By Mike Steffanos
Here's something to keep in mind that I wish someone had said to me last night before I washed the dishes: If you drop a wine glass, let it go. Don't try to catch it while it's shattering into a thousand tiny daggers against the counter.
Sadly, no one was around to warn me, and I managed to do quite a bit of damage to my right hand. There was damage to my right palm, pinkie and index fingers, but the significant hurt was inflicted upon my middle finger (insert obvious joke here). That was deep enough so that I found myself staring at the stuff inside that's never supposed to see the light of air. Not a fun night.
At any rate, said injury has taken my typing skills down from pathetic to glacial. Climate change is occurring at a faster rate than words are limping off my keyboard. I had planned to write some sort of season prediction piece today, but I think I'll let that stay on hold until later in the weekend.
I will say now that this will be a tough team to predict this year. Leaving aside catastrophic injuries to either the Mets or a division rival that could really skew the outcome, I think there's enough questions to be answered about this team that I can easily see them winning anywhere from 85-95 games.
If more than one of the starting pitchers has a bad year, the Rodriguez/Putz combo doesn't click and the gamble the Mets took with their corner outfielders doesn't pay off, I could easily see this team struggling around .500 and failing to make the playoffs.
On the other hand, if things work out reasonably well there's enough talent here for a first place finish and that 95 wins. Anything above that would probably require a significant amount of career years from key players.
The safest bet would be to split the middle and figure close to 90 wins, which would mean contention in both the division and wildcard, but that really is just trying to play it safe.
I think the Mets have several things going for them out of the gate, including a better bullpen and the lack of the distractions that came with all of the media speculation on when Willie Randolph would be fired. These two things alone would probably be worth a couple of wins.
I think this year will shake out differently than the past two, but much will depend on the swing players. You know what you're going to get from a Santana and Beltran, for instance, but there are questions about Carlos Delgado, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church.
Also, I haven't seen enough of the Phillies, Marlins and Braves to make even an educated guess about them. I do give the Phillies the undoubted advantage of winning two years in a row, but I also believe that many of the prognosticators take too many things for granted with them. They have some real questions that they need to address, and the past isn't quite the guarantee of the future that some would like it to be.
I think the Mets have turned over a significant portion of their roster, shaking things up enough that it's intellectually lazy just to assume that that what happened last year and the year before will significantly effect this season. On the other hand, I don't buy into the thought that the significant improvement to the bullpen guarantees anything.
If I have a gut feeling that I feel pretty sure about, it is that I honestly think this is going to be a Mets team that I will enjoy watching. I really look forward to seeing how they evolve.
I also just plain feel better about them. There really does seem to be a different vibe surrounding them than last spring. I don't pretend it will make any difference as to whether I still feel good in October, but it's a nice feeling for April.