By Mike Steffanos
I remember going into this season reading story after story by national baseball writers full of gloom and doom for the New York Mets. One after another, they opined that Omar Minaya's decision to trade Kris Benson and Jae Seo would hurt the Mets, with some predicting dire consequences. One that I found particularly amusing was from Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan -- a good baseball writer, but a Yankees fan who always seems to hold the Mets in some amount of contempt. This was from a NL preview right before the season started:
I'm not picking against the Braves, and if this is the year that turns out to be a bad idea, I'll live with it. The three teams atop this division are reasonably close in talent, so I'm going with the team with the best management. Even without Leo Mazzone, the Braves return Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz, two men who have a track record virtually unmatched in baseball history.
Consider the actions of the NL East contenders over the past week. The Mets have yanked Brian Bannister essentially up from Double-A to be their #5 starter, more or less because he looked good in spring training. This is in lieu of using Aaron Heilman, who has the repertoire of a starter and has been ready for a rotation job for a while. This also entailed sending down Heath Bell, who's probably a better pitcher than any Mets reliever save Billy Wagner.
The Mets were my pick a couple of weeks ago, even with their dysfunctional lineup. I look at the decisions over the past two weeks, however, and I just can't see how they'll win. Jose Reyes and Paul Lo Duca 1-2? Endy Chavez on the roster? Bannister over Heilman? A bunch of pitchers over Bell? David Wright batting sixth sometimes? (Lo Duca #2/Wright #6 may be the worst lineup idea since Fox elected to anchor its Monday nights with "Skin.")
And I haven't even used the words "Martinez" and "toe."
Nice objectivity, Joe. He picked the Mets to finish third behind the Braves and Phillies, with a record not much improved over last year. Now I'm someone who likes Heath Bell, but no responsible person considers him the second best reliever on the team, much less someone who is an alleged "expert". Even with their injuries, the Mets are doing just fine, thank you, and they're making some guys like Joe look fairly silly.
Meanwhile, the Braves were supposed to magically heal their atrocious bullpen and ride their starting rotation to nirvana. Smoltz is the only starter that's pitching particularly well, and he's again throwing too many innings and has gone back to the splitter that's given him arm problems in the past. Tim Hudson has been up and down, Jorge Sosa has proven that last year was what most unbiased observers thought it was -- a one-time fluke. Meanwhile, the bullpen is every bit as bad as they looked going in. "Closer" Chris Reitsma has blown 4 of 12 save opportunities, the bullpen as a whole has 12 blown saves.
I've learned over the years to take what the "experts" say with a grain of salt. Even more so these days, where the internet and the need for content on-line has caused names I used to trust like Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News to feature "expert" commentary from guys who don't even attempt to put aside their biases. One of my favorite examples was this one from SI where Alex Belth, a Yankees blogger, felt that the Dodgers got a steal in the Jae Seo trade:
You didn't have to be an irate Mets fan to know that the organization's decision to start Victor Zambrano (7-12, 4.17 ERA) and Kaz Ishii (3-9, 5.14) ahead of Seo (8-2, 2.59) for much of the season cost the team any chance of making the playoffs. In exchange for Seo and lefty Tim Hamulack, the Dodgers gave up a couple of decent relievers -- Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll. Jon Weisman, author of Dodger Thoughts, agrees that L.A. got the better end of the deal. "Seo blew me away in August after he replaced Ishii in the Mets' rotation. I realize that some of that may have been luck, because he wasn't striking a lot of batters out, and he regressed a bit toward the end of the season." Though Weisman likes Sanchez's surging strikeout rate (7.79 per 9.0 innings) as well as his durability, he concludes, "Relievers are easier to come by, and I like the chances for Seo to add stability to the Dodger rotation and help the team more than Sanchez would have."
Weisman is a well thought of blogger, but to use him to backup your point that the Mets made a bad deal was just silly. He would hardly be unbiased as a Dodgers fan, and he didn't see Seo pitch enough to have a clue what Jae Seo really was as a pitcher. I wonder if Seo is blowing John away now with his 5.36 ERA and the 9 home runs he's given up in 56 IP in one of the best pitchers ballparks in baseball. Meanwhile, that Sanchez kid hasn't been that bad. Oh, and by the way, Alex felt that trading Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady was one of the worst moves of the off-season.
As a Mets fan, I'm used to this crap. Mets fans are the Rodney Dangerfields of the baseball landscape. What's kind of sweet this year is that the Mets are actually making these guys look bad. I can only hope they keep it up.
New York Post: Wright is Clutch
Kevin Kernan quotes Pedro Martinez on the Mets 23-year-old star:
David Wright has an aura for the clutch.
Wright has had his successes this year, but he's also learned from failures like the one in St. Louis against Jason Isringhausen:
In the St. Louis situation I struck out, and the biggest thing I can remember from that situation, as compared to the Yankee situation, was that in St. Louis I could hear the roar of the crowd. I got caught up in the moment. I was tense, thinking about stuff, as compared to the Yankee series or tonight, when I went up there, I didn't hear anything. It was just me and the pitcher.
What impressed me about Wright's game-winning at-bat last night was that he knew all he needed was a reasonable fly ball to win it. Arizona closer Jose Valverde was struggling, and with the bases loaded had to get ahead of Wright. Wright usually takes a first pitch, especially from he doesn't face much. He went up there looking for a fastball to drive, got one up and over the plate, and put a swing on it. He didn't try to kill the ball, just meet it and do the job. Great job.
Bergen Record: Delgado
Tara Sullivan offers up a nice profile on Carlos Delgado, and the leadership role he has filled with this team. Sullivan quotes Delgado on how he ffelt when he found out he was traded to the team he declined to sign with the year before:
I knew I was going to get traded, so when they told me, I just asked where I was going. They told me New York. Go figure. I thought, 'How ironic.' I didn't think I'd have any friction with the players. The fans, on the other hand, wear their emotions on their sleeves.
I figured that I'd come in and win them over.
He's certainly done that.
Daily News: No Beato
From Peter Botte's notes column:
The Mets were unable to come to terms with 19-year-old Pedro Beato, their 17th-round pick in last year's draft out of Xaverian who reportedly was seeking a seven-figure signing bonus after a strong season pitching for St. Petersburg J.C. The Mets had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. last night before he'd be eligible to re-enter this year's draft.
The Metropolitans: An Overworked Bullpen
Mike looks at the amount of work key members of the bullpen has taken on so far, where both Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman are on pace for 90+ innings.