By Mike Steffanos
I was sitting in front of my television set yesterday doing my best to enjoy yesterday's home opener. Several times during the game I found myself muttering "this team sucks" in frustration with yet another failure to deliver a big hit.
This is coming from a guy who has spent four decades watching this game and constantly relearning the lesson that baseball is a game that requires a long attention span to truly understand. Yet when you are a fan, what you know and what you feel often seem to be at odds.
I don't believe in snap judgments when it comes to baseball, but I have to admit that I catch myself making them all of the time. It's the very nature of being a fan that our fears and hopes manifest themselves in how we process what we see on the field.
I have seen enough this spring and in the early going to give me some hope that 2011 will be better than 2010, but there have been some less positive omens, too. To a large extent, what you as a Mets fan will take out of the first week of games is probably dependent on whether you went into this season with your glass half empty or half full.
I do buy into the higher energy level. Also, what I see from Terry Collins indicates a better long-term plan in utilizing his roster than Jerry Manuel's "play the hot hand" style.
Other positives from the first week are Reyes looking healthy and strong, David Wright actually looking like the David we first came to love, and Brad Emaus showing some signs of being a player. Carlos Beltran is off to a slow start, but has looked better than I expected in the early going.
My biggest concerns so far involve the starting pitching. It's not so much the bad games from Pelfrey and Niese as the fact they are averaging less than 5 innings per start in the early going. The bullpen has been a little overexposed, and the results have been decidedly mixed.
The offense has been nothing to write home about, but I'd like to see Jason Bay back and in the lineup before I even attempt to make some sort of judgment there. If Bay can stay on the field and get back to a productivity level somewhere between last season and what he did before then, this offense will be better.
Some other quick thoughts:
Terry Collins has already admitted it might have been a mistake to anoint Pelfrey as the Opening Day pitcher and the ace-in-training of the staff. I wonder if he might also want to reconsider his position on Bobby Parnell being the eighth inning guy. I like Parnell, but that's a tough position for a reliever who can have trouble harnessing his own stuff at times.
In a perfect world you let Parnell work his way into the setup role. Unfortunately, there is no obvious second choice here. I can see Buchholz getting some time in this role if he stays healthy. Maybe Isringhausen if the Mets decide to bring him up. I wasn't completely sold on Izzy's fastball command this spring, however, and his curveball won't be enough if he keeps falling behind hitters.
Speaking of Jason Bay -- if you were Sandy Alderson, how badly would you wish that Bay wasn't under contract through 2013? I have nothing against him -- he plays the game the right way and should bounce back at least somewhat when he gets back onto the field.
Still, I can't help but see Bay as the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. At 32, he doesn't really fit into a program of rebuilding for the future. He's under contract for $16 million per in 2011, 2012 and 2013, with a $17 million vesting option (based on PA) or $3 million buyout in 2014.
To even think about moving Bay and saving some of that money, he'll have to show that he can still hit home runs and drive in some runs. He also has a no-trade clause he'd have to waive.
Finally, while everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, that opinion should have some basis in fact, particularly when it is printed in a real newspaper where facts are supposed to still matter.
Yet this column in the Star-Ledger manages to make some pretty strong points without the columnist burdening himself with actually offering any proof or rational thought.
While the quotes he uses are from people saying some positive things about Terry Collins, the writer assures us that Mets fans are a "sensible" bunch that know better. The whole thing reads as an ignorant hatchet job by a writer that doesn't know what he's talking about.
I don't know if the writer's purpose here was to depress me or just annoy me, but I actually felt embarrassed for him. It was a lazy, pointless piece of frivolous inanity -- just pathetic. It's so bad, I don't even feel the need to refute it point by point. Readers of that paper deserve better.