Well, Here We Go Again

23:41 GST, I'm plugged in to the Mets
going to bat, 8th inning, Santana exactly
100 pitches.

6-2 lead.

I've erred. Forgot about the time difference, went out to see a band and on the way home, pop! It dawned on me that the bloody Mets were already well into the heat of Game One...so I ran past the long boats and scattered the seagulls in all directions, three flights of stairs up and slid into the seat for the WFAN broadcast.

What was I expecting against the team that absolutely humiliated the Mets in the final game of the season when we last saw them?

Well, certainly the hype and warp speed of expectations with the signing of Santana meant hmmm....the last time the Mets debut of a big name offseason acquisition pitcher, the he-man of the rotation came a few years back against the Reds, Pedro's debut demolished...

I'm sorry, I couldn't help remembering Looper's Pooper before Mike Jacobs pops out a three run homer in the 8th...but no, a nightmare that we aren't experiencing on this channel in this, the magical of magical seasons to come...

Scott Schoenweiss getting the ball is not the heart saving effort you're looking for.

Of course, the little nightmares do not materialise, the Mets build upon their lead to a 7-2 win and Johan Santana proves he is as good or better than advertised. Three hits -- one a home run -- two walks and two runs in seven innings. Can we mention how wonderful it is to have someone like Santana pitching for the Mets on Opening Day? Four strikeouts in a row? Granted, it's just the Marlins' lