Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the New York Mets.
Diamond Hoggers’ NY Mets Blog(s) of Choice: MetsBlog & Kranepool Society
This team is extremely dangerous at the top of the lineup. You’d be hard pressed to find a team in the NL that can run out a 1-4 to rival shortstop Jose Reyes, second baseman Luis Castillo, center fielder Carlos Beltran, and third baseman David Wright (pictured). Even if Wright hits 5th from time to time, the clean-up then becomes Carlos Delgado, who’s still dangerous even with age. Reyes is one of the rising stars of MLB. Baseball badly wants David Wright to assume the role as baseball’s next Jeter. Beltran is 3 postseasons removed from being baseball’s most electrifying player, and although I think injuries have taken their toll on him and he’ll never get to the pinnacle he was once at again; I think he’ll be playing to prove he’s not washed up this season.
Question marks lie in left-fielder Moises Alou, catcher Brian Schneider, and right-fielder Ryan Church. There’s reason to like all these players in your lineup if you’re an optimist or Mets homer. If you’re not, and I’m not; I’m seeing reasons why these guys aren’t the clear-cut favorites to win the National League as everyone leads on.
This is a good lineup. They don’t show up day 1 as great. They have to prove it, and Shea’s no picnic to hit in.
Anyone who follows this team will tell you that this is the area they must cash in if the World Series talk is going to become a tangible thing to reach for. There’s a lot of dollars poured into this staff in just starters alone. People say that after Santana the rest of the rotation isn’t as good as Philadelphia’s. I don’t necessarily agree with that.
I think Pedro Martinez still has something left in the tank. He’s not a dominant ace anymore, but if you’re going to talk up Fausto Carmona and the Indians you have to respect in my opinion a future hall of famer becoming a #2 in Pedro Martinez, especially if he’s healthy and it’s June.
The Mets put a buzz in the air that they think John Mayne can win 20 games this season. He’s gotten off to hot starts in the past, but he’ll need continuation of that. If he does, wow. I have my doubts about whether or not he’s a 20-win caliber guy. Oliver Perez is another X-factor, he’s got an electric left arm but hasn’t put it all together yet. He’s still young and one of these years could be the year we see why he was so coveted. The Mets still have Mike Pelfrey (mega-prospect RH that hasn’t taken the reins yet, and El Duque Orlando Hernandez to fill the 5th slot.
It’s a pretty high end starting rotation.
The names you need to know in the bullpen are the obvious. Billy Wagner has been unreal as the closer here and he remains one of the best in the game. The set-up guy is Duaner Sanchez, and he’s so nasty he can wear yellow-tint goggles and get away with it. Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman and lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano are the significant guys.
This is a strong bullpen.
Willie Randolph has had his chances to take the place of baseball’s next big time manager. Not one of the best, but become the guy in all of baseball. Last year, the Mets choked it away on the final day of the season. Two years ago, they let what seemed like a sure trip to the World Series slip away to the St. Louis Cardinals. This has got to be the year that Randolph takes this team to the next step.
Randolph’s a New York kind of guy. His quiet demeanor compliments a team of stars in the media capital of the world pretty nicely. I think Randolph is an excellent baseball guy and no matter what happens this coming season he’ll manage in his share (at least one) World Series before he’s all done. The success he’s had early on in his managerial career has been overlooked because the Mets didn’t go all the way. Some guys go a decade without the type of success that Randolph’s already had (see Garner, Phil).
It was hard to decide on a big-name face player to put as the poster boy of this club. They’re loaded with star power. They’re an exciting team in an exciting town. I really want to get to Shea Stadium just once this year before my chance goes away. I’ve always had a partial interest in the Mets since I read The Bad Guys Won about the 1986 Mets. That was 22 years ago this fall and Darryl Strawberry is back in a Mets uniform. Tell me that isn’t good karma.
These star players don’t have personalities that are going to be corrosive playing with one another. It’s not like that. This is a group that’s going to be very, very good and their chemistry will be talked about because they’re going to make a push for 90+ games, mark it. Beyond that, I can tell you that baseball Gods do exist, and there’s as many flying around Shea on gameday as there is in Boston or across town in the Bronx. The ghosts of New York Mets past will be watching this team and there will be magical wins that just aren’t there for other teams.
Consider this area of the team in the positives and then some.
I’m not going to claim myself a genius because I’m predicting that the Mets are the toast of the National League. The big questions for me are: 1) are they good enough to hold off whatever dark horse gets hot around LCS and LDS time? and 2) are they good enough to give whoever comes out of the juggernaut American League a fight?
The Mets are sitting in an enviable cockpit right now, but it comes with a lot of pressure. It always does in the Big Apple.