By Mike Steffanos
Our evening news go-round features a look at the Mets reserves, a couple of thumbs ups from ESPN, more on Pedro and a look at the farm system.
Mets.com: The bench
Marty Noble completes his Around the Horn series on Mets.com with a look at the team's bench. Noble sees the following four as being the key bench players:
Chris Woodward: Woodward started at six positions last season -- he didn't pitch, catch or start in center field -- and rarely looked uncomfortable. Two game-winning hits underscored his value, but Randolph had high esteem for him regardless. Managers never want to be embarrassed by a bench player, and Woodward embarrassed no one, least of all himself.
Ramon Castro: Castro, who served so well as Mike Piazza's understudy, probably will play -- as he did last season -- more than once every fifth day. He started 57 games, some because Piazza was injured in August, and had 41 RBIs in 209 at-bats. The pitchers like working with him, and his other work behind the plate is at least adequate.
Endy Chavez: Chavez is fleet and accustomed to playing all three outfield positions. He may emerge as the team's primary pinch-runner, even in situations in which other outfielders are involved. He could replace Carlos Delgado or Franco on the bases and then play the outfield, with Xavier Nady shifting to first base.
Julio Franco: Franco, of course, won't automatically play against left-handed pitching, but he'll get his at-bats. And his presence on the bench will be an asset, as it was for the Braves. "Just a good guy to have around for lots of reasons" is how Bobby Cox describes him.
Noble makes a good point regarding Victor Diaz, saying it's going to be hard for the club to keep him on the roster unless they carry 11 pitchers. Besides these 4 -- and I know some would argue Chavez, but I think his fielding, baserunning and left-handed bat give him a real leg up -- you would have to think Jose Valentin would have an advantage being another leftie bat, not to mention the major-league contract he signed. If they carry 12 pitchers, that's the bench. Even if they go with 11 Diaz is no given.
As we've discussed before, the Mets really seem to have soured on Victor Diaz, and the productive winter league season he enjoyed hasn't seemed to change many minds. I still like Victor, but I do understand their frustration with him. He just seems to feel that he should have a job handed to him rather than just go all out and really fight for one. The talk radio guys jumped on his bandwagon a little too eagerly last spring, and he seemed to get a little self-satisfied. I'd love to see him wake up and really force their hands this spring. If he doesn't, you might see him wind up elsewhere sooner rather than later.
AP: Pedro will decide next week
According to Manny Acta, manager of the Dominican team in the WBC:
Pedro will receive his special shoe today or tomorrow and decide in a week if he will be able to pitch or not.
If it were up to Pedro, he would pitch, but we only know that he will do that if he is healthy and not going to embarrass himself if he isn't up to 100 percent.
The vast majority of Mets fans hope he passes on the honor.
ESPN: The beast of the east
Jerry Crasnick picks the Mets to win the NL East, though not without reservations:
Several questions linger. Jose Reyes is miscast as a leadoff hitter, Kaz Matsui is miraculously still around, and the Kris Benson and Jae Seo trades have left the Mets with little cushion in the event that age finally catches up with Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine. Jose Lima, whom the Mets signed to a minor-league contract, probably isn't the answer. But you don't make this much noise without the accompanying burden of expectations, and the Mets have established themselves as the team to beat in the division, if not the entire National League.
Every expert that discusses the Mets can't help but bring up the lack of depth in the rotation that was caused by the Seo and Benson trades. I have to admit that I'm nervous about it, too, but fascinated by Omar's gamble here. He really rolled the dice, and there are so many waiting to jump all over him for it. He's got brass cojones -- he just doesn't seem to care what's said about him. I'd probably be personally more comfortable with a more patient GM, but I have this growing grudging admiration for Minaya almost despite myself.
ESPN: Most improved
Jayson Stark picks the Mets as his most improved team in the National League, and possibly the NL team to beat:
Are the Mets now the most interesting team in New York? Think about it. Which is the more compelling collection of personalities -- Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Cliff Floyd, Tom Glavine and Carlos Delgado? Or Johnny Damon, A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and the rest of that corporate Yankees Inc. ensemble? OK, OK. We know we could start a major five-borough brawl with that kind of question. But even those of you screaming, "Da Bombers," ought to concede (in a quiet moment of rationality) that the Mets have become quality, almost-worthy-of-their-very-own-network, prime-time programming. Even though we think they "lost" all three of their major winter trades (Mike Cameron, Kris Benson and Jae Seo), they're now clearly the best team in the National League on paper. And when was the last time that happened? 1987?
It's funny, but when I looked at those three trades, I thought the Mets lost them all, too. I think we really need to see what happens with Jorge Julio and Duaner Sanchez in New York before we really go crazy. Will Omar's dice roll come up snake eyes or seven?
Fox Sports: Not an Omar fan
Ken Rosenthal, who gives me the impression of not being a fan of Omar, ranking The Mets' loss of starting-pitching depth as one of the worst off-season moves:
Granted, the Mets needed to upgrade their bullpen, but by trading right-handers Kris Benson and Jae Seo in separate deals, GM Omar Minaya left his rotation perilously thin. He also parted with the Mets' top pitching prospect, right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, in the Carlos Delgado trade.
The Mets' rotation will consist of three older pitchers - Pedro Martinez, 34; Tom Glavine, 39 and Steve Trachsel, 35 - along with the maddening Victor Zambrano and promising but unproven Aaron Heilman. Beyond those five, who knows?
Jorge Julio and Duaner Sanchez, the relievers acquired for Benson and Seo, had better be good.
We can argue this until the cows come home (and I'm sure we will), but Rosenthal is right on one thing, Julio and Sanchez had better be good, or Omar takes a huge beating.
MetsBlog: Interview with BA's Matt Meyers
Matt Cerrone has another interview posted, this one with Baseball America's Matt Meyers. Meyers covers the Mets System for BA, and provides Mets fans with an updated top 10 prospect list:
- Lastings Milledge
- Mike Pelfrey
- Philip Humber
- Carlos Gomez
- Fernando Martinez
- Anderson Hernandez
- Brian Bannister
- Alay Soler
- Deolis Guerra
- Jon Neise
I found it interesting (and a little sad) that both Fernando Martinez and Deolis Guerra were on the list. They were both young Latin American free agent signings by the Mets last year, and have yet to have even played in the Mets system. Neither has Pelfrey, for that matter.
It's a whole new system for the Mets, and guys like these 3, along with Gomez and Neise, are huge keys to how quickly the Mets system can rebound from being the consensus worst in baseball.
Gotham Baseball: Baseball doesn't measure up to the Olympic standard
GB's Mike McGann takes the hypocritical IOC to task for the decision rejecting baseball and softball's bids for reinstatement in the 2012 London Olympics, ostensively because major-league baseball refuses to shut down and allow the pros to compete in the summer Olympics:
Yet Rogge insists that the integrity of the Olympics requires the best of the best. Let me repeat those words: Integrity of the Olympics. What integrity? Bribery and the IOC are almost synonymous. WWE matches have more integrity than most Olympic events - so rest assured this isn't about about the integrity of the Olympics.
But then the Olympics would have to be about sports - but they aren't are they? They're about money and power.