enough to earn back the title. So scratch the two references to Wright as THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED from your memories...and if you need to, replace them with the precursor "Future Hall of Famer". I promise to correct the errors in the future.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Helloooooooo, Wilmington, North Carolina!!

Baseball season is around the corner, and is back for another season. I've overcome my winter sadness over the acquisition of Pedro Martinez, and am now really psyched about the Mets' upcoming year.

Since I've last written, the Mets have parted ways with the likes of Vance Wilson, Richard Hidalgo, Al Leiter, John Franco, and Art Howe. They've replaced, and upgraded, in all of those spots.

Willie Randolph is the new Mets manager, and he's bringing some Yankee style discipline to the team. Randolph allows only mustaches, so all of the Mets will look clean-shaven this year - no more Mike Piazza beards...or fu manchus. And Randolph has outlawed music in the clubhouse, a Mike Cameron favorite. Players are only allowed to listen to music on headphones. Cameron says he's going to fight this rule.

Cameron isn't a new player this year, but he's playing a new position. Cameron moves to right field to accomodate the big prize - centerfielder Carlos Beltran. I expect Beltran's power numbers to decline a bit with the Mets, but there's no reason for his average or stolen base output to go down. I'm psyched about watching Beltran play*. I just hope he adjusts to center field at Shea Stadium better than Cameron did last year, and that Cameron now makes a smooth transition to right. (* - see Pedro Martinez below)

Pedro Martinez. I've decided that there are worse things in the world than your baseball team adding a potential Cy Young Award winner to their pitching rotation* (an already-strong rotation, incidentally). (* - here's where the asterisks come in. As a Mets fan, you have to be leery of any free agent acquisitions, especially when the players have had huge success before coming to New York. In this case, I think the additions of Martinez and Beltran make the Mets a whole lot better, I really do, but it's just so hard to trust any players in New York until you see them succeed in a Mets uniform with your own eyes. So until they can prove that they are the same Martinez and Beltran that have played for other teams, all references to Martinez and Beltran from here on out will be marked with an asterisk, referring to this footnote.)

I am giving Pedro a chance, starting now. He seems to respect Willie Randolph, which gets him off to a good start. His first bullpen session was strong, he was throwing the ball with "zip". He seems to have a good rapport with the young Latin ballplayers....and there are Red Sox players right now who say they really miss Pedro. Perhaps he isn't a clubhouse cancer. Maybe he'll be a good influence on other Mets. So, Pedro, you're getting a chance to prove yourself to me. Don't blow it.

One other new addition I want to mention is Pedro Martinez' former Red Sox teammate, Doug Mientkiewicz. Mientkiewicz has a big mouth. He's already been talking about that World Series ball controversy, and in Sunday's (or Monday's) New York Daily News he started talking about how the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry didn't quite match up to the Twins-White Sox rivalry. Give me a break, Doug. He's done a lot of talking for just the first two days of camp. I hope he doesn't start rubbing people the wrong way, because he's a legitimate first baseman, something the Mets haven't had in five years.

Other things to look for this year include: the Jose Reyes-Kaz Matsui swap that never had to be, but is taking place this year....the continued emergence of THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED, David Wright (Reyes lost that title last year, some of you may remember, due to excessive injury)....Mike Piazza's adjustment back to catcher....who's in the bullpen.....who's on the bench.....and just how good are the Mets going to be this year?

There's a lot of spring training left...I can't promise I'll write every day, but I can promise that beginning next week, Wednesday will continue to be the regular e-mail day, and I will respond to e-mails as long as you get them to me by early Tuesday. Then, once the regular season begins, there will hopefully be daily updates, with Wednesday remaining e-mail day.

Thanks for reading - I hope you had a restful winter - and get ready for BASEBALL SEASON!!