Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Well Met
2005-07-25 18:48
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Well, it's coming down pretty good in Boulder, I don't know whether they'll be able to get a game in tonight or not. If there does end up being a doubleheader in the next two days I'm dropping everything and going. I love doubleheaders. I realize I said I wasn't going to any Rockies games until Dustan, Danny, and Desi got the heave-ho but look at it this way: I'll wear my Cliff Floyd jersey. I'll buy a ticket from a scalper. And I'll sneak in my own sunflower seeds.

The New York Mets are finally starting to get their act together. After a not-all-that-great 2000 team snuck into the World Series as a wild card, the Mets operated for several years as if they were on the verge of a championship. They weren't. Constantly overshadowed by their older AL siblings, the Mets consistently overspent for old, fragile, and expensive talent. It's true that the Yankees were able to afford whomever they wanted during their late-90's dynasty, but it's not insignificant that their core was homegrown.

The Mets looked they were starting to figure things out last year, putting together better results on the field and actually harboring a big-deal prospect or two. Then they misread how good a team they had, panicked, and made two misguided trades for Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson. They could have waited and signed either of these guys in the off-season, and the trades cost them cheap young pitching talent that they could desperately use now.

The offseason went much better. Look, if you have a lot of money to spend, it's a good idea to go the extra mile and get the best guy available. The Mets have sunk a lot of money into guys like Mo Vaughn, Cliff Floyd, Mike Piazza, and Tom Glavine that due to injuries and late-career declines didn't deliver performances anywhere near in line with what they were making. This year, they added Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. There were risks involved with both of these signings, but for once, there was some serious upside involved too.

The Mets have aggressively pursued international free agents, which is to their credit, but they've been terribly unlucky. Tsuyoshi Shinjo couldn't play and neither can Kaz Matsui. Jose Reyes is still a very young man, but he has a long way to go. With all of these expensive flops, David Wright has been a godsend. Only 22, the third baseman is tied for the team lead in OPS (with Floyd) and performing the equally valuable function of taking pressure off Beltran (a disappointing .271/.320/.446 thus far).

The other big free agent name has been money well spent. Pedro Martinez has his detractors (he's a colossal flake and he doesn't work deep into games), but he's done more than any other Met to steal the Yankees' thunder this year. Petey is 12-3 with a 2.79 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and is striking out more than a man an inning. Sadly, he won't see any action in the series at Coors this week. A past his sell-by date Tom Glavine (4.62 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, a practically invisible 3.99 K/9), filler guy Kaz Ishii, and Zambrano (who has been decent, albeit not trade-Scott Kazmir-for-me good) draw those honors. Mets fans are eagerly awaiting the return of Steve Trachsel, and that's really all you need to know about both their pitching staff and their playoff prospects.

Offensively, New York has holes. They're stuck playing Doug Mientkiewicz, Reyes, and either Matsui or Miguel Cairo, which is a lot of starters hovering around the .300 OBP mark. Beltran hasn't been as advertised. But Mike Cameron has been terrific since returning from injury, and Cliff Floyd is having a late-career renaissance. Victor Diaz and Chris Woodward give the Mets a surplus of good-hitting outfielders, which certainly wasn't true last year. Even Piazza isn't embarrassing himself with the stick, although he simply can't throw out anybody as a catcher anymore. Well, he really never could.

Relief pitching is a sore spot. They signed Danny Graves after the Reds let him go, if that gives you any idea. Braden Looper has Dan Kolb-like save and strikeout numbers. Converted starter Aaron Heilman has been better than his 4.25 ERA suggests. Guys like Heath Bell, young gun Royce Ring, and Dae-Sung Koo have been average. And 40-year-old Roberto Hernandez is simply having an amazing year in the setup role -- 1.61 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.66 K/9. Who knew. One thing the Mets do have in the bullpen is a lot of guys who can get a strikeout, except for Looper.

Glavine-Jose Acevedo tonight (weather permitting), Ishii-Jeff Francis Tuesday, Zambrano-Jamey Wright Wednesday. Seeing the guys New York has starting, the Rockies really ought to take the first two games here.

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