Mike (St Louis): With the way The St. Louis staff UNDER performed last year, could everybody be blowing our starting problems out of proportion? We have Carp and El Hombre!
SportsNation Buster Olney: Mike: I think that the Mets and Cardinals have gotten as much progress out of their starting pitchers as you can in spring training. Wainwright and Wells have been terrific for the Cardinals, and similarly, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey and John Maine have shown real signs of getting better. This doesn't guarantee a carry-over into the regular season, but the coaching staffs of both of those teams have to feel good about what they've seen from the rotations.
Optimism is a trait that you have to have if you are a Met fan. Generally speaking, I've thought this team has had a shot to make the playoffs at least one point every year since they reached the World Series with the exception of one and they generally gave you some reason to believe at some point. This year, while the entire baseball world is pointing and laughing at our craptastic rotation, us Met fans are sitting tight and saying, "you just wait".
It is interesting that the three guys who are considered the guru's of pitching had starting pitchers make the most progress. Kip Wells looks like he's more Chris Carpenter than Mark Prior and Daniel Cabrera has shown flashes of being a dominating force this season. It is one thing to have good arms that were successful and polished before you got them, but it is another thing to take projects or throw aways and have them blossom and take massive steps forward (...and I'm not grouping Pelfrey into the project or throwaway bucket).
There a few big stories of spring like Josh Hamilton, Kip Wells, Daniel Cabrera, Jon Papelbon back to the bullpen, Barry Bonds' homerun swing, Mark Prior getting sent to AAA, Daisuke's mysterious pitches, but looking back come playoff time, no story will be bigger in terms of the effect on their ballclub than the Mets trio of 20 something starting pitchers shutting the Phillies and the entire baseball world up. I think they gave everyone enough of a look to know that the Mets are clearly not in bad shape. With this offense and this bullpen, I see five pitchers primed for success.
It's go time and I expect a pitcher's duel and an eventual Met win tonight.
Steve (Columbus): Buster, everyone keeps talking about how unhappy Junior is in RF. Irregardless, Freel throws his body around like a rag doll in CF. Do you see Josh Hamilton getting a decent shot at say 400 ABs?
SportsNation Buster Olney: Steve: Absolutely. Had two scouts say last week they think Hamilton will be an impact-type middle of the order hitter this year, because of his plate discipline. If he hits, he will play.
We make fun of Jake for drafting Hamilton in the third round, but he might actually have the last laugh here. Just let that sink in. A guy who has had fifty pro at-bats over the '03, '04, '05, and '06 season is not skipping a beat. Just imagine if this kid had not had any setbacks. There were stories of him when he was in high school like he was Robert Redford in The Natural. Smashing 500 foot homeruns when kids are not supposed to have power. A blend of tremendous speed and fielding ability he seemed like a player that was destined for stardom. If he can somehow make good on the talent that god gave him, you are looking at a real life depiction of The Natural and a real life story that could easily become a baseball movie.
Willie Randolph said the Mets will bat Paul Lo Duca second tonight against the Cards, with David Wright hitting fifth. ... The Mets signed Ricky Ledee, who was with the team for part of last season, to a minor-league deal. ... Sandy Alomar Jr. likely will agree to head to Triple-A.