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It Only Hurts When I...

Mike SteffanosThursday, April 2, 2009
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.

My throbbing finger tells me this is enough for today. Talk to you soon. And don't forget my friends at Ticket Solutions for both Mets Tickets and Yankees Tickets.

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.

Comments (5)

Mike, feel better and type when you can. Don't try to rush anything.

If you ever are interested though, I do recommend voice recognition typing software. You can speak aloud into a microphone and it'll type for you. I know of some professional writers who have carpal tunnel, and use that to type.

As for the Mets, I also feel positive about them. I think it'll come down to how well the Mets bullpen holds up over the year. If they're healthy and produce like we believe they can, they'll recoup at least 10 losses from last year.

The batting order should be better with a healthy year out of Church (and possibly Castillo) and also a full year out of Murphy. Same goes for a full year (hopefully) out of Delgado.

The only areas I can see the Mets trading for are a starting pitcher if Livan/Redding falters or someone gets injured, and at catcher. Victor Martinez will probably be available at the trade deadline- and he'd be a better batter than either Schneider or Castro. And the Mets have the chips to trade if need be.

Also, as for other teams- the Braves rotation is really strong, but their lineup is really weak (middle of the order's Chipper, McCann, Garrett Anderson). The Marlins also have a good starting rotation, but no bullpen and a really weak lineup. The Phillies have their own question marks- a pitching rotation that will be taxed alot, and a lineup that doesn't play well away from Philly. And Ryan Howard can't afford another .240 BA season.

Bottom line is, is that the Mets are easily a 85-95 win team, and if things go right for them, they can even win 100 games. If things go bad for them, yes, they'll struggle and hover around .500 for the year. But I don't think that'll happen.

My early season predictions? NL East: Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nats
NL Central: Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Brewers, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies, Padres
NL Wild Card: either Phillies, Cardinals, or Braves

Hi Mike, now you know how us one finger typers feel, That one line cost me 2 full minutes. I would need a week to type one of your reports and at least a full day to spell check it. Who am I kidd'n two full days to spell chek, ah, check. something like that.I think the same as evrybody so far , that we can be? very good "if". Also Iam sure that if something starts going bad, they will be fast to try and fix it via trade, and by the trading deadline I think they would be really looking to strenghten themselves, pitching and hitting. I am still looking for a team leader, a gung-ho type of guy that this team needs.Get well, and stay out of the kitchen.

I feel very good about the Mets this year. I truly believe they are on the precipice to a special season. There are lots of reasons why I feel this way, beyond mere homerism. But just to state a few reasons- first, last year, the Mets did not collapse. I feel that when people go ahead and clump 2008 with 2007, they are displaying lazy thinking. Hec, John Heyman was on the Fan with Mike the other day, and he made me see red with one of his comments. In response to Mike who said that between Reyes, Wright, Beltran, and Delgado, they missed only 5 games, and that just never happens (a point that I do agree with, and I truly hope all 4 of them can stay healthy again this year), Heyman stupidly said that the Mets had everything go right last year, and that they can't expect that to happen again. He continued to say that despite people saying that it was the horrid bullpen that killed the Mets last year, it just isn't that simple, there was more to it than that, to which of course Mike agreed. At that point, I was way too annoyed to continue listening. It's one thing for Heyman to be a Scott Bora$ schil, but the way he talks about the Mets, it's like he feels he's expected to toe the party line, and take the easy way out. When Mike wanted further clarification about who Heyman thought would win the NL East, Heyman responds with, "Oh, the Phillies, of course." Typical Heyman. Can't use his keppi. How about some critical thinking once in a while John; give it a shot, you might actually like it. Like I said, I didn't hear the rest. But that line, "The Mets had everything go right last year," WOW! How utterly wrong and silly that is. Yes, those four guys were healthy all year. And yes, Tatis came out of nowhere. But did he forget that, in addition to that pathetic bullpen, we lost our LF for almost the entire year; our RF, who was our best player until he got hurt, wound up missing 2/3 of the year, and was never the same even when he did come back; we got about a half a season from our 2B, and when he did play, it was on bad wheels; and wait, it gets better- one of our key starters wound up missing the final 6 or so weeks, and was clearly not right for a while even before then, forcing us to start minor leaguers in his starts, one of whom had never even pitched in the majors before, and was now doing so in the heat of a division race; and to top it all off, that horrible bullpen the Mets had, their closer, their one reliable arm in that pen, goes down shortly after the all star break, forcing Manual to run a comedy of errors on a nightly basis; and because of all this, the bench players were playing everyday, including very weak bats like Endy and Argenis Reyes, while minor leaguers filled their bench. And despite all this, they STILL just missed the playoffs. In fact, had Wagner been healthy for just two specific games, the Santana start against the Phillies at Shea, when the pen, minus Billy, turned a 3 run lead in the 9th into a three run loss via a 6 run fiasco of an inning... And then there's that 7-0 lead the offense staked Pedro to, and while he was largely responsible for that Philli comeback, the fact is, the Mets still had a 2 run lead going into the 8th, and a 1 run lead in the 9th, and they still lost that game. Had Billy been available to save both those games, the Mets would have won the division, and the Phils would have had to square off with the Brewers for the Wild Card. Just those two games. I think it's actually impressive in the end that the Mets made it as close as they did. Any other playoff team has their bullpen, and they don't even come close to sniffing the playoffs. Switch bullpen with the Phils, hec, let them keep their pen, but had the Mets has a copy of the Phils' pen, and the Mets win the divison by at least 7 games. Outside their pens, the Mets simply were better than the Phils. And now of looks like Omar has turned a debilitating weakness into what looks like it could be a major strength of the team, an utter 180 from last year. There will be many articles on where the bullpen was before, and what it is now.

