Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lowe to the Braves

I had yet to post about the debate between Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez, but now it is a moot point. Lowe is going to the Atlanta Braves with a four year deal, leaving the Mets with just Oliver Perez out of the two that Omar was hoping to sign to fill the hole in the rotation.

This is a huge move for the Braves, whose rotation was in complete shambles. Turning the Mets down to go to those hated rivals, having to face him a few times a season, I know I will come to hate Lowe now. As I'm sure Braves fans hate Oliver Perez for how much he managed to beat them, so if we see some Perez vs. Lowe matchups, that could be interesting.

Of course, we are dealing with Scott Boras here, and it remains to be seen whether the Mets will be willing to give an offer that Boras and Perez find acceptable, but the Mets may have to act with a bit more desperation now. Having to settle for a guy like Randy Wolf or Jon Garland to fill that hole in the rotation is not something I would feel comfortable with.

I have been in support of Ollie's return since the end of last season. Yes, he can be inconsistent and dangerously bad. But he seemed to do his best in big games, and that is why I love him. Division games, playoff games; this is when we need him.

Overall, would Lowe be a better pitcher? Probably. He's a safer choice, for sure. However, I think Perez has more potential, comfortable with the team after being here for a couple years, and can be on the top of his game when it matters most. Hopefully Omar does what he must to bring him back, because I really don't want to see the team have to go to one of the fall-back options.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winning is Still Sweet

As for most sports fans, my weekend was spent watching the great NFL playoff games. Among the excitement, however, was my New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions, being eliminated, with a loss to Philadelphia of all teams.

Normally I would be pretty mad and upset, maybe a couple days until it goes away. I don't deal well with losing. Especially after Carolina lost, the road back to the Super Bowl was looking good. They just had to take care of the Eagles, who despite their win streak, I had not been (nor am I yet) impressed with, and then host the Cardinals, who despite their turnaround in the playoffs, I still could not possibly see them coming to the Meadowlands and winning.

Unfortunately, the Giants came out and played one of their worst games of the season, and all it takes is one in the NFL playoffs to be done. Not only was Eli horrible, but the Giants coaches (mainly Coughlin and Gilbride) seemed to be doing their best to make it more difficult for them to win with bad decisions and worse playcalling. I hate to say something like I would have done a better job, but never can I remember a game where so many times I wanted the Giants to do something, watched them do the exact opposite, and fail seemingly every time.

But enough about that. I had to talk about the Giants, but it all circles back around to the Mets. About one year ago, in the offseason going into the most important and most desparate Mets season ever for me personally, my Giants claimed Super Bowl victory in an amazing defeat of the Patriots. I couldn't help but blog about my joy and excitement.

Well, we know how the story of the 2008 season finished for the Mets, and it was heartbreaking for me. I'm still struggling to embrace the Mets right now going into 2009. My point is, as I said before, normally I would be very mad and upset about the Giants losing, especially to Philadelphia. But strangely, I wasn't. Sure, I punched my desk a couple times and was pretty disappointed after the game ended, but I got over it pretty quickly.

There was only one thing I could attribute this contradiction to my typical reactions as a crazed sports fan, and that was that the Giants were still the Super Bowl XLII champions. That great feeling of a year ago is still there, and going through this entire season as the defending champions was amazing.

As I was going through my period of complete dismissal of the Mets this past October, I thought to myself that all this torment heartbreak cannot possibly be worth a hopefully eventual championship ring. But the Giants, in their playoff loss, proved to me just how sweet it is to hoist the trophy.

I feel like all I need is just one World Series run by the Mets. Just one championship that I can celebrate. From then on, no failures could ever hurt as much as they do now. I'm not going to beg for the Mets to go out and win this year; I did that last year, and that clearly didn't help any. I just have to wait patiently for that day to come. Until then, I just have to take the bad with the good, and hope that one day this will all be worth it.

Bring on the 2009 season.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Redding to the Mets

After a bit of speculation, it appears that starting pitcher Tim Redding is the Mets' newest acquisition, reportedly agreeing to a one year, $2.25 million contract. This by no means is a fix to the rotation, as he will likely only be coming in as competition for the fifth spot in the rotation with Jon Niese.

