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A Glass Half Full

Dave MillsThursday, April 17, 2008
By Dave Mills


The 2008 Mets season has been a bit ho-hum, but still enlightening for those of us who see the glass as half full rather than half empty.

In spite of the minions of repulsive boo-birds, there is much to be pleased about early on, and a few things of which to be wary.

Sure, injuries to Moises, Pedro and El Duque have had an impact, but they have also opened the door to some interesting situations and stories. Clearly, those three players are unlikely to have a future with the Mets after this season. If one of them is re-signed, it would be a big surprise. All it takes is a look at the replacements to see why.

Angel Pagan is certainly not going to hit in the high .300s with an OBP of over .450, but he is just as likely NOT to lose his considerable skills. What a pickup by Omar! And a fascinating aspect of Pagan's performance is that Endy Chavez is relegated to almost no role at all, which could make Endy excellent fodder for a multi-player deal. More on this below.

The roles of Pedro and El Duque are being nicely filled by Mike Pelfrey (Yes. He is the real deal with nasty stuff honed by Schneider's commanding presence behind the dish) and Nelson Figueroa (his first start was the feel good story of the early season for the Mets).

For those of us who garner pleasure from seeing those drafted by the Mets organization prospering, the emergence of Pagan, Pelfrey, Figueroa and Joe Smith is quite compelling. Of course, Reyes, Wright and Heilman add significantly to this impressive batch of home-growns.

Other highly positive developments
Carlos Delgado is going the other way with regularity. This will lose him some long knocks, but will bring his batting average back to respectability. In fact, when Alou returns, Delgado in the 6th hole delivers a heck of a batting order.

The deal that sent Lastings Milledge to the Nats and Ryan Church and Brian Schneider to the Amazins' was a fine deal for both teams. Church and Schneider are the types of pros that every team needs to be well-rounded. Every good team has guys like these--Johnny Callison, Bob Allison and Bill Freehan come to mind. These are solid players who might make a once in a career All-star appearance.

Joe Smith has assumed that fascinating role that he had for the first two months of 2007. The Mets are high on this guy for a number of good reasons, not the least of which is the incredible (mostly downward) movement on his pitches, which tend to induce ground balls and baffle righthanded hitters.

Duaner is back and that (combined with Smith's resurgence) cannot be a bad thing for the Mets pen and Willie Randolph's job security. However, it might not be good for Aaron Heilman's Mets' career.

The Mets are seeing southpaws to a greater degree than any other team in MLB. Five straight this week. Yet, they are raking them with some aplomb. David Wright is a one man wreaking crew when it comes to lefties, but he is getting lots of help from the lefty bats of Church, Delgado and Schneider. This is why the Mets lead the National League in batting average against southpaws.

Even without Pedro, El Duque and Duaner, Mets pitching ranks 4th overall in MLB. Lets face it--there is no real depth of pitching at the major leeague level. We probably have at least four teams too many and there will always be a lack of arms. Santana, Perez, Maine and Pelfrey have pitched well above average in multiple starts. Right now, I think it is fair to say the Mets have one of the three best starting staffs in the NL, with the potential of being #1. The bullpen has been credible and not as good as most of us would hope, but serviceable nonetheless.

It is pretty apparent that David Wright is turning into a perennial MVP candidate and the naysayers regarding his fielding prowess are downright ignorant. For every off kilter throw, David makes three to four exceptional Brooks Robinsonish plays at the third sack. Many third basemen develop about five years into their major league careers. Robinson, Nettles, Schmidt and Boggs all come to mind. Brooks made 21 errors in his third campaign (his first as a full-time third baseman). Nettles averaged 20 errors over his first seven seasons at the hot corner (1970-76). Schmidt averaged 20 errors during his first 11 full seasons from 1974-1984. And Boggs, surprisingly enough, made only 18 errors per-season from 1983-1990. While Schmidt and Boggs were formidable hitters and very good fielders, many would say Robinson and Nettles were formidable defensively and better than average hitters. Wright may well turn out to be the best of the bunch, as his offensive stats for his first four seasons in the Bigs leave the rest of that field in dust.

Problems
Luis Castillo is painful to watch. Not because he is a bad player, but because he has bad knees and is not fooling anyone. If he says he needs to rest twice a week--Willie, are you listening? Easley and Anderson are more than adequate fill-ins and need to find some playing time.

As much as Gil Hodges liked to platoon and LaRussa likes to shuffle his lineups, Randolph seems to play his regulars to exhaustion. While the Mets entire outfield is playing well, finding some playing time for Chavez and Brady Clark is imperative. Same for Anderson, who can fill in at 1B and 2B at least once a week. There is also no reason that Schneider has only sat for one game. I suspect Castro will play against most lefties when he returns.

Middle relief has shown a bit of vulnerability. That can change with a healthy and effective Pedro or one good deal. A healthy Pedro, will mean Figueroa can move to the long relief role. I am not sold on Sosa or Wise, but still willing to wait and see. Clearly, Feliciano and Smith have defined roles that also can extend to more than one inning, but far less than three. Schoeneweis also appears to be on the right track. The lack of consistency from Heilman, Sosa and Wise are the issues that must be resolved.

