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Thoughts of Spring

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 4, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

It's been a rough winter where I live in west central Connecticut. Seems like I've been shoveling snow every other day since December, and as I write this my outside thermometer is registering a balmy 6.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, now that the Mets have signed Oliver Perez and the truck has left for Port St. Lucie and the opening of spring training late next week, things seem a little warmer. It's been a tough couple of years to be a Mets fan, but the approach of baseball still makes everything seem a little better.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the Mets this season yet. I've lost some faith in Omar Minaya's ability to make the little moves that separate the good teams from the mediocre, but maybe he'll recapture the magic that built the 2006 club.

I know a lot of folks aren't happy with the Mets decision to go into spring training with a platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernandez in left field, but I like it. Too often this club throws a lot of money at a problem area only to receive marginal results in return. To me, an indicator of success going forward would be the ability to receive acceptable production from more creative solutions, and I believe platooning to be an often overlooked way to do that.

If you sign a big player for a position and he gets hurt or fails to perform, you need to find a full time replacement. If Murphy or Tatis fails to perform, it's a lot easier to find an acceptable platoon bat to remedy the situation. If both fail it calls into question whether the right people are making the talent evaluations for this team.

Still, as I pointed out yesterday, the Mets solved the eighth and ninth inning problem by throwing a combined $26 million at it, and you just can't solve every problem that way. If only someone came up with a more creative and cheaper solution for second base last winter, the team would have more flexibility today.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with Murphy and Tatis this year.

I'm looking forward to seeing if John Maine and the much higher paid Ollie Perez could take another step forward this season.

I'm looking forward to seeing if Luis Castillo can survive the full Kaz Matsui treatment and be one of the few guys to turn the fans back around.

I'm looking forward to seeing if Duaner Sanchez can recapture some of what he had in 2006 before that ill-fated cab ride.

I'm looking forward to seeing if Carlos Delgado's second half was just an Indian Summer in his career or the real thing.

I want to see if Francisco Rodriguez and J. J. Putz are tough enough to handle the rough reception when they don't do their jobs.

I want to see if David Wright takes a step back from the pull-happy uppercut approach from much of last season and goes back to using the whole field more effectively. I want to see if his infield mate Jose Reyes grows up a little.

I want to see if the pre-concussion Ryan Church is back.

I want to see Mike Pelfrey continue to show the poise he acquired after almost punching a ticket out of New York.

Maybe it's me, but I don't dread all of the question marks that surround the team. Every teams have questions. The difference between 2006 and the last two seasons was that the '06 club was able to find answers when it counted. It's always a great feeling to watch a winning team find answers. As for the ones that can't -- well, they have no business playing into October, anyway.

(Still) In the Citi
I'm not going to beat this to death, but this story from Reuters does a good job of explaining why no amount of political grandstanding is going to magically dissolve the contractual obligations between Citigroup and the Mets.

We have a complex situation here that is not well served by oversimplifying it. Other banks receiving bailout money are also involved in sponsorships.

Don't get me wrong. In a perfect world, the Mets would find a way to live without Citi's money and the bad publicity they're getting from it. It would hurt for a couple of years, but eventually the economy will rebound and it wouldn't surprise me if the Mets were able to get a more lucrative sponsorship deal once that happens. Still, though, I understand it's a lot easier to ask someone else to walk away from $20 million per year than it is to be the one walking away.

Adam Graves
For those of you who, like me, are also NY Rangers fans, our friend Gary Sparber has some great pics from Adam Graves night at the Garden. Enjoy.

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 (1)

I have to agree with you on all the question marks. Most of those will be answered positively, simply because they're easy questions.

-Ollie will pitch better knowing full well that he's got 6-7 innings to work with before the game gets shut down, which will allow him to pitch more comfortably;

-Delgado's bat came back for two reasons: he got over his hand injuries and Manuel was a far better fit with him than Willie ever was;

-Even if Duaner doesn't get his 2006 form back, there's a whole slew of guys who can fill in on the 7th inning.......and we may get Wagner back in August.;

-Church should be fine in a deeper lineup than last year's;

-Reyes and Wright will still have their problems, but I'll take their problems when their positives are so high;

-I too can't wait to see what happens with F-Mart, Danny Baseball Murphy, and Evans. Oh, and let's also wait for Flores and Thole!

-Does anyone expect the Phillies to play as well as they did last year? Without Burrell? Without Romero? Without Utley (forget what he says about coming back early; that's injury city and mendoza line batting waiting to happen)? Do they have a #2 pitcher after Hamels? And does Howard hit .230 again (yes)? And will they play better with an improved Mets, Braves, and yes, Nationals (no)?

-As of right now, the Mets rotation depth is: Johan, Pelfrey, Ollie, Maine, Garcia, Redding, Niese, Parnell, Armas, Figueroa. I like that kind of depth.

-About the only real negatives are that I believe that Schneider and Castillo have seen their best days and the Mets will have to consider moving them in mid-season.

Bottom line is, is that the Mets will go as far as their bullpen will take them- and on paper they're at least going to win 5 more games than they did last year. And that's probably a minimum. So they're an 85-95 win team that could easily be a 100 win team if things break right for them.

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