By Dave Mills
Extension for Lo Duca
With no catchers to speak of in AA or AAA, the Mets have no reason not to offer an extension to this gung-ho team leader. Certainly, an additional year (2008) with a team option for a second (2009) is a no-brainer. In spite of John Thompson's uninformed proclamation, Jason Vargas and others say Lo Duca is the best receiver they have ever thrown to. While he doesn't have the pop of Mike Piazza, he is much better behind the dish and no slouch at the plate, as his .290 career average and less than 30 strikeouts per-season indicate. And let's face it, the guy is a bull, who any real athlete wants wearing the same uniform.
Much is being made of the sheer number of arms competing for a job in the Mets rotation. But one thing that is rarely mentioned is that the two standard-bearers are over 40 and both had some physical problems last season. Luckily, Glavine was misdiagnosed, but at the time, many were prognosticating the end of his illustrious career. El Duque ran into some tired arm syndrome a couple of times and a leg injury that put him out of the playoffs. Lets face it, Omar has delivered a nice balance of youth (Vargas, Perez, Maine) and experience (El Duque, Park, Sosa, Sele) for Randolph and Peterson to mull over along with their in-house prospects (Pelfrey, Humber, Soler). I can't think of one negative from presenting the Mets so many options, especially when #2 starters are banking $126 million contracts.
Lastings, where art thou?
I am not a big believer that position players have to show up weeks early to spring training. These days guys keep themselves in great shape, have personal trainers and visit batting cages with regularity. David Wright's problem may well have been midseason burnout from working too hard in the off-season, not the HR hitting contest. But Mr. Milledge has got to win over his teammates, his coaches, Mets brass and the fannies. His agent should have instructed him to be there, with the pitchers and catchers, and strut his considerable stuff quietly and with determination.
Dealing from the grip
While the name Zambrano is not mellifluous to Mets fans, the Chicago version (the Victor version now resides in Toronto--at least for the moment) is one heck of a pitcher, who can also bang the ball as well as any hurler in the league. He wants a serious extension. No doubt, this Z-man would be a great addition to the staff. Would the Mets deal Heilman, Maine, Feliciano and Ruben Gotay for a long-term signed Mr. Z, and what would the Cubbies and Not-So-Sweet Lou say? The Mets can certainly afford to let all that talent get away. Mike Pelfrey could even be tested in the Heilman role since he has two good pitches and great control. Schoeneweis has already been brought in to replace Feliciano (not a Randolph favorite) and Carlos Z. would replace Maine. Zambrano, Glavine, El Duque, Perez and Park/Sosa/Sele is a pretty formidable rotation. And remember, there are still Humber, Vargas, Soler and Bostick in the wings at New Orleans.
Will the real Shawn Green please stand up?
As much as any other player on the Mets, a quality season is needed from Shawn Green. He doesn't have to hit .300 or smack 35 dingers. He does have to have a respectable average (.265-.285) and drive in runs (80 would be nice), which he should have an excellent opportunity to do. Likely to have Moises Alou batting in front and Jose Valentin behind, there are far worse scenarios facing anyone swinging a bat in the on-deck circle. With Endy Chavez, and perhaps Ben Johnson around, Green will have fewer at bats than he is used to and he will be spelled for defense early and often. But don't be surprised to see him platooning at 1B with Julio Franco should Delgado fall to an injury.
Might it be time to move the slow-footed Delgado to the fifth spot behind David Wright and in front of Alou? Mixing up the lefties and righties is never a bad strategy and makes it tough for opposing managers to find the right match-up out of the pen. On the flip side, some batters like seeing how the pitcher delivers to a same swinging hitter right in front of him. But imagine this lineup: S-Reyes, R-Lo Duca, S-Beltran, R-Wright, L-Delgado, R-Alou, L-Green, S-Valentin. Lots of speed at the top of lineup (save Lo Duca) and Green and Valentin are pretty good baserunners for a couple of geezers. Forgive me, but this lineup leaves little else to speculate about.