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Mike SteffanosWednesday, August 24, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

I think a lot of Mets fans were hoping for a scenario last night where Victor Zambrano would get shelled pretty good but the Mets would manage to score enough runs to win. Surprisingly enough the offense came through and did their part, scoring 14 runs against the shell-shocked Diamondbacks, but Victor pitched 8 solid innings, complicating things now that Trachsel is back. Now there is no "easy" solution to the problem of six starters for five spots.

I have to admit that when the Mets traded Scott Kazmir for Zambrano last year I felt really betrayed. To me, it smacked of the type of dumb move that the Mets became famous for during the 90's and through the evil days of the Steve Phillips era at Shea. But unlike a lot of Mets fans, I'm not going to hold Zambrano personally responsible for the trade. Kazmir is gone, Victor is here, so lets all deal with it.

Having said that, I'll be interested in seeing how well Trachsel pitches and I do agree that of all of Mets starters Zambrano is legitimately the most vulnerable right now. I think he has made some good progress under Rick Peterson (funny how you don't hear so many WFAN callers bitching about Peterson lately) and I think in the long run past this season I think I'd rather see the 30-year old Zambrano over Trachsel (who turns 35 in October). You wonder how much Trachsel has left in his career, and Zambrano does have really good stuff and should benefit from continued work with Peterson.

However, despite the good performance last night, Victor has been shaky and disturbingly hittable over the past month or so, after being arguably the Mets most consistent starter for a couple of months. Yes, Virginia, there is a pennant race and the true potential of actual "meaningful" games in September, and whoever is most effective out of these 6 guys should pitch - period. In the long run, though, as much as I love and appreciate Trachsel I think the Mets need to favor youth and potential, and in 2006 I think Zambrano fits better. In the unlikely event that the Mets find a taker in the off-season for Glavine, perhaps there will be room in the rotation for both.

Willie loves those kids...

It's refreshing as a Mets fan to see young guys from our organization actually helping the team. A combination of trading away any decent prospect and poor scouting and development has really hurt the Mets over the years. The AAA affiliate in Norfolk in particular has tended to look like a graveyard of has-beens over the past few years than a source of actual help to the big club.

Calling up Mike Jacobs (from AA Binghampton no less) to help out was an inspired move, whether or not he continues to hit or winds up being overmatched in the bigs. If the Mets are ever to build a real contender that is able to sustain itself over more than a year or two will depend very much on the ability to find help from within the organization. Trying to build a club with expensive free agents or trading for overpriced problems from other organizations (Manny, Soriano et al) is not going to do the job. Look at the cost of players like David Wright (some of you were hot to trade him away while he was still in the minors - remember...), Jose Reyes, Victor Diaz and Jacobs and figure out how much it would cost to replace their production with similar numbers from veteran players. There's only so much money to spend, money saved with the salary of productive young players can be spent on improving scouting and development and acquiring some veteran players that can really help. Have a real plan rather than just trying to find lightening in a bottle with the Mo Vaughns of the world.

Sure, I don't believe that Willie loves the kids as much as he professes to right now. It's easier to know what you're getting when you slot a veteran into the lineup. Victor Diaz in particular with all of his potential is a problem child. The thing is though, Willie, if you aspire to be a great manager, you'll learn to get the kids to contribute. The Mets don't need to be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and can afford to spend money on getting and keeping talent, but can only be stronger and more exciting if there is a blend of youth and experience.

I should probably feel guilty about this...

Speaking of kids, when I woke up this morning I was surprised to see my girlfriend spending some of her precious pre-work time watching the replay of the Mets game from last night on MSG network. She turned to me and said, "this kid Jacobs is amazing!" The thing is, my girlfriend always hated baseball - she thought it was boring. After pinching myself to confirm that I was indeed awake, I realized that thanks to me, my girlfriend was on the fringe of becoming a full-fledged Mets fan. And to be honest with you, though I got a kick out of it, I wondered if I am doing her a favor by facilitating this.

But then I realized that I am giving myself too much of the credit (or blame). Sure, I was the one who put the game on, but it was the team itself that sold her. They might be flawed, but they are fun to watch, and she really gets a kick out of Wright and Reyes. For the first time in a long time the Mets have a team that sells itself, and I think the young players are a huge part of it.

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