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What a Difference a Year Makes

Mike SteffanosSaturday, April 8, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

The Mets are off to a pretty good start this year at 3-1. I'm not going to go crazy over it, as I refused to do last year at 0-5. Still, when you look at the differences between last year and this year, you have to be impressed. I have some doubts that Pedro Martinez can make it back to being quite as dominating as he was for the first few months of 2005, but other than that I see improvement in all areas.

A lot of people snickered when the Mets brought in Rickey Henderson to work with Jose Reyes and some of the other kids, but Reyes has made some serious strides as a leadoff hitter. I've pointed out previously that I still want to see a patient approach at the plate when he's in a slump to prove to me that he's really getting it, but I am impressed. His defense looks better, too -- his focus seems stronger. Again, it's early, and he needs to prove he can maintain that.

The other half of the dynamic duo on the left side of the infield is off to a good start, too. Productive at the plate, and looking stronger in the field, David Wright may be spoiling us for any other highly-touted rookie ever again. Very few players are able to settle into the game of baseball as quickly as Wright has, with his combination of talent and instincts.

The bullpen, with the unsurprising exception of Jorge Julio, looks much better than last year. Wagner has never been a fast starter, so it's too early to worry about him. I really like what Duaner Sanchez brings to the table, and believe that the combination of Wagner, Sanchez, Aaron Heilman and Chad Bradford make the deepest quality bullpen the Mets have ever had. Combine that with a much stronger and more balanced offense, a more consistent defense and better leadership on the club. Despite all of the nay-sayers, I just can't see how this club isn't significantly better than last year.

Hey, listen, we all understand the season is going to have its rough patches, and the Mets lack the type of dominant starting pitching that would make them a "sure thing", but we're seeing the seeds of something special being sown in the frigid early April soil in Queens.

The Journal News: Pedro's not going to miss Jose Guillen's friendship
Brian Heyman quotes Pedro on Jose Guillen's declaration that their friendship is over after being hit two more times by the Mets' pitcher:

I can understand. I hit him twice and I think last year I hit him, too. If he feels the relationship is broken after that, I shouldn't give too much thought about it because it wasn't that strong. To break a relationship because of something that happens as far as competing, especially with no intention, that relationship wasn't good. So that's fine with me.

I'm at peace with God. I'm at peace with my family. I don't expect to make friends on the field. But I'm not going to say I'm sorry because I didn't do it on purpose.

Martinez has hit a few guys on purpose in his career, but not Thursday night. I've read some crazy sh** by Nationals bloggers after that game -- in fairness, any fan would be upset by watching as many of his team's players get hit in those 2 games with Bannister and Martinez -- but if you have any understanding of the game of baseball you know that a pitcher doesn't hit a batter purposely with a man on and no outs to bring the tying run to the plate. Frank Robinson knows better than that, too.

When I grew up with baseball in the early 1970s, pitching inside was very common, and pitchers were more than happy to throw at a batter that crowded the plate. That went away for a while, and now you have guys that literally have body parts hanging over the strike zone, and feel the need to get angry when a pitcher throws a ball six inches inside. I'm not for pitchers throwing purposely at a batter's head, but to me it's fair game to take back the inside part of the plate -- where a good pitcher can effectively pitch to many of the game's top power hitters.

For too many years Mets pitchers did not pitch inside enough. Some of that had to do with having a catcher that knew he was the best hitter (and most likely target for retaliation) on his team. I hope nothing stupid happens in Washington next week, but I'm glad the Mets are not afraid to pitch inside this season.

Bergen Record: Beltran Watch
Aditi Kinkhabwala has an interesting article on Carlos Beltran's rocky start to the season, featuring quotes from Beltran and some of his teammates. The best quote came from Pedro Martinez, who has a Carlos Beltran bobblehead doll above his locker:

I believe feeling pressure is feeling a lack of confidence. Carlos is confident now. These [new] guys are confident. I just have this weird feeling about us becoming so good.

... You'll see, at the end of the year, he'll have 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a .300 average.

From your mouth to God's ears...

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