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The Three "B's"

Dave MillsTuesday, April 24, 2007
By Dave Mills

Notwithstanding the loss of 4 of 6 to the Braves, the Mets have looked pretty impressive during the first three weeks of the season. It could easily be said that some are playing over their heads (Alou and Green come to mind), while at the same time some have played well below what is expected (Delgado, Wright, Valentin, Heilman). Of the latter group, only Heilman is a legitimate worry. Reyes and Beltran are clearly in a league of their own in terms of tools and production.

And even though some are playing over their heads, there is no reason to believe that the team will gel and get better and more dominant. The Braves matchup well against the Amazins, especially whenever they throw Hudson and Smoltz out there for two of three, but few other teams do or will.

The reason the Mets will dominate is wrapped in the three B's.

To understand the Mets success thus far in 2007 is to understand "balance."

There may not be a more balanced roster anywhere in The Show.

And the Mets balance is pervasive.

From the top of the lineup to the bottom, it has three switch-hitters (Reyes, Beltran, Valentin), three right-handed bats (LoDuca, Wright, Alou) and two pure left side swingers (Delgado, Green).

The bench is equitable as well, with Chavez and Newhan from the left and Franco, Easley (who will see a lot of 2B against left-handed pitching as the year goes on) and Castro from the right.

The balance also goes beyond left/right, It goes to speed, power, hitting to the opposite field and even youth (Reyes, Wright, Beltran) offsetting age and experience in the rest of the lineup.

It doesn't stop with the bats, as the pitching staff displays its own unique balance. While there have been some teams that have prospered on mostly right-handed arms, the best teams have always had at least two lefties in the rotation and a few southpaws in the pen. The best Mets teams had Koosman and Matlack, Fernandez and Ojeda, Leiter and Hampton, Two lefties, one who really knows how to pitch (Glavine) and one who can dominate, when he is in his slot (Perez), are complimented by three rather interesting right-handers. Maine throws hard and is effective up. Pelfrey throws hard and is effective down. El Duque seemingly comes from everywhere with a wide assortment of offspeed and breaking pitches and can be sneaky fast.

And the Mets new-look pen is particularly well balanced. The southpaw hard throwing closer (Wagner) is setup by two situational lefties who hurl from radically different arm slots and can both pitch to one hitter or a couple of strong innings. Same can be said of the right-handers as Burgos throws power pitches from over the top, Heilman has that 3/4 motion and Smith is a sidearmer.

Another Mets strength appears to be the chemistry and versatility of the bench. Minaya and Randolph seem to have a knack for finding and utilizing some very interesting role players. None are more interesting or better than Endy Chavez and Ramon Castro, who may well be the best fourth outfielder and backup receiver in the game.

One of the things Willie will have to do is get Chavez into games where the Mets grab the lead by the 6th or 7th Inning and take advantage of his remarkable defensive prowess and speed. Endy is also a good stick with a little pop who hits up the middle and to the opposite field.

In Chavez and Castro, the Mets arguably have the best fourth outfielder and best backup catcher in the game. Accordingly, they must be assigned playing time commensurate with their abilities and what they can add to their team. Notwithstanding positive performances by Green, Alou and LoDuca, these guys must get in the games. Chavez most certainly will see more playing time as Alou and Green cool off, and they will.

In case you haven't noticed, David Newhan has a knack for getting on base and working the count deep, but he, like Julio Franco, has a limited and well-defined role. Nonetheless, Newhan is a grinder and valuable asset. And if Damion Easley is made a platoon player at 2B against left-hander pitching, Valentin will be must fresher for the stretch run.

This is a quality bench that will be used more effectively as the season rolls on.

The Mets have an intelligent team. They generally do not make mental errors and understand the game. Every player appears to get the most out of their abilities, which is often a testament to intellect. The weakness of the veterans, Green/Alou/Delgado in particular, is defense. But none will make the wrong play, they will make an error or not have the range to make a play.

One of the heady areas of the game is baserunning and while Jose Reyes is the obvious choice as speedster, he is not even close to being the best baserunner on the team as Chavez, Valentin, Wright and, yes, even Shawn Green have excellent instincts on the base paths.

The Mets coaches also appear to be tremendous assets as Peterson, Down, Alomar and Manuel are getting the most out of their charges in their respective specialties. In fact, putting Alomar in the 3B coaches box appears to be a masterstroke.