As I heard the rumors, I was excited at the prospect of adding Redding. Not that he's a big time acquisition, but I think he could be a decent end of the rotation guy if Niese is not ready to pitch at the Major League level with consistent success. Maybe it has to do with the name Redding also being attached to an outstanding baseball family in my hometown as I was growing up, but I've always liked Tim.

Looking at his game log from last season, while the numbers aren't much (10-11, 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and about a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio), one thing you see is a 3-1 record against the Phillies (plus a 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, no decision). And that's pitching for the Washington Nationals. Sign him up!

However, one area of concern, especially with this team, is that in 33 starts, only two lasted longer than six innings. A big part of the blame for the bullpen woes the previous two seasons have been that they are getting worn out from overuse because, with the exception of Johan, the starters are not pitching deep enough into games.

This is not the kind of pitcher we want as a starting pitcher for a full season. He's turning 31, so it's not like you can hope for much better. If Niese can be reliable, and can pitch deeper into games, Redding may be better off as a long man in the bullpen or an emergency starter. But he does give us more options, and that's always a good thing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A New Closer

The season had not even ended yet, and he was our guy. Billy Wagner had gone down with a career-threatening injury, and certainly he was not going to be our closer in his final year of his contract, nor would the team be comfortable giving him a new contract and having him as a big question mark in the closer role.

The chase was on. Francisco Rodriguez, affectionately known as K-Rod, was about to break the record for most saves in a single season. He had also just become the youngest player to record 200 career saves. And he just happened to be in the final year of his contract with the Angels, with indications that he would not be returning to Anaheim.

K-Rod was to be our top priority as the offseason began. The Angels confirmed they would not try to re-sign him. Then it was up to Omar to come in and get his man. Three years and $37 million, quite a bit less than what K-Rod had hoped for. It was time to rejoice as for the second straight offseason, the Mets were bringing in a tremendous new pitcher who had previously wore #57.

I, as surely most Mets fans are, am pretty excited for the new #75 to come to town. He brings a great amount of excitement and passion to this team, besides the ability to close better than anyone right now (Mo Rivera might still have a case).

There are concerns with his health, however. His odd delivery can be worrisome, as well as a recent decline in his velocity. However, he began working at his delivery last season to make it less stressful, and the adjustment may have been responsible for the decrease in velocity. As he becomes comfortable with the new delivery, the velocity will hopefully go up. Overall though, I'm not too concerned. The concerns are for his future, but we have him right now. He successfully closed more games than anyone in history last season. That is the K-Rod that we have right now, and hopefully for the remainder of the three year deal. After those three years, then his health and velocity can be re-examined.

K-Rod obviously brings excitement for the fans to have him closing out games. However, he is just taking over Billy Wagner's role (but a bit of an upgrade), which he wasn't so bad at. It was getting to Billy that got us into so much trouble, plus the complete lack of anyone to reliably close games when he was out. Omar still had another trick up his sleeve, and he would use it to make a pretty shocking move which has me even more excited than this deal.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Good Riddance, Bullpen

There was no possible way that Omar Minaya could send a relatively similar bullpen out on the field in 2009. After the 2007 season, I could agree with him giving them the benefit of the doubt. I'm all for giving second chances. Losing streaks happen; these were all players who were productive in the past who just happened to get cold at the same bad time, plus they were without the key component of the 2006 bullpen in Duaner Sanchez.

In retrospect, it was a wrong decision, as the team suffered the same problems in the 2008 season, even with Sanchez back in the mix. After the second "collapse" (2008 wasn't much of a collapse, but it's easy to lump it together with 2007), something had to be done. The fans would begin to riot if Omar didn't make much of an effort to change, even if he still thought these guys deserved a chance, and he would certainly be out of a job when they continued to struggle again.

