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I think I'm going to like Lo Duca despite myself

Mike SteffanosThursday, February 16, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I remember back in November when rumors started cropping up that the Mets were interested in Paul Lo Duca. This is just a ploy, I thought to myself, Omar is just trying to keep Hernandez and Molina's agents from getting too cocky. No way he's going to do something this stupid...

Then I forgot about Lo Duca as we watched Omar land Billy Wagner and the immortal Tike Redman. From what I was reading, I was relatively certain that by the end of the winter meetings, either Ramon Hernandez or Bengie Molina would be the guest of honor at a Flushing press conference. But that wasn't to be.

The day before the winter meetings began, we found out that the Mets had traded another of their top prospects for Lo Duca. I guess a few Mets fans were happy, I know a lot were not -- and I was definitely disappointed. I felt the Mets gave up way too much for a receiver that was overrated on both offense and defense.

Most pundits came down against the trade, and the more vocal Mets fans that called into WFAN seemed overwhelmingly down on it. I remember hearing Eddie Coleman say that he liked Lo Duca, and felt that Mets fans would be won over eventually, too. Not me, I thought.

I am one that believes a few players bring intangibles to the table that make their value higher than what the naked numbers would suggest. I've always heard what a "good guy" Lo Duca has been since joining the league, and I know he has that reputation as "good in the clubhouse." I still wasn't impressed.

Something about him, though -- every new Lo Duca interview I hear or read has grudgingly forced me to at least respect the guy. Having played sports myself, I recognize the characteristics of some of those guys that I really enjoyed going to battle with. I'm not convinced at 34 years old, and with a history of wearing down in the second half, that Lo Duca is going to be a great player for the Mets. He'll be better at throwing out baserunners than Piazza was, but only by default. Maybe he can use those leadership qualities to get Zambrano to throw more strikes, maybe not.

I don't pretend to know what kind of season Lo Duca will have, but the bastard is winning me over against all of my reluctance to embrace him. The turning point came when a friend of mine who's not a Met fan made a crack about Lo Duca the other day. "Go f--- yourself," I answered, "Paulie will be just fine."

Did I really say that?

Mets.com: Lo Duca
Marty Noble speaks with new Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, who defends the pitching staff against all the doubters that have been cropping up:

A lot of people focus on the pitching staff because we have a good group of hitters. That's always going to happen. No matter how good you are, people are always going to focus on what they think the negatives are.

I think that's the wrong way. I think our pitching staff is going to be very positive. We're going to be a team that surprises a lot of people, I think.

NY Sports Day: More Lo Duca
Joe McDonald also interviews Paul Lo Duca, who shares with McDonald his philosophy of calling a game:

Certain pitchers have two or three pitches and one may be working, so you may want to stick with that. It's a gut feeling and I run with a gut feeling when I call the game with my pitcher. I rather my pitcher throw a pitch with conviction rather than I call a pitch he doesn't want to throw.

Queens Tribune: More on the new stadium
Jeff Feinman provides a few more detail on the Mets new stadium.

Mets.com: First Day
Marty Noble reports on the first day of training camp.

More Mets Stories:
Sports Spider Mets

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