I am very excited for this upcoming season. Yes, in past years I might of been accused of being negative, but there is not much to be complaining about this year.
For one, my lack of concern about the Mets pitching staff is further backed up by one of the best pitchers in the game taking note of one Met's approach to batters which really has not been done before.
Oswalt is fussing with a changeup, a pitch that he wants to employ particularly against right-handed hitters. Last year, the Mets' Tom Glavine demonstrated that pitchers could have success aiming changeups at the inside corner, destroying conventional wisdom that it is a bad idea to throw changeups in that spot.
"If I get it inside, they'll foul it off," said Oswalt, who threw his change to college hitters in January. Oswalt noticed that even with less bat speed than most major league hitters, the collegians still were ahead of his changeup and yanking it foul, a good sign. "I'm going to tinker with it in spring training," he said.
Rick Peterson is one of the best pitching coaches out there.
Glavine is pitching well because he realized halfway through last season that what had worked since 1987 was no longer good enough.
"My natural reaction was, 'I was successful for 17 years this way. Who says I can't?' " he says. " 'Surely, when I fix my mechanics, I'll be all right.' "
But Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson had a more drastic solution: "Erase the scouting report."
Having a guy who listens certainly helps, but it is certainly reassuring for Met fans to have him around. The talent is there. The arms are there. Peterson has a game plan and if the Mets starters can execute on his plan, they will shut people up.
Another reason I'm optimistic is Milledge's apparent growth and the fact he has a solid mentor working with him.
"[It's] just being young, man," Milledge said. "When you're young, you don't know what's out there. You don't know how to handle certain things and I wouldn't say [it's] something that I didn't take responsibility in. It's just that you're much better, you're that much more prepared, and you know how to handle your business. You know what's going on. You know what you can and cannot do."
He was on the field two days earlier than required, blasting one home run far over the right-center wall and showing the added muscle from weightlifting and a changed diet (the five-days-a-week burgers are gone).
If Milledge does figure it out (not that I thought he was that bad) and did gain some strength this off-season, I fully expect that breakout season that most of us direly want to see from him. While he has been good, he has not been great. He is still young and has tons of ability and this could be the year he finally puts up the numbers that back up his lofty prospect status.
Ultimately Shawn Green will be the opening day starter no matter what happens this Spring Training. It's his job to lose during the season. If he performs reasonably well, which he certainly might, he lives another day and Milledge will continue to develop in the PCL. If not, I expect Milledge to force Omar's hand in terms of a roster shakeup and a promotion for good for Milledge. Lastings will be ready to give this team a boost if the opportunity arises.
Another reason I'm excited for this season is Carlos fucking Beltran. What we saw last year was Carlos take that step forward into the upper echelon of run producers and perhaps taking the steps to become the best all around player in the game.
Matt (Knoxville, TN): if you had to start an organization from scratch, what positional player and what pitcher would you want to build your organization around?
SportsNation Keith Law: Santana or Halladay for the pitcher. Positional player ... I'd be tempted to take Pujols for the bat, but all things considered I'd rather go for a guy up the middle, where it's harder to find all-around players. Maybe Carlos Beltran.
Not only do the Mets have one all-around player up the middle in Carlos Beltran, but Jose Reyes might prove to be the best player in the league next year. As for Beltran, he can produce at the plate with the best of them, he has a ridiculous eye, plays stellar defense, and can steal bases. In fact, he wants to start running more and I'm thinking we see two 20/20 players on the Mets and one 30/30 player.
Another thing to optimistic about is the future #1 prospect of 2008, Fernando Martinez.
Martinez had a couple of eye-opening shots in batting practice. One hit the right-field beam and one hit off the batter's eye in center, which is 40 feet tall. The dimensions at Tradition Field are the same as at Shea Stadium. The shot to center hit the eye two-thirds up after going over the fence, positioned 410 feet from home plate. The bomb to right traveled approximately 15 to 30 feet over the fence (338 down the right-field line).
The Mets top prospects are getting some love from Kevin Goldstein and have four in the top 34. That is pretty fucking swell.
18. Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets, 18
26. Philip Humber, RHP, Mets, 24
30. Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Mets, 23
34. Carlos Gomez, OF, Mets, 21
When you think of all the youth in Jose Reyes, David Wright, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Lastings Milledge, Ambiorix Burgos, Aaron Heilman, Jon Neise, Mike Carp, Duaner Sanchez, and the above group of four, it is hard not to get really excited. The talent that the Mets have still in the low 20's, mid 20's and even teens is astounding.
I think starting pitching will be the key to the Braves' 2007 success. How does the Braves' starting five match up with the ones possessed by the Phillies, Mets and Marlins?
-- Russ C., Richmond, Va.
In Philadelphia, fans are wondering how Freddy Garcia will perform in the bandbox named Citizens Bank Park. In New York, Mets fans are looking at a rotation that includes Tom Glavine and four potential detriments. In Florida, there's reason to be concerned about the health of Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez.
And in Atlanta exists a starting rotation that includes three former 20-game winners and a wealth of questions, with the primary one being: How much can be expected from Mike Hampton?
The Braves are the bestest!
Ryan (Bristol): Jim: A quick question do the Red Sox still get the comp. pick for Keith Foulke?
SportsNation Jim Callis: Yes. I've confirmed that with MLB. The Red Sox lost him to the Indians, and his retirement has no bearing on the compensation pick.
Someone out there was actually thinking about a good question to ask a good baseball mind. These guys are smart so let's try to use them to forward our baseball knowledge. I'm not saying that question was groundbreaking, but you get the idea.
This one is still a questionable move by the Mets.
Jarrett (Beacon Falls, CT): Are the Mets going to regret not signing Pedro Beato as a draft and follow? I realize the implimications of doing blowing the salary scale out of whack, but isnt the risk of losing a prospect like that too great?
SportsNation Jim Callis: I think they will. And really, giving him $1 million as a draft-and-follow (which is what he got from the Orioles as the No. 31 pick) wouldn't have blown anything out of whack. MLB told the Mets that Beato shouldn't get more than $800,000, and the Mets agreed. The Orioles didn't, and they got a very interesting pitching prospect.
While some people offer no thought provoking questions in the lighting round like who is better Hughes or Bailey (we all know it's a fucking win win), an intelligent fan asks a thought provoking question.
Jason (NY): Better in their respective prime: Pedro or Johan?
SportsNation Jim Callis: Pedro. Pedro was the best ever at his peak.
I regret not watching Pedro more during that span.
Mike (Henrietta): Melky Cabrera or Lastings Milledge?
SportsNation Jim Callis: Milledge.
In your face! Don't bring that junk in here....If you are going to take it to the hole, take it hard. That question was a certifiable dud.
Eric (NYC): Better career Jeter's or Reyes future?
SportsNation Jim Callis: Jeter's.
That was a good question and at this point, you would have to go with Jeter because of Reyes' inconsistency over the years and holes that he still has, but his upside is immense and can make that question a lot tougher if he builds upon his 2006 season.