It's also apparent the Mets will spend the rest of the summer both thrilling and torturing their fans, as evidenced by the three-game sweep of the Phillies this week, followed by the thud of two straight losses to the Marlins, including Saturday's 7-6 bullpen-driven heartbreaker. The Mets aren't good enough to wrestle first place away from Florida, but they're not so overmatched that another run at the top spot is impossible.
That is kind of how I feel. They sure have the tools to stack up and hang in there, but nothing devastating that will put teams away and create some separation. Of course, the Mets have a Reyes-less lineup which must be taken into consideration, but Zeile is not doing so bad in the two spot and holding down his starting job. It looks the NL East will be a dogfight all summer between New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Florida.
I was fortunate enough to be at the Mets game on Sunday afternoon. The weather may not have been good, but the game was great. The Mets got the win against Florida, who had Brad Penny on mound, to bring them back to .500 and 3.5 games out by beating the Marlins 5-2. More importantly, they finished a critical stretch against two teams, who many believe to be the best two teams in the division, and went 6-6. While that might not seem great, the Mets were in just about every game and showed that they could keep pace with them. I was pushing for the shutout as the icing on the cake, but I'll take the win. The Mets have also regained the lead for the lowest team ERA in the majors, followed by Oakland and then Philadelphia.
Leiter took the mound today and threw blanks up on the board and lowered his ERA to 1.98, but he struggled in his road to doing it. He only gave up two hits, but walked five in 5 2/3 innings with 114 pitches thrown. Like I have said before, I have never seen someone with such a dominant ERA work so hard. He sure does not look dominating when he is out there, but you cannot argue with the results. It seems like 80% of the innings Leiter throws, he is one hit from giving up a few runs, but the hit just does not come.
Piazza slammed his 13th homerun, which is only four off of the major league lead. I have to say, I like the effect playing first has on his bat, but feel conflicted as I am less than enthusiastic about having him play there. Piazza is on track for 38 homeruns which is a number which he only topped twice. He is looking like the Piazza of old with that rejuvenated bat.
On one of the more stranger notes, Rick Peterson got thrown out of the game while letting the home plate umpire have a piece of his mind. I have not seen a pitching coach get thrown out that I can remember. Personally, I thought that was great to see and it was appreciated by the few people that showed up to Shea. I hope the Mets keep Peterson around for a long, long time.
The other move that has me aggravated with this match up madness is the failure of Howe to actually play Spencer more often instead of sticking to Karim Garcia in right field. They got the platoon of the two headed monster to have Garcia to play against right handed pitchers and Spencer to play against left handed pitchers. The bottom line is that the plan has not quite worked out as intended and it has to be revisited. Karim is batting .350 in 20 at-bats vs. lefties and .215 in 144 at-bats vs. righties. Spencer is batting .237 in 38 at-bats vs. lefties and .333 in 87 at-bats vs. righties. Just by the numbers alone, one would have to deduce that Spencer is more the capable of playing in a full time role against both righties and lefties. Sticking with this platoon the current way is useless in my opinion. The Mets need to get as much offense in the lineup as possible. Spencer's sample size is large enough that I feel comfortable with his success and he just is not simply lucky. If Spencer falters, and does not continue to hit as he is against righties, you can always go back to the Garcia/Spencer platoon. At this point, it is worth a shot.
Lastings Milledge went 2 for 6 with his fourth homerun and five RBIs in the Capital City victory on Sunday. He is now batting .329 and has knocked in an astounding 24 runs in just 18 games. Not bad for a guy who just turned 19 about two months ago.
Royce Ring went two innings of work on Sunday to lower his ERA to 2.52. He has caught on of late and has been really pitching well. I'd rather have Ring on the MLB roster than Franco if you must carry two lefties. He can take over Moreno's role and Moreno can be pressed into more important situations that Howe would usually turn to Franco for until he proves himself.
The Mets hot young outfield prospect in AAA, Gerald Williams is now batting .303 after yesterday's 2 for 4 performance (please note the sarcasm). What type of message are you sending young players when you sign a 37 year old guy that will not contribute to the major league team and send down a 24 year old Prentice Redman who has already proved himself at AA? Redman is batting .309 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs. The Mets organization needs to let go of their love affair of has-beens and cut Williams and put Redman back at AAA.
Aaron Heilman went six innings on Saturday en-route to his sixth loss on the season. He has still not registered a victory and his ERA is now 5.17. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Time is running out for Aaron.
The draft is happening today, and things are heating up. Baseball America thinks that the Padres may turn away from Drew and draft local high school star Matt Bush. Some theories have surfaced that San Diego is merely doing this for show in an attempt to drive down the asking price for Drew or Weaver, but that seems unlikely at this point. Drew, who like Weaver, is falling from grace with his astronomical signing bonus demands. Coincidentally, both of them are represented by Scott Boras. Drew is looking for Rickie Weeks money and Weaver is looking for Mark Prior money. One hitch though, Weeks and Prior were much better. Weaver is only projected to be a #3 type starter, but is commonly considered a safe bet to make it to the majors and quickly. Is that worth $10,000,000? That is what teams need to figure out. If Drew is still on the board after the first pick, that changes everything. Drew and Weaver are certainly intriguing picks for all teams that may pose a temptation too large to pass up for teams with an opportunity to draft them.
From what people are writing, Verlander and Drew are the Mets top two choices. It is looking as though they might get their wish if the Padres pass up on Drew, which would allow Verlander or Drew to fall into their lap depending upon who the Tigers pick. Although Baseball Prospectus thinks that drafting Verlander is a mistake, I just cannot help but think about that electric arm. He is a guy who was clocked at 99mph in the final inning of one of his games. You cannot teach that, but Rick Peterson has a knack for teaching pitchers a thing or two. There is no can't miss players in this draft outside of Jared Weaver, so the Mets taking a chance here is fine by me.
The Mets are expected to draft Drew, Verlander, or Humber with their choice. The Mets' second pick is number 44 overall. They can go with a safe pitcher there. I think their top choice should be spent on a high ceiling player with all the tools. Verlander could always be converted to be a closer if he does not pan out as a starter and he certainly has the stuff to take that role. Besides that, Verlander is a guy who has two plus pitches, one of which is 99 mph fastball. Those are tools that do not come around often. Rick Peterson had looked at film on all the pitchers that the Mets are interested in. He weighed in with his opinions, so any choice that is made is most certainly something that he believes in as well, which is good enough for me. Kevin Towers had commented on the depth of pitching in this draft vs. the extreme lack of position players, which is why they were leaning towards a position player with their first pick. It was his contention that they can pick up a pitcher with their next pick who would be reasonably talented. I tend to agree with him in that respect. I had soured on Drew previously, but lately I've come around to think he is not as bad as a pick as I thought when it is phrased in the way Towers put it. I'd still rather see them take an arm, but will not be upset with the Drew pick, especially if it softens Boras up for Beltran talks this off season.