And of course, we can continue to sing the praises of Minaya and Randolph. Willie will make a few strange tactical decisions, but they are his to make and, other than Jim Leyland, no manager is immune from second-guessing.

About Dave: Dave Mills, born in Kew Gardens, Queens, the day after Willie Mays' circus catch in the 1954 World Series, is a devout Met fan since 1962. The first game he attended was Mets v. Reds at the Polo Grounds on September 14, 1962. With the game tied 9-9 in the 9th, Choo Choo ("Bub") Coleman hit a game-winning walkoff HR down the rightfield line on to the tin roof. The sound is indelibly etched in his memory! Dave lives on Oahu, where he markets and writes about golf. His company, HawaiiGolfDeals.com is the leading deliverer of golfers to the Aloha State. His take on Golf in Australia is in the Oct/Nov issue of Fairways & Greens Magazine.

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Comments (3)

Nice piece Dave.

Some thoughts, apropos of nothing in particular.

OK, so Moises Alou might not hit .397 all year (but wow, he's a professional hitter, what a joy to watch) but how dominant is this lineup - especially considering that they've gotten sub-par production from the #'s 2,4, and 5 slots thus far? You hit the nail on the head in pointing out how smart this team is. I give Omar tons of credit for seeking out guys who understand the game. It's also a nice bunch of guys. Super easy to root for.

Carlos Beltran had a pretty good season last year, all while hitting .220 at home. I'm getting the feeling that he's put that little mental block behind him. Pencil him in for .320 to .330 this season. And I wouldn't be surprised if Reyes hit for that kind of average as well. If you're going to have two of the top five everyday players in the league on your team, having them in CF and at SS makes it sort of an embarrassment of riches, no?

Anyone willing to bet against the proposition that John Maine will be a fixture in our rotation for the next 5-7 years? I love the kid's size, his easy delivery, the hop on his fastball, his mental makeup, and his developing offspeed stuff. Thank you Jim Duquette.

Can we all try to keep in mind that Burgos just turned 23 years old last week? He could as easily be pitching in AA at this age, and if he were, the entire league (not least of all Mets Nation) would be drooling over his arm and his ceiling. I know that he has to get it done if he's taking up a roster spot, but for the love of all things rational, let's not make the kid a whipping boy and destroy his psyche. I'm thinking that it's a better than even money bet that having him in our 'pen at ages 25-30 is going to make Mets fans very happy, and opposing teams very afraid.

Jose Valentin adds value in so many ways. And the more you understand baseball, the longer that list grows.

As to Endy Chavez... on the days he doesn't start, he needs to be Willie's version of the Red Aurbach victory cigar... patrolling a corner outfield spot in every game that we're leading after 7 innings. Green and Alou are big boys. They can handle it. Willie's reluctance to use Chavez' defense as a weapon is somewhat frustrating, to say the least.

Overall, this team, while certainly not perfect, is orders of magnitude better than most of the NL. Balance is right.

Thanks for the space.

I agree on your idea for Chavez. Actually, I more than agree; I think something more will be appropriate before long, especially if the Mets should be so fortunate as to continue playing well.

Before the beginning of the season many of us voiced the hope that Shawn Green would show enough with the bat to make himself a desirable option for some team with playoff aspirations; then we could rid ourselves of that contract, etc. Well, he HAS done that so far, better than I ever expected; the power hasn't returned, but the hits are there.

But it pains me to watch him field his position. And lest we forget, the Mets have: Endy Chavez, Lastings Milledge, and also Carlos Gomez, a trio of flyers who can really pick. Outfield is a position of strength for this organization. The Mets wouldn't lose much power in losing Green. And, if Green can hit for another month or so, maybe someone would take his salary AND donate a prospect, maybe a pitcher or a middle infielder.

It's hard to say goodbye to nice guy who is doing the job reasonably well, but this is just the sort of deal the Mets should consider, I think. Build that dynasty!

On Green, don't underestimate the impact of his BFF relationship with Carlos Delgado. I know that baseball is a business (er, professional baseball is a business) but I think that Omar's pretty sensitive to the amazing chemistry in this clubhouse, and I'm not so sure that he's going to be anxious to disturb that mid-season - for what would likely be moderate return value - as long as the team is winning. Add in the fact that Green hit well in the playoffs last year, and I'm not saying that Green's untouchable right now, but it would probably have to be a hell of an offer.

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