Thursday, April 5, 2012

New York Mets Season Preview (On Field Edition):

The Rotation:
Perhaps the only thing that will provoke feelings of a return to normalcy for the fans this afternoon will be when Johan Santana grabs the hill just after 1pm. A review of stats will serve as a reminder that Johan has spent most of his career playing the role of quintessential ace. Problem is his arm hasn’t allowed the ace to pitch in a game that counted in just over 18 months and has started bar room chatter of Santana being the latest superstar to join the Orange and Blue’s Scrap Heap Hall of Fame. The extremists of Met land will assert that anything short of a Cy Young season will be a bust, but realistically, posting anything close to the 30 or so starts Johan had averaged pre arm breakdown will be reason to be encouraged.

If it’s easy to root for Santana’s return to glory, it’s becoming equally hard to root for Mike Pelfrey to achieve any kind of glory. A guy once considered by some to be the latest in the storied Met tradition of home grown arms, Pelf was pretty dismal last season (7-13, 4.40 ERA). Going into last year, I was among those putting my stock in the refrain “hey he won 15 games last year,” While I certainly wouldn’t mind 15 wins for Mike, I see it as much more likely he is out of town by August.

What’s better than a new contract?: A new nose. Lucky for him, the Mutts Jon Niese now has both. Niese was recently given the gift of a new nose by ex teammate Carlos Beltran. Upon first hearing of Nosegate and the fact that the pitcher's motivations were cosmetic, I chalked it up as more evidence of what a tabloid joke my beloved franchise had becomenow however Niese has reported he is literally breathing easier than he has in years so maybe we’ll all benefit. According to my sources, breathing is good.

The contract extension also struck me initially as an April Fools joke delivered late. The team hasn’t spent money on anybody but all of the sudden they give a 5 year 25ish million dollar (with two team options that could push the deal to 52 million) deal to this guy? Upon further review, I realized he posted decent numbers for a mid rotation guy (11-11, 4.40) and at 26 years old still has time to grow. Given the contract stability and low pressure rotation spot, there is a good chance “the Schnozzola” has a break out year. Apparently the brass thinks he is a nose above the rest.

When I do these preview pieces, I like to do an impression of a sports writer and say at least a few learned baseball things, when it comes to R.A. Dickey, to hell with all that. I fucking love this guy. How do you not love a guy who re-invented his career throwing a cartoon pitch, climbed Mount Kilamanjaro for charity, and recently admitted he was a survivor of child abuse? Not only did he climb said mountain, he did so over the objections of team brass, and we all know how I feel about team brass right now. Good for you Robert Allen. Oh yeah, the Dickster led the squad in ERA last season at 3.28.

The squad of once a week hurlers is rounded out by a Mr. Dillon Gee (no idea why I felt he should be addressed formally). Gee emerged as a bit of a star in the first half of last year’s campaign when he posted an 8-1 record through June and thus was nearly presented with the key to the city. Naturally, he fell down to earth in the second half with a 5-5 mark. Bottom line is the overall 13-6 with an ERA of 4.04 ain’t bad for a rotation caboose with barely a season under his belt. If nothing else, if Dillon can eat some innings and get double digit wins it will give me a chance to stretch my muscles on Gee puns. Gee Gordon Liddy? Anyone? Anyone?

The Bullpen:
I’m tired of writing about pitchers. Not to mention bullpens always look completely different by June. Here are a few words about each member of the pen that may or may not be about baseball.

Jon Rauch: He’s freakishly tall

Ramon Ramirez: Another one of those guys that “played a big role” in the Giants World Series win a couple years ago. This makes me uncomfortably wonder why he is not still with the Giants.

Manny Acosta: He’s been with the team for 2 seasons now and I have no feelings about him whatsoever. No idea what this means.

Bobby Parnell: Mike Pelfrey lite.

Miguel Bautisa: Yes, that Miguel Bautista. He 142 years old and only on the team because Pedro Beato is injured

Tim Byrdak: The lefty, every team has to have one.

