Thursday, February 18, 2010

Put out the hot stove, please! Spring training is here

Our long national nightmare is over. Spring training has finally begun!

Maybe nightmare is a little harsh, but this was a brutal off-season. Not because of what the Mets did or didn't do, but because it just seemed to go on and on and on. Mostly because there was so little activity overall, and so few exciting players to be had.

Now, if you listen to the media and the Mets fans who've lost all hope, the Mets performed horribly in the Hot Stove League. Awful. So many holes. Well, maybe it wasn't so bad.

There were three marquee free agents. The Mets landed one of them, Jason Bay, and that move filled a gaping hole in left field.

The rest of the free agents, particularly the pitchers? Meh. You really had to work yourself up to get excited about Joel Piniero, or Ben Sheets, or Doug Davis, or Randy Wolf. Decent? Sure. Worth the money? Not really.

I admit that I thought the biggest need the Mets had this winter was a No. 2 starter, but the pickins were slim. Especially after John Lackey signed with Boston, and even then, he got a ton of money given his injury history, and it didn't seem that he was willing to shop the Red Sox' offer after he got it. He just took it, and good for him.

I agree with Ted Berg's point that the Mets' primary goal this winter was to "first, do no harm." They kept all of their top minor league prospects and young players with a shot at making the big club in 2010, and didn't overpay for marginal talent (although they sure looked like they were willing to do just that with Bengie Molina).

But oh, the holes! And all those question marks! Really? I read somewhere that the Mets had question marks "at every position." I don't think so.

Ace? Johan. Closer? K-Rod. Outfield? Pretty set with Bay, Francouer and Beltran, and Pagan played great last season when Beltran was out. (Yes, Beltran's health is a concern, but there's every chance he comes back from surgery just fine).

Left side of the infield? Locked in with Wright (is anyone betting against him producing more this season?) and what looks to be a 100-percent Reyes. And say what you want about Castillo, his salary or his defensive range, but he hit .300 last season and he gets on base.

First base? OK, I admit I love me some Murphy. The guy knows how to hit, works hard and showed plenty of signs that he could be better than average defensively. Last season was his first full season above AA. He deserves a shot to play, and let Tatis play once a week against lefties.

I never thought catcher was such a huge need, given the pickup of the defensively solid Henry Blanco, who could have platooned with Omir Santos while Josh Thole continued to develop in AAA. And if it's true that Rod Barajas -- known for his glove and some pop -- signs a minor league deal for a measly million, wouldn't you say Omar Minaya played that situation as well as he could?

That's the thing that bothers me most about the criticism -- it was like the season was starting tomorrow. Spring training was a month away and the Mets were getting slammed for inactivity. But there's every chance that they continue to add players in the next 6 weeks. Maybe they sign Mike Sweeney to platoon at first base (please, let Mike Jacobs go). Maybe John Smoltz, or Braden Looper or Noah Lowry get picked up to compete for a spot in the rotation. There's still time.

(By the way, I know Chien-Ming Wang is going to go 4-0 against the Mets this season. You can feel it. He could have been a very big addition here).

To me, the biggest questions are the middle of the rotation, a backup shortstop who's better than Alex Cora, and the bridge to K-Rod (there is none). But at this point, I'm not going to slam the Mets for not adding players who weren't any better than who they already had.

The next off-season is going to be a much more fertile free agent field to plow. Better to save those dollars and choose instead to pick through the bargain bins as free agents get more and more desperate to sign somewhere, anywhere (Felipe Lopez, anyone?)

Then there's the issue of depth, or the Mets' lack of same. Adding Gary Matthews Jr., Frank Catalanotto, Shawn Riggans, Josh Fogg, Tatis, Jacobs and Jason Pridie give them a decent and experienced bench.

But the team's health is a huge question! They didn't have the depth last season to cover their losses!

Let's face it -- no amount of depth would have kept them in the race with all the injuries they had in 2009. Just for fun, let's say the Yankees lost their shortstop, center fielder, first baseman and two of their top four starters, like the Mets did. That's Jeter, Texeira, Cabrera, Pettite and Burnett. Then let's say they lost Sabathia at the end for good measure. How would they have done?

But what about this season? Isn't health a question? Guess what? It's no different than any other team. Anyone can get hit with injuries, and all teams go through it. The Mets had a particularly horrific rash of them last season, almost historically bad. Can it happen again? Maybe. Is it likely? No. We hope.

In any case, I'm glad the idle talk is over and there's actual baseball to pay attention to. And I'm happy if the media or the general public think the Mets are just another also-ran. I prefer to be the underdog, anyway.

At least as far as that's concerned, there are no questions.


  1. hey, i'm optimistic...and can't wait for the season to start. i can't wait to sit my ass down and watch every single game, with gary, ronnie, keith, and burkhardt.

    its fun. yeah, thats right. fun.

    this is all in spite of the talk radio morons, and sadly most of the mets fans out there, who like to complain about everything, in turn, ruining a good time. its tough to insulate yourself from this negativity. i'd hate to be their spouse, partner, or children...jeez. nightmare, no thanks.

    its sports. its fun. i like baseball, i like to have fun. am i missing something here?

    enjoy it. enjoy the mets. enjoy baseball. enjoy the weather. and also, enjoy sny. sny kicks ass.

    or don't. more fun for me.

  2. i agree with mike about wang, and the fact that the pitching market was lame. i'm glad they didn't overspend to quell the MFB (moronic fan base) & the media.

    i think management did a good job this offseason. patience.

    last season was solely about injuries. most of the MFB chooses to forget about that, so they can complain more.

    and like mike said, as far as health is concerned, we're like every other team. all teams are prone to injuries, and all have their own holes / question marks.

    people who like to whine and complain (MFB) are selfish. they only have 1 perspective: their own. if you take your head out of your hole, you can see that the mets aren't much different.

    i do like jacobs though, and cora. i don't want smoltz, no more braves. i like having a guy off the bench (jacobs) with pop. he can be our matt stairs.