Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2008 SPRING TRAINING UPDATE

With spring training actually starting, and events taking place that merit talking about, this seems like a good spot to interrupt the player season previews to bring a spring update (the previews through the starting lineup are complete- we'll continue with the pitching staff shortly):

-The Mets that you expect to open their mouths and stir up a pot go in this order: Billy Wagner, Pedro Martinez*, everyone else.....then Carlos Beltran. But Beltran ticked off the rest of the division, the Phillies in particular, over the President's Day weekend by proclaiming the Mets as the team to beat in the NL East. Carlos friggin' Beltran opening his mouth. I couldn't believe it when I read it. Here's what he said:

"Let me tell you this: Without Santana, we felt as a team we have a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we're going to win in our division. I have no doubt in that....So this year, to Jummy Rollins, we are the team to beat."


Way to put some pressure on the team, Carlos. Especially considering you personally have shown a tremendous ability to rise to the occasion and not strike out with the bases loaded in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with your team trailing by two and two outs. You should go out and put extra pressure on yourself and your team, and while you're at it, call out the guy who actually backed up what he said against you guys last year.

Listening to and reading what some of the Mets said when they heard about Beltran's comments, it seems like some of them either don't know what to make of it, or are giving it the half-hearted, "Yeah, you have to like his confidence", while what they're thinking is the same thing I'm writing - "He said WHAT?".

Of course the Mets have to think they are the team to beat in the division, with Johan Santana. But there's no reason to go out and say it. You need to play this season with a chip on your shoulder from last year...not give other teams a reason to want to come out and beat you.

-The man you usually expect to say something controversial has been relatively quiet so far this spring training. Pedro Martinez* had good things to say about the Johan Santana acquisition, and then he started talking the other day about how he dominated the game playing 'clean'. I think it's funny first of all that Pedro* talked about how good he was (I didn't actually hear what Pedro* said, I heard people talking about it on the radio), but not only that, I think he's right. His first years with the Red Sox, and his last years with the Expos, Pedro Martinez* was dominant. And that's when most everyone in the game was juicing up, and one thing about Pedro*, as I heard a newswriter put it, at 140 pounds, he wasn't juicing. He absolutely overpowered everyone, and he was clean. That shows you the kind of pitcher he was.

-Everyone connected with the Mets that I've heard interviewed so far this year believes Carlos Delgado is going to have a monster year.

-I'm also hearing a lot of 'addition by subtraction' when it comes to Brian Schneider replacing Paul Lo Duca, especially when it comes to Willie Randolph and the clubhouse.

-One of Willie Randolph's biggest announced plans for 2008 is that he wants to rest Jose Reyes more than in the past, in the hopes that when he plays, he'll play better and last longer through the season. Ruben Gotay figures to get more time at short to see if he can spell Reyes.

-I heard Mike & The Mad Dog on Monday, and they were talking about Lastings Milledge hitting two home runs on the final Saturday of the season against the Marlins, and how his comments woke up a Marlins team that then decided to show up for the final game of the season, instead of mailing it in. I still believe the Marlins wanted to knock the Mets out of the playoffs anyway, and if you remember, there was nearly a brawl on that Saturday that Milledge wasn't a catalyst for, but I think a relevant point is that Milledge certainly has some maturing to do, and needs to realize how some of his actions affect other members of a team. But that's now Washington's problem....and probably the Mets', for about 20 games a year.

-One other thing that Randolph said is that Ryan Church will have to play himself out of a job. He's going to have the chance to play everyday, unless he proves he can't hit lefties at all. Church really struggled against lefties last year, and he will be rested against tough lefties, but otherwise, he'll be in there. Either Mike Francesa or Chris Russo compared it to a Paul O'Neill situation when he went from the Reds to the Yankees. I think that's wishful thinking, but I agree with Willie Randolph's response to that (and I paraphrase) - "If that's the case, I'll be pretty thrilled".

-On the topic of Milledge and Church - the Southern Bureau posted a comment that's worth commenting on - who would you rather have - Johnny Estrada and Lastings Milledge or Ryan Church and Brian Schneider? Good question. My answer is - if you had asked me in November/December, I definitely would have gone for Estrada and Milledge. And while I still like Estrada, all that I've heard about Church and Schneider since they have been acquired has me excited to see them, and I'm happy we'll have the chance soon. While I would not have been disappointed with the Estrada/Milledge combo, I am looking forward to Church/Schneider, and at this point, I'd rather have them.

-So far it seems like most Mets have the right attitude heading into 2008 - they're embarrassed by last year, and they want to get out on the field and try to correct that disaster. That's what the fans want to hear...and see - the Mets going out there and playing the polar opposite of the kind of baseball they played in the last half of September. Hear that, Beltran? Not talking about it....just doing it.

1 comment:

Dave in Brighton said...

I think there were nearly two brawls in that second-to-last game last season. I was getting a $7 Bud Light for a couple minutes, so maybe three.