Some people like to divide a major league baseball season into halves or quarters. Managers often try to help their team focus on the task at hand by concentrating on a ten-game stretch. Me, I'm a little weird. I like sixths. Like the small pepperoni pies at Pizza King, or the colored plastic wedges in a Trivial Pursuits game, I like the symmetry of one-sixth. A half of a third, or a third of a half if you like. Now that we're a half of a third of the way through 2008, I've learned a few things about these New York Mets:
These Mets will win 90 games: Whether that's enough to earn them a division title or even a wild card remains to be seen. The Cards and Diamondbacks have had quick starts, but none of the other 14 teams in the National League, and no one in the East, is wowing the world. The fact that these Mets have lost several games already they should have won, and have had the predictable rash of mostly age-related injuries, makes their current perch just a half game out of first place a pleasant surprise.
No Mets pitcher will come close to 20 wins: Three Mets have three wins each, and that leads the team. Seventeen other teams in baseball have a pitcher with more than three wins. Not us. Even if Maine and Santana continue pitching as well as they have to date, they'll both get more than their share of no-decisions and leads blown by a hot and cold bullpen. Back in the day, twenty wins was par for a good pitcher having a very good season. These days, twenty wins puts the phrase "Cy Young contender" next to your name. Jorge (7.02 ERA) Sosa is the Mets' other three-game winner, but he may not win three more games the rest of the season. Of course, by that same extrapolation logic, Chien-Ming Wang will end the season 30-0. And the Yankees still won't make the post-season.
Reyes and Wright can be the best 1-2 combo in baseball: When they both keep their heads in the game, that is. Friday night's win over the D-Backs was a glimpse at what Citi Field could see for at least the next decade. Every player makes a bad throw, or botches a rundown on occasion. Not every player keeps the fans bolted to their seats (or their TV) during every one of their at-bats. These two do.
These Mets have the thinnest bench in baseball: This will improve as the walking wounded start walking again, but for now, pinch-hitting for the pitcher is as close to a guaranteed out as you can get. I'd honestly rather see Johan Santana pinch-hitting with runners on base than some of the conventional choices available to Willie so far.
Carlos and Carlos have to heat up soon: Don't they? If they don't pull themselves up and over the Mendoza line by Memorial Day at the latest, though, remember this name: Valentino Pascucci. The 6'6" 260 pound first-baseman/outfielder just got picked up by New Orleans. While his offensive numbers are nothing special this year, he's led the minors in homers in Double-A ('02) and Triple-A ('07). If the Mets grow the cojones to sit either Beltran or Delgado for any length of time, the Scooch may see the inside of a major leaguer ballpark yet.
Willie or Won't He?: Since I don't get the New York papers here in Orlando, I apologize if I've swiped a recent headline unwittingly. The question, of course, is - will he or won't he get his walking papers? I'm squarely on the fence on this issue. I like what I see of the person of Willie Randolph. But I must admit I shake my head at least twice a week over some move he made or didn't make. I don't think fans, bloggers, or even dinosaur journalists have the information they need to make an informed choice on the Mets' skipper. Since we can't see inside the clubhouse, none of us knows whether he's a good influence, a bad influence, or no influence at all on the players. That last option would be the most damning of all. There are plenty of names Mets fans know waiting in the wings should Randolph get the ax: HoJo, Teufel, Alfonzo, and Backman are some of the ones I've heard. Whether any of them would improve the Mets' won-lost record is impossible to know. Give Omar credit, though, for his anti-Steinbrennerish refusal to stick his finger in the air to see which way the winds of public opinion are blowing that day. We have plenty of politicians doing that; we don't need a GM with that little substance.
So, with one-third of one-half if this season done, these Mets are, to me, not as good as I'd hoped, but in a far better position than their play for the first 27 games would justify. Now give me my blue plastic wedge, and a greasy slice of heaven from Pizza King, and let's get back to playing the game.