Dealing from strength
Heilman and Endy Chavez may well be turn out to be two of the more expendable members of the Mets. They are also be highly prized by other organizations. In fact, it is hard to imagine another team that would not like to have these two on their roster. What are the Mets looking for in return? Well, that depends on how Pelfrey and Figueroa perform. If they do well, the Mets are looking for a first baseman of the near future and another quality arm for the current pen. Does anyone think that the Pirates would not trade Xavier Nady for Heilman, Chavez and one of the Mets second-tier prospects?

A re-grab of the X-Man would allow the Mets to use Nady to backup both Church and Delgado for the balance of this season and then platoon him at 1B with Fernando Martinez, should they decide to move FMart to 1B. Nady also supplies righthanded power to compliment and then replace Alou.

Shame on the Shea faithful
What good does it do to incessantly boo Mets players? Does it help them to perform better? No way. If you are angry with ticket price increases, send a letter to Freddie Skill Sets or stay away from Shea in protest. If you are disgusted with last year's collapse, get over it. Yes, the players make outrageous sums of money and some may feel that is enough to sustain, but most play hard and want to win. I cannot identify a Mets player who didn't seem to be making an effort. Every time I watch Aaron Heilman pitch, I have no doubt he is totally involved and giving his all. What more can we ask? Perfection does not exist.

In fact, the vast majority of knowledgeable baseball minds and observers cannot tell us why the Mets collapsed. Personally, I think it all goes back to the taxi cab ride taken by Duaner Sanchez one early Miami morning in late July 2006.

Time to move past it. Duaner is back, Johan Santana is in the park and all can be redeemed with a little patience and support.

Stop the booing now!

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 (6)

I like the article. Nice work. Just have an issue with the amount you are willing to give up for Nady. Too much or so I believe.

Hey, I like Nady too, but, that's way too much for him. How about Cordero from the Nats? Probably would never happen but who knows?? This was a good article. Everyone here who reads my posts knows why they are booing and it's not the players.

Heilman will probably stay for now, as Smith/Duane/Figueroa r makes Sosa more expendable. The Mets will probably take a long look at LF, 1B, and 2B over the season to see if they can find something better than what they have out there.

Chavez will play, it's just that the Mets have run into ALOT of lefthanders, and he doesn't hit them well. That's why Brady Clark started tonight for the achy Beltran rather than Endy.

And as for 1B, keep an eye on Mike Carp and Nick Evans in Triple AAA. They're hitting well, and one of them will probably get called up in case Delgado gets hurt. Also, expect the Mets in the offseason to throw alot of money Texiera's way.

Jason, Good post. You are right on about the lefties. Remember a few years ago the other teams would call up anyone who threw lefthanded to face us? After last night with all those strike outs we may see more of that. How about Nelson last night. Another great outing. Too bad he got a no decision.The offense struggled again and we can't blame Willie for this one. Ron Darling was famious for these performances. It must have been in his mind. As we go into Philly tonight, we need to get our hitting shoes on because the Phils are going to hit a few out. Burrell and company will do that. Johan needs some early run support. It will only make him more effective if he doesn't have to worry about every time he challenges them. Which Oliver will show up? Hopefully not the one we seen last time. Duaner looks good early on. This gives the pen another shot in the arm. No pun intended. We look solid, just look acrosstown. The key is within the bats. Another thought, who made out the schedule? Do we ever play anyone except the Braves, Phils or Nats?

excellent points dave.i was at shea last nite..pagan, clark, castillo and the pitcher very weak from 6-9.we need to shore up the bench.i would love to see nady come back.it depends on the price obviously.hopefully alou will be able to play in a few weeks..we need his bat..great job by figueroa.this weekend should be interesting...

I'm an old Tigers fan, my mind-set established in this regard circa 1950s and 1960s. And to this day, too. I like that English "D". That's where I'm coming from. But. Give me a minor league game any day over the "major league" game -- where multi-million dollar outfielders can't nail a runner at the plate unless they're charging balls just behind the infield dirt. Where multi-million dollar pitchers can't go more than six innings. Where more multi-millionaires are on the DL than on a tear. OK, ya, that's where I'm coming from. The current Tigers' roster isn't Murderers' Row -- just an over-hyped Rouge River version of Our Rich Guys--With Gloves. Back in the day, Michigan had no minor league teams (now there are at least four) -- and had just the Tigers, although for those living on the west side of town (Kalamazoo is pretty much equi-distant from both Detroit and Chicago, and sits on I-94) the Cubs and Ernie Banks were also a favorite. That's where I'm coming from . . . and I say the current Mets-Of-Millionaires couldn't hold a whiskey glass to the Casey Stengal crew of the early 1960s. My dad flew me to New York City to celebrate my 15th birthday the summer of 1961. And while we did make it to Radio City Music Hall and I got to see the amazing Rockettes (plus there was a guy in the men's room who would brush your coat!!!), the real deal was watching the Mets. Who cares about the World's Fair Men-In-Black staging grounds? The Cardinals were in town. My dad -- who grew up in White Plains and dropped out of MIT to work digging subway tunnels after The Crash wiped out the family fortune -- uber-indulged his Kalamazoo Kid. All four games. All Met losses. Those were the real Mets!

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