The bullpen was obviously the biggest change the fans wanted to see, and Omar wasted little time in giving us what we wanted. I'm not even going to talk about the acquisitions right now. Last year I wrote about how happy I was to see Guillermo Mota traded away for basically nothing. Addition by subtraction. Some players just needed to go.

Aaron Heilman was projected as a great starter. He was converted to a reliever where he was unhappy but performed. Now, he had become our biggest liability. He was the first that had to go and probably our easiest to move. I wish him well in Seattle if they allow him to be a starter again. But good riddance.

Then there is Scott Schoeneweis. I thought he would be tougher to move because of his contract. But like Mota, we were able to find somewhere to dump him off in return for someone that will probably hardly be worth anything to this team. He needed to go. Good riddance.

Unfortunately, you cant just dump the bad pieces in an attempt to rebuild. The one piece of our bullpen that I loved and wanted to see return was Joe Smith. However, he had to be packaged into the deal that rid us of Heilman and brought in our great new set-up man. I will certainly miss him.

That leaves Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, and Brian Stokes as the returning members of our bullpen. Stokes did a fine job in his role last year, but I am still wary about a full season of production in the bullpen from him. Feliciano I would like to see gone, but it seems like Omar doesn't want to have too much of a turnover, and will hope that he returns to form. Sanchez also struggled last year, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After being away from baseball for so long with the injury, his pitches and his stamina may not have been what they should be. I expect to see him return to form in 2009, but if not, then it will be time to move on.

In the upcoming days, I will discuss the key additions to our bullpen, which I am very excited about.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Fresh Start and a Look Back

Call it a New Years Resolution if you want, although I've always been against such an idea. But with the new year, I feel a need for a fresh start, and it begins with returning to my blog. Not only will I begin posting again, but I am committing to at least one post per day. There's really no reason for not updating daily.

With such high expectations (and demands) coming into last season, the Mets drove me straight into a brick wall in late April/early May, stripping me of all motivation and desire to continue with my blog devoted to the team I so desperately wanted to see succeed in its final year at Shea Stadium. It took me quite awhile to recover (or rather, for the team to recover so I could as well), and when I did, I decided not to return to my blog out of fear that I would just be run into another brick wall and stop posting again.

I would have been right.

One positive thing I could take out of last season (if I even can) is that it tested my love and devotion to the Mets as much as possible. Never before, and I doubt never again, will I be as down on the Mets as I was at the end of the 2008 regular season. It was a cumulation of the past three seasons, in which I wanted nothing more than to see the Mets win a World Series that I could remember with Shea as their home, from the Beltran strikeout to the "devastating" Glavine performance and to every loss by our bullpen, right down to Scott Schoeneweis and Luis Ayala on September 28th, which was followed by the closing ceremony for Shea Stadium.

As Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza closed the center field fence and the lights dimmed, it was as if I was closing the door as well. I was leaving along with Shea. I wanted nothing to do with this team anymore. All the pain and heartbreak was just not worth it. I could not devote myself to this team anymore.

The only reason I could watch the playoffs was so I could watch the Devil Rays (yes, I still call them the Devil Rays), my favorite team besides the Mets, in their first season out of mediocrity and into the playoffs. Their incredible run to an AL pennant came crashing down with a World Series loss, but not just to any team.... to the Phillies. The Phillies were World Series Champs. Forget the Mets, I swore off all of baseball right then and there.

Yet, once all the offseason buzz began, I couldn't help myself. There I was, searching for information on the Mets' offseason plans, figuring out the best way this team could turn it around for 2009. Searching for hope after all the hope was just sucked out of me. I couldn't stay away.

So, here I am, once again eagerly anticipating the upcoming season. I still don't know if I can watch a game when the season rolls around, especially the opening game at Citi Field. I fear seeing any footage of Shea being taken down, as I don't want that to be the final image of my memories of it. I'm certainly not prepared to attend any home games, and stand in the parking lot that is the ghost of Shea Stadium. But what I do know is that one day, I will be ready to fully embrace the Mets again. I will accept Citi Field as my home eventually. And one day, I hope this team will reach the ultimate goal and make this whole wild ride worth it.

Lets Go Mets.