The other major weakness of the Mets was their situational hitting. I think Manual has really gotten them to be smarter hitters in clutch situations. Between the WBC and ST, we've seen the benefits of this new attitude over and over. I really think this Mets offense is going to just hit people to death, consistently keeping the line going, similar to the Cubs last year. Add to this the Mets speed and the small ball that Manu loves to play, and I love this offense's ability to score.

There are a number of other reasons why I like this team, such as improved leadership, starting with Manual, but also including Johan, Putz, and some others, as well as what appears to be great chemisry on this team, where everyone seems to be supporting one another. And in the end, I strongly feel that the Mets will be a top 5 team in all the relevant categories, at least top 5, in: runs per game, SB, starting pitching, relief corps, defense, and so on. I think the Mets just will be a very consistent team, winning against poor teams and good teams alike, as they will focus less on the team they're playing, and more on getting another W. I wouldn't be surprised if the next two days wind up being a preview of the World Series.

Oh, and if the Mets do make a middeason trade, it should be for a starter. Now wouldn't it be sweet if Omar found a way to get his hands on Roy Halladay?

Craig, Heyman's a Yankees schill, and always has been. He'll talk the Mets down because he doesn't really know them, and will always see them as the non-Yanks. I'm pretty sure he doesn't know the makeup of the Phillies, and couldn't tell either of us who their starting CF is or their #5 pitcher is.

As for the Mets, I agree with you that they had alot of things go wrong for them at the end of the year- and if any team had everything go right, it was the Phillies. If the Mets bullpen had blown 5 less saves last year- the Mets would have made it to the postseason, and the Phillies probably wouldn't.

I'm also pissed off at Yahoo Sports' Power Rankings (by Tim Brown). They have the Yankees at #3, and for the life of me I don't know why. Is it because of the sexy and sweet overspending in the offseason? Or is it the realization that their lineup now has Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom at CF and 3B? They're just Yankees farm scrubs who made it because everyone else sucks at those positions. And they also have no real bullpen outside of Mariano. Great pick for #3!
And what was up with picking the Athletics to be #11? Duscherer is starting the season on the DL. Their lineup only has Matt Holliday, Orlando Cabrera, and Jason Giambi to be really reliable. Cust, Crosby, Ellis, and Nomar will not be. I expect them to finish 3rd in the division.

And then there's ESPN's Baseball Tonight. They picked the best rotation in the NL to be the Marlins. Nolasco's a stud, but Johnson's been injury prone (and hasn't thrown 200 IP yet), and Volstad, Sanchez, and Miller have never thrown more than 100 IP on the major league level yet. Watch that rotation fall apart in June and July. And their "fantasy stud" was Raul Ibanez, simply because "he batted for average, hit 20+ HR and 100 RBI on a bad team and is now a Phillie". I'm going to throw up now.

So much for the vaunted experts.

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