By Dave Mills
I am thankful 2007 is ending and a New Year of high hopes and expectations are upon us.
Nothing can be worse than the Mets last two-thirds of the season. It was not just September. They were lucky that no one caught them earlier. Frankly, the Phillies didn't even blow past them as much as they squeezed through an opening. Neither team was particularly good nor consistent throughout the season. Don't think for a second that the Phillies phinish even remotely echoed what the Rockies did during the last few weeks of September and the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The 2008 season brings with it a myriad of interesting baseball scenarios for the Mets. I see improved defense, better handling of the pitchers, a couple of key payers back from the mend and more experience in the dugout and on the field from what has transpired in the prior campaign. A solid offense and improved bullpen (at least more options with Wise, Register and mending Sanchez, Padilla and Burgos) is also more of a given. Not perfect, but improved in both areas.
I am thankful Omar has not traded away the farm.
To all of those who desire Santana and Bedard, probably the two best southpaw starters hurling today, I say you have great taste. But with that high regard comes a steep price tag and tremendous risk. In this era, it is far better to sign a free agent pitcher to an overpriced contract than to give up a handful of prospects and then overpay the pitcher anyway. Just look at all the frail arms out there.
I like having Heilman, Pelfrey, Humber, Mulvey, Niese and Guerra in our stable. Even better, I like having Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez down on the farm. I'll take my chance with a Bartolo Colon or Livan Hernandez if we need one more starter. Colon is pitching well in winter ball. Hernandez is good for the 200 innings Glavine registered and probably just as effective.
As for the outfielders, there is every reason to believe that Gomez will open CitiField as the starting or platooning LF or RF in 2009. In 2010 and beyond, he should be joined by Martinez, who could also turn out to be the Mets first sacker. The possibilities are profound, and Church and Chavez are excellent pieces of the same puzzle.
I am thankful Omar took some risk at the risk of abuse.
Trading Milledge should prove to be a relatively good move for the Mets. They picked up two very serviceable and useful team players who deliver to their roster exactly what they need. Schneider (and Castillo) round out what should be the most formidable up-the-middle defense in all of baseball. Church is a better rightfielder and will hit righties better than Milledge as long as he plays the game. Milledge end up hitting southpaws better, but don't righthanders outnumber portsiders by 4-1 in The Show? In the clubhouse, both new Mets will be a huge plus over the lusty and probably misunderstood Lastings, who will also be a showboat for better or for worse for the rest of his career. Both Church and Schneider bat from the left side and can be platooned effectively for maximum performance and the rest those who play baseball in this century need, especially at catcher. Teams in 2008 and beyond must have two effective catchers and a platoon is a good way to keep both fresh and achieve good results from their combined stats.
I am thankful Pedro and Delgado will start out healthy in 2008.
Martinez was particularly effective during the last five weeks of 2007. Granted, his fastball was not there, but the man is a master of the mound and there is no reason to believe he will not help the Mets radically, while more than compensating for the loss of Glavine, if he stays healthy!
Delgado cannot possibly be worse than he was in 2007. He too should be healthy and free of several nagging injuries that beleaguered him throughout 2007. Batting him in the 5th hole between Beltran and Alou should also prove to be quite positive. Yes, he is the Mets weakest defensive link, but he is adequate.
I am thankful for Maine and Perez.
Does any team have two better middle-of-the-rotation arms who are 26 years old? On top of that, one is a righty and one a lefty, both have quality arms and stuff and both are capable of being number one or two starters. One of the great things about the next couple of seasons will be watching these two blossom.
I am thankful we have Wright, Reyes and Beltran (and the rest of the league does not).
These guys are the real deal. Wright showed flashes of greatness from May through the end of the year. His offensive stats were world-class with a hair too many punchouts. Compare him to Miguel Cabrera, who most would say is superior offensively, and there is not much difference. In fact, I'll argue Wright as the much superior player due to speed and defense. Reyes struggled the last two months from being overworked. Too many attempted base swipes. Willie needs to reign him in a bit. But with all the quality shortstops popping up around baseball, and there are many, I would rather have Jose than any of them. His defense is excellent and will be superb in the next year or two. He can steal 60 bases with his eyes closed, his walks are up each season and his extra base potential is always there, whether he knocks one or he swipes 2B. Beltran is the classiest centerfielder in baseball and his offensive production is high-quality, although he should bat at least .290 with little problem. He also looks good in the cleanup spot.
The Mets run for respectability with their fans will not be difficult, but their domination of the NL is what is necessary. The teams in the NL East have not improved any more than the Mets and perhaps less so. But the Cubs, D-Backs, Rockies and Brewers (in that order) are all on the rise in a serious way.
I would like to see Minaya sign Colon, trade for Chad Bradford (what about Smith and Gotay in the deal?) and sign a free agent deal with Kevin Mench (though he hates platooning) or Preston Wilson to platoon with Church.
My guess is one or two of these scenarios will come to pass. If so, there will be much to be thankful for, barring injuries. And no team is immune from those.