Winter is behind us. Time for talk is over. Lets play ball.
At 4:10 EST, the Mets start their season in FLA. The Santana era begins. The Shea Stadium era begins to end. Lost in all the noise is the team itself and the 162 games between now and either post-season triumphs or another winter of discontent.
So before the first pitch, here's the view from Loge13 regarding the 2008 version of the Mets and their chances of extending Shea Stadium's lifetime past September:
- Who's on first? Hips. Wrists. Enough already. We need Carlos Delgado to be Carlos Delgado again. 24 HR's and 87 RBI's (his worst totals since 1995). We're looking for a strong start or else Willie has to start thinking about plan B, whatever that is.
- What's on second? Our new second baseman is Luis Castillo. He did a decent job stepping in last year (20 RBI's in 50 games with the Mets). Is he worth the money the Mets threw at him in the offseason? Will Reyes adapt or will he continue to pine for Jose Valentin? Castillo is a player so it will be fun to see what he can do over a full season in New York.
- The new guys. Church and Schneider. On paper, they don't seem much like upgrades to their predecessors (Green and LoDuca). But Church is younger, which is good, and Schneider seems less likely to get along with pitchers and not spend his off-hours playing with horses or hitting on co-eds in cheesy nightclubs, which is also good. Oh and he can throw guys out, which helps. You have to figure not having LoDuca's mouth in the club house every day will help.
- Billy Ball. But we still have Wagner. Our outspoken closer will have his own weekly radio special this year on 1050 ESPN. That's kinda like giving Vince Coleman a gross of fireworks. Wagner will undoubtedly irritate some or all of his teammates before the season is over. And if he begins 2008 as he ended 2007 (4 blown saves down the stretch), there will be even more to talk about.
- Watching the tomato plants. (Are Pignatano's tomatos still in the bullpen? I think they are gone now but if not, they better get moved across the street next year.) The bullpen was a bit of a mess last year, and the same cast of characters is expected to return, with Matt Wise as a new addition. Sanchez is still recovering and even when he joins, he has alot to prove. Every team needs bullpen help, especially the NL East competitors so chances are, everyone will be complaining about bullpen help come July.
- Starts and fits. With Santana and Martinez, the Mets have the best top 2 in the NL East. Maine and Perez had great seasons and (especially Maine) greats springs to build on. El Duque remained in FLA to continue rehabbing and reinventing his windup. Now Pelfrey gets a chance to impress. He has yet to take advantage of these chances; we'll see if he makes it easy or hard on Willie to demote him once Hernandez is ready.
- Holy Moises. When Alou is in the lineup, we win. Without him, we have troubles. This year, the 42-year-old's body couldn't even make it our of spring training. It stinks but you have to like Angel Pagan's story and spring training line. Bringing Brady Clark north was also a good idea. Alou's absence shouldn't hurt the Mets too much.
- Willie Watch. If you were the manager of the team that had the worst September collapse in modern history, would your job be on the line the following April? You have to figure that a bad start would be a major distraction for this team and Randolph. There was alot of talk last fall (including from Willie himself) that he could have shown more passion and intensity in the waning weeks of 2007. Lets see if his style changes.
- The Shea factor. This is the last season for our favorite stadium. What kind of karma is this hallowed ground going to provide? Will Shea go gently into that good night or will it provide final mischievous memories (black cats parachuting onto the playing field anyone?).