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What, Me Worry?

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 22, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Bob Klapisch has a Pedro Martinez toe story on ESPN.com. The title of it, Mets need a healthy Pedro ... or else, pretty much says it all. It's a good read, and I highly recommend it, but it could be summed up in these 3 short paragraphs:

Ultimately, though, if the Mets are serious about taking on the Braves, someone will have to rise to the bigger moments. Someone, specifically, will have to outpitch John Smoltz.

For now, Pedro is the Mets' leader both on and off the field, but Minaya might regret trading Seo and Benson while Pedro's rehab was bogged down. If Martinez's new, specially fitted spikes don't take the pressure off his toe, it's conceivable he'll be a permanent six-inning pitcher, forced to live with an 86-88 mph fastball.

Of course, Martinez is creative enough to succeed even at that reduced velocity. But that could make him a 12- to 15-game winner instead of a 17- to 20-game winner. The Mets are still sniffing around Barry Zito and might intensify their pursuit based on Pedro's progress -- or lack of it.

My Mom is a huge Mets fan, but a natural pessimist, and this is the kind of thing that causes her to despair when she reads it. Then she calls me to try to talk her off the ledge. Shame on you, Bob, for depressing my Mom.

But seriously: Klapisch is correct, of course, when he opines that the Mets are really going nowhere in 2006 without Pedro Martinez still pitching like a reasonable facsimile of an ace. It's just way too early to get hung up on this stuff. Pedro is indeed off to a slow start, but that's not important at this juncture. Talk to me when it's late March and he's not able to pitch and then there will be plenty of time to agonize.

You can speak against the trades of Seo and Benson all you want, but neither in the most optimistic projections were ready to step up and become the ace of this team. Unless Seo somehow rediscovers the fastball he lost after surgery, he projects to be a good, not great, starting pitcher. Zito is going to be a very tough get right now, and I'm not in favor of overpaying to bring him here.

Even before the Seo and Benson deals subtracted quantity from the equation, you had to wonder if there was enough quality in the Mets' rotation. Minaya looked at what he had and rolled the dice, part of the fun is seeing how it all turns out. I'm looking forward to seeing Alay Soler, John Maine, Brian Bannister and the others battle for a rotation slot. I'm actually excited to see whether Aaron Heilman can silence all of the doubters that don't believe he can negotiate a batting order more than twice. I'm hoping the Mets can give Mike Pelfrey a long look against major-leaguers -- not only to see what they have there, but to give him a lingering taste of what he hopes to earn -- sooner, rather than later, I hope.

Do you ever wonder what separates the Mets and the Braves? Granted, this a long, multifaceted discussion, but at least part of the answer lies in this simple truth: when things go wrong for the Braves, they find a way around it. When things look bad for the Mets, we look for ways to turn those molehills into mountains.

Klapisch is right, but so what? Pedro's health is always going to be a concern to the Mets. Even if something miraculously heals the toe, there will always be the balky shoulder. And it's not only the failure of part of Pedro's anatomy that can sink the Mets. There are a million things that can go wrong between the opening of spring training and hoisting a championship flag. Trust me, as a Mets fan in the '80s, I witnessed many of these things. I'm going to choose to remain optimistic about Pedro and the season right now. I want to have some fun with this. Most years the Mets aren't even good enough to elicit anything beyond antipathy. I still have my white flag firmly packed away.

Mets.com: Carlos Delgado
Brian Hoch profiles Carlos Delgado, who thus becomes the frontrunner to be tomorrow's Met d'jour. Hoch quotes Delgado that he's not afraid of playing in front of passionate fans:

That's one thing about New York, and I love it. They're fanatics. They're passionate about everything they do. You've got to respect that; I tip my cap. When you're on the receiving end, it's not that much fun, so hopefully when I'm on the same side of the fence, it will be better.

We're going to hold you to that, Carlos.

SI.com: One for Kaz
I actually found someone who had something nice to say about Kaz Matsui. Jason Grey writes:

Do not count out Kaz Matsui exceeding expectations. He has reported to camp in tremendous shape, and Bret Boone is saying he will retire if he doesn't earn the Mets' starting second base job. Injuries were a problem in Matsui's first two seasons, and he is hoping his new workout regimen makes those nagging problems a thing of the past.

The obvious problem with this is that Kaz might "exceed expectations" and still suck...

Gotham Baseball: Pitching for a title
GB's Mike McGann covers the Yanks and Mets pitching staffs in his weekly column. I was interested in this statement:

Other options are John Maine, acquired in the Benson trade -- a pitcher the Mets front office people like a great deal, apparently, as he, not Jorge Julio, was the key piece in the trade with the Orioles, sources suggest.

I know that Ed, a reader who regularly posts comments to this site, likes Maine a good deal. This is the first I've heard that Maine was the key piece in that trade. I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch this spring.

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