Note: This post goes out to Steve Gilliard, who faces open heart surgery and whose baseball heart, we know, belongs to the team in Flushing.
Nothing to cheer a late winter day in New York but fastballs and over-hyped young soupbones. So while the Yankees spit on tradition and laugh greedily at the best player of their late dynasty while counting the handful of greenbacks they’ll save by keeping Bernie Williams at home on his guitar, we’re turning our attention to the team of true New Yorkers – the Mets, those Metties, Los Mets.
Now, the Mets lineup remains as fierce as ever, although we’re all working to get the image of Carlos Beltran standing there at Shea out of our minds. Reyes has packed on 10 pounds of muscle and will be an MVP candidate again this year. Wright had better quit the teeny-bopper music contests and poster-posing and just hit the ball, especially in the second half. Delgado had off-season surgery but is reported well-healed, and is good for 35-100 falling out of bed. Beltran is one of the top hitters in baseball, despite that called strike.
That’s the top four – after that, we get the questions. Will LoDuca repeat his incredible knack for reaching base and rally-stoking last year, as he looks for a new contract? Does Shawn Green have anything left? Will the newly-acquired Moises Alou be an improvement on the beloved-but-gimpy Cliff Floyd in left? Which Jose Valentin will we get at second? Do we trade the talented Lastings Milledge or try to get him at-bats? Endy Chavez is no question mark – he’s the perfect fourth outfielder: fast, makes contact, super defense.
Of course, the lineup is just the prelude – and it’s pretty well scripted, really. What matters with this team is the pitching, and there are big question marks all over the rotation. Pedro’s out till at least July, and then he’s tender as a newborn coming back. Glavine is well over 40 now, but seems good for 200 innings. El Duque? Let’s just point out that he’s already had a medical trip back to New York this spring – for arthritis.
Now, the soupbones and for once, we’ve got a bunch of ‘em. John Maine looked the most ready last year and pitched in some big spots. Oliver Perez is a lefty, late-developing with good stuff, and was occasionally brilliant, occasionally horrid last season. A pair of number one pick studs are vying for a spot: Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber – big guys, big futures, probably both ticketed for the new Mets Triple-A affiliate No’leans. Throw in a couple of promising, “could develop” types like Jorge Sosa, Jason Vargas and Alay Soler – and there’s plenty of young starting stuff in Port St. Lucie. Old junk, too. As is his way, Omar Minaya has brought in a couple of retreads in Aaron Sele and Chan-Ho Park to compete.
The bullpen is even more interesting – after Billy Wagner and Aaron Heilman, you’ve got the rehabbing Duaner Sanchez, lefty Dave Williams, veteran free agent Scott Schoeneweis, along with Pedro Feliciano. Plenty of depth, and it doesn’t include Guillermo Mota, who was suspended for steroid use and will return after 50 games.
But the talk of Mets camp may be a couple of Dominican outfielders with no chance to make the team: Carlos Gomez, 21, and Fernando Martinez, only 18. Both have power, speed, and very quick bats and could be stalwarts in the upcoming Citi Field Era.
Too early for predictions, but with exhibition season kicking off today, this year’s team looks deeper than last year’s – and the currently thin starting rotation may well tell the tale in the end.
What’s that you say about the Yankees, Steve?