By Mike Steffanos
The last couple of decisions have been made concerning the Mets roster. Prognosticators have prognosticated, the naysayers have said their nays, and now it's just time to play ball. I wrote a piece yesterday on the yin and yang of Mets fandom, which seems to be split between optimism and pessimism. I had some great feedback on that one, and really appreciate it. Whether you walk on the sunny side or in the shadows, if you're a real Mets fan you're welcome here.
Meanwhile, I think the general baseball media -- particularly nationally -- are bunched tightly toward the negative. I read several pieces on Tim Hudson, who has been declining noticeably since 2003, that play up the fact that he looks revitalized in spring training. At the same time, these same folks will caution you not to read too much into what John Maine and Oliver Perez have accomplished this spring. I'm not whining that the national media is somehow against us -- I'll leave that to St. Louis Cardinals fans. They have refined that sort of paranoia into an art form. I do believe, however, that there is a perception in the national media that the Mets will fall on their face, and that perception plays into their reporting. If you are in need of negative reinforcement on the Mets, you don't have to look very hard to find it. As a matter of fact, there were a couple that jumped out at me from the past week.
Chicago sports columnist Phil Rogers was one not to allow the facts to get in the way of a point he was making:
The tone in the Mets' camp has been similarly unsettled, largely because of a starting rotation that has nothing but question marks behind Tom Glavine. Orlando Hernandez went to camp assured of a job but has been horrible. The other spots seem likely to go to John Maine, Oliver Perez and either Aaron Sele or rookie Mike Pelfrey, who has been the one bright spot.
Hernandez pitched poorly his first outing, but he hasn't had a horrible spring. The day before this column ran, El Duque gave up an unearned run in 6 strong innings. Maine and Perez had been pitching great, as you all know, which would hardly qualify Pelfrey as "the one bright spot." If you were looking to pan the Mets, as Rogers obviously was, there certainly are legitimate issues to talk about. Instead, he more or less made up the "facts" he used to make his argument.
If you are one that is worried that the Mets bullpen may take a step back in 2007, FoxSports.com's Gerrit Ritt has an article for you. In ranking all of the MLB 'pens, Ritt rates the Mets a mediocre 16th. The "logic"?
Wagner's a stud for sure, but they lose major points for the rest of the pen. Mota will have to serve a 50-game suspension before ever stepping on the field, and he's their best man. Burgos will be better than he was in Kansas City, but not too much. Schoeneweis is a decent lefty, but nothing special, while Heilman and Park don't frighten anyone but Mets fans.
After two seasons as one of the best setup men in the NL, Aaron Heilman doesn't frighten anyone but Mets fans? This is what gets published today on a major sports web site. For what it's worth, teams that have a knack for building good bullpens have a way of making it work year after year, and Peterson is a pitching coach that works well with relievers. While it might be hard to match 2006's success, I'd be shocked if the bullpen was as shoddy as the research that went into this one.
These two examples are not isolated, but rather common these days. This makes the following piece sent to me yesterday by my colleague NostraDennis somewhat ironic. It's a column by Mike Bianchi that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel ominously titled Tangled Web is no place to get your sports news. I quote, in part:
Newspaper reporters and columnists may be wrong occasionally, but it's not because we're on the team payroll. And it's certainly not because we're accountable to the fans of any particular team.
On Monday, for instance, The Cat's Pause, a Kentucky fan magazine and Web site, reported that Kentucky officials and Florida basketball Coach Billy Donovan had agreed to a seven-year contract that Donovan would sign after the Final Four. The report even had contract details, including a $3.5 million bonus and a $3.5 million annual salary.
After a TV station in Kentucky picked up the story and ran with it, Cat's Pause officials admitted the report was actually just a rumor.
In other words, the Web site was reporting what fans wanted to happen, not what really had happened.
If you want to know what's going on in a dream world, go to the team and fan sites.
If you want to know what's going on in the real world, get the paper.
At 50 cents per day, it's still the best bargain out there.
It's really great when a blowhard like Mr. Bianchi feels entitled to paint bloggers with a broad brush based on what happened with one web site. I, on the other hand, will resist the urge to hold every instance of sloppy, irresponsible journalism that I run across every week against sportswriters as a whole. I will make the point, however, that if you really believe that everything you read in the traditional media is based on fact, you are sadly mistaken. Yes, you should take everything you read on a blog like mine with a grain of salt, but make sure you bring that skepticism along with you when you are reading from your local paper or national sports magazine.
Great Mets Pics
Gary is a Mets fan who has a talent for photography. Gary's Mets pictures (and other great ones) can be found at www.pbase.com/gsparb51/amazinmets2006. Gary tells me that he just retired last year and wants to add many more Mets pictures in 2007. He enjoys feedback on his pictures.
I love this one of Shea from last year's playoffs.
Burgos and Milledge claim last two spots
As I was wrapping this up, I get the word that Lastings Milledge and Ambiorix Burgos have claimed the last spots on the 25-man roster. Somehow Jon Adkins, who admittedly stunk, cleared waivers and will be in New Orleans as insurance. Chan Ho Park has accepted an option to New Orleans, which is both surprising and very good news. I still think he could play a part for the Mets this season.