Frank Francisco: My sources tell me he doesn’t sucker punch senior citizens, an underrated quality in a closer

From Gary Carter to Todd Hundley to Mike Piazza, Mets fans have been spoiled with either All-Star or Hall of Fame Catchers. These are both things Josh Thole is not. That said, he is capable as abackstop both in terms of the glove and stick (.268, 3 HR, 40 RBI). My biggest gripe with Josh is that his lack of power keeps me from screaming THOLE COW in my best (worst) Phil Rizzuto voice very often.

First Base:
It seems like every year the Mets break camp with at least one player with one medical ailment us average schmucks have never heard of. Enter Ike Davis and Valley Fever. Valley Fever is a fungal infection that affects the lungs and while most people with the condition are asymptomatic, sometimes it can cause the sufferer’s lungs to collapse. The good news is (if his lungs don’t collapse) Ike Davis will likely continue to hit the ball like its named Tina and drive in runs to the triple digit level. If I can appeal to Ike’s lungs personally, on behalf of all Mets fans, I implore you please don’t collapse. The big guy’s homers may be all we have to hold on to this year.

Second Base:
A good spring for Daniel Murphy is one where his knee doesn’t explode so it follows that Mr. Murphy had a good spring. In the follow up to his comeback 2011 (.320, 6 HR, 49 RBI’s in 391 AB’s) Murphy is cemented as the starting 2nd baseman this season. The chance to play one position and get 500-600 AB’s this year will give him a chance to be the potential star he looked to be before being snake bitten by a handful of injuries. If Murph succeeds in 2012, given his hard luck history (which is extremely relatable in these still brutal economic times) his popularity could balloon to Jeremy Lin levels.

Third Base:
2012 begins with David Wright again taking his post on the hot corner. Sadly for everybody, this could very well be his last in Queens. In some sick way, it SHOULD be his last. Not only if, but because we love him, we have to let him go. He’s still great and God knows he’s loyal but he can’t save the franchise by himself, no matter where the fences are. Give him a change of scenery and get a couple of building blocks in return. We promise David, it’s not you it’s them, (the Wilpons).

As Jose Reyes goes, so go the Mets…ah fuck me nevermind. Our shortstop is Ruben Tejada who brings to mind Rey Ordonez rather than Jose Reyes. Ruben Tejada becomes your starting shortstop when your team runs out of money.

If Johan Santana is in danger of joining the Scrap Heap Hall of Fame, Jason Bay has pretty much guaranteed they will name it after him. It didn’t take much to realize his season with the Red Sox was a career year but since joining the Mets to call his play mediocre would be an exercise in charity. You know you’ve been bad when your signing made a recent list of the worst deals in NY baseball history and you still have two years left on the contract. Bay’s 2nd round with the Mets can’t end soon enough.
Our new centerfielder and lead-off hitter is Andres Torres. I wish I had more encouraging (or any) things to say about Torres but if you understand how a guy who was injured all spring and coming off a season batting .221 and striking out 95 times in only 348 AB’s is an improvement over Angel Pagan, fill me in because I don’t have a clue.

If there is excitement to be found in the Mets outfield, Lucas Duda is our only hope. Defensively, he’s better than he appears having committed only 3 errors last season but offensively is where he may shine. If his numbers from last season were extended for a full season he will hit between 15-20 homers and drive in 75-100 runs. At least somebody in the OF can keep us awake.

The Bench:
I’m tired of writing about ball players. Here are a few words about the bench players that may or may not have anything to do with baseball (or true)

Justin Turner: He’s only on team because he’s a ginger, a few years Bud Selig secretly decreed every team must have one on the 25 man roster. Really, it’s true, read the rule book

Ronny Cedeno: Fact fun, he is not Roger Cedeno

Scott Hairston: Still not sure which of the Hairston brothers this is

Mike Baxter: A little pop but is probably just keeping the seat warm for Nieuwenhuis

Mike Nickeas: Apparently a better back up catcher than the still unemployed Ivan Rodriguez

That’s all I’ve got folks, a happy and healthy Opening Day to all my fellow Metsochists

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