By Joyce Mandelkern
The 2007 season is now a reality to me. Our season tickets arrived yesterday. I can see them and touch them. I can read the accompanying media guide. What I can't do, however, is predict how the season will play out.
I have watched and/or listened to every spring training game that has been made available to the public. I have been asked, no, let me correct that, told, by two different Yankee fans, that I should be very concerned about our starting rotation. I have told them both, clearly, that I am not concerned. I have faith that if everyone remains healthy, the rotation will be fine. Maine and Perez stepped up big time for us in the playoffs and I have no problem handing them the ball. They are both having terrific springs, as are the older guys, so no complaints. Health is an issue every baseball team faces, not just the Mets. Yes, I know Glavine and El Duque are old. It is what it is. I am glad to see Pelfrey get his shot. He has done an amazing job this spring and has certainly earned his spot in the rotation. My two Yankee "friends" moved on to the bullpen. And this was before the Sanchez news. "We will be fine," I said. And I actually believe that. Blind faith is the explanation I am giving for lack of concrete evidence.
I am not necessarily basing my optimism on what I've seen in spring training. Spring training games are not real game situations. It is spring training for umpires as well as managers and players. Willie is trying out some people and situations and not managing as he would if the games really counted. I'm trying to keep my perspective. The record doesn't matter. We're trying things. That is why it is difficult to get a handle on things.
I will tell you a few things I am worried about. I don't like Jose Reyes sliding head first in spring training. I hold my breath and pray he doesn't injure himself. If it were up to me, I would tell him no stealing in the spring - period - end of discussion. I don't like David Wright hitting second. I just don't. It doesn't seem natural to me to have him hitting there - it seems forced. I know all the reasons Willie's trying it. I've heard all the arguments, I just don't like it. I'm not happy with our corner outfielders. I don't like their production this spring and I don't like the lack of ground they cover defensively. I'm afraid that they will put a tremendous amount of pressure on Beltran to cover way more ground than he needs to in centerfield. I worry about Beltran's legs when he has to cover more ground and why he hasn't even attempted a stolen base this spring. Is he worried about it too?
I would like to see Milledge stay up with the team. I think he has had a terrific spring. Not only from a baseball perspective, but from a personal one as well. He seems to have matured and I wouldn't mind seeing his energy in one of the corner outfield positions even if it is in a platoon situation. Give the kid a chance and let's see what he can do when it counts. I'm not being wowed by either Green or Alou at this point to say the least. I would like to see Park and Sele in the pen as long relievers. I hope Burgos can bring something to the table. I'm not sure whether he needs to be up here where Peterson can work with him or in New Orleans but he needs work. And I'm really hoping that when Mota is eligible he has got something left.
I know this is not the great analysis some of you may be looking for, but this spring training has left me uninspired, much like the Mets play as a whole. For me, the best things to come out of this spring is that I'm happier than I thought I'd be with the starting pitching - and that is big. Milledge and Joe Smith have been a really pleasant surprise. Reyes looks poised to have a monster year. This spring has been for the pitchers and the prospects. The veterans, with the exception of Reyes and maybe Wright, seem somewhat bored with the whole thing and I can't say I blame them.
I know watching the Sunday night ESPN opening night telecast of our game vs. the Cards is going to be painful. They will show, over and over, the plays from the NLCS that I want to forget, but I see every time I close my eyes to go to sleep. The plays I have not yet gotten over. The ones I want back. The best part will be that it means spring training is over and that the games count. It is for real. Finally!