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The Boys of Spring

Mike SteffanosWednesday, March 7, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Televising a lot of spring training games is a relatively recent phenomenon. When I started following the Mets spring training coverage was pretty light, and mostly in print. You had to take someone else's word for what was going on, unless you were one of the lucky few that could make the trip down to Florida to see for yourself.

Last year I didn't have SNY until the third game of the season, so this is my first chance to see a lot of spring training games. I'm really enjoying the experience, particularly with all of the jobs up for grabs going into the year. We can watch these battles take place right before our eyes and decide for ourselves which candidate offers the most promise.

It occurs to me, however, that the downside of this privilege is the temptation to make premature judgments on players based on what we see. It's easy to forget that spring training -- in particularly early on -- is about working on things and getting ready for the season. I constantly find myself guilty of making snap judgments on guys based on a dozen at bats or a couple of innings pitched.

While we now have the opportunity to watch the early outings of the guys who are competing for those starting rotation jobs, we're not there while they are pitching bullpen sessions and conferring with Rick Peterson and staff on what their goals are in these early spring contests. As I watched Oliver Perez' first two appearances, I find myself looking at each pitch delivered with intensity -- as if somehow the answer as to whether Perez will help the Mets or bury them in 2007 can somehow be gleaned from what I see. Not knowing exactly what the plan is for Oliver Perez, I really can't adequately judge his progress. I realize I need to kick back a little and just give it a chance to play out.

Shawn Green -- who I admit to being quite skeptical of going back to the trade rumors last year -- thinks he has found something that will enable him to be a productive power hitter again. Then he goes 0-13 to open the year and, of course, we're all wondering if the Mets would be willing to eat his contract and play Milledge, Johnson or Chavez. Hey, I'm still skeptical of the guy, but could we please give him a couple of more weeks before we completely write him off?

As I said before, this really is my first spring where I have the opportunity to watch so many games. I'm learning how to watch these games, and I think the first lesson is to relax a little. In a couple of weeks there will be plenty of time to either praise or bury Oliver Perez, Phil Humber, Shawn Green and Moises Alou. For now I'm going to dial it down a notch.

I will be back later to write about Chan Ho Park's first game of the spring. It's being televised on the Red Sox' network, which I get, so I'm DVRing it to watch later on.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (5)

Ha! I'm going to ignore the possibility that you that I have already buried Oliver Perez, and continue with my other thought inspired by your post. The fact is I haven't buried Perez; I just want to see what I want to see from him, y'know? He has electric stuff, so he'll get a number of chances. I DO think that number should have a limit where the Mets are concerned, but I don't think we've reached it yet.

Anyway: totally agree that more information leads to different decision making, and it can be a trap. I WISH the place that was most obvious was on the playing field; but in fact we see it all over, everywhere. An obvious example: do you think the Battle of the Bulge could have survived the process of Instant Information/Instant Scrutiny/Instant Demand for Results that we see today out of every aspect of life? Damn thing took 40 days; who will wait that long these days for anything?

The fact is that while the rate at which we receive information has changed, the rate that meaningful developments occur for the most part has not changed. It's one more adjustment that our culture has to make, and that adjustment won't be as automatic as the news flow that prompted it.

dd - I don't think you're burying Perez. Your concerns are valid, and even guys like me who like him have those concerns if we are honest. I literally did find myself making judgements from pitch to pitch on him, and that is crazy.

I think if Perez is still leaving a lot of pitches fat come the end of spring they should send him to New Orleans to continue smoothing the mechanics. If the Mets allow him to be this year's Kaz Ishii, that won't help either Perez or the team.

Still, I think the program needs a chance to work. In 2004 the Pirates' pitching coach Spin Williams re-did his mechanics and he was able to hold it together enough to have a really good year. What was able to happen once is certainly a possibility to happen again. He could really help us if he even approaches that level of effectiveness for a season.

Well, Mike, as I've said before, this Metsie is about 60 miles too far south to get SNY; consider your ST games an embarassment of riches!

You bring up an interesting point, though. Could you even begin to imagine how nutso our Dads and other significant guys in our lives would've been if they'd lived long enough for the net we have today? My own Dad had a hard enough time keeping up with and therefore hating Dick Young and Howard Cosell; I can't even imagine how he'd handle all that's "out there" now.

As this is my first off-season and spring spent fixated on the Met-net world, I certainly still see it more a blessing than curse, but still...

It's certainly very easy to get crazy with all the new exposure Spring Training has from TV to live web-updates. But after a week of games, a few things have caught my eye. Oliver Perez is not as consistent as we would like, and John Maine looks better than we thought. The Mets starting pitching has alot more depth and quality than it has been given credit for by the media, while the Mets bullpen has enough excellent members to be truly dominant. Lastings Milledge wants Shawn Green's job in the worst possible way, but the Mets want the old Shawn Green in the worst way.

It's still really early, but the final 3 weeks of ST should be less about getting the kinks out and more about getting down to business. I expect the race to be in the starting pitching staff to become very heated. And I think we'll all soon see who will makes it to New York, and who will make the best AAA team in baseball.

geezer - I do think exposure to all of these games is a good thing for the die-hard fan, if all of us -- me included -- keep things in perspective.
Salman - We knew Perez was going to be a project, so I think it's too early to judge him. It will be one heck of a team in New Orleans, though, that's for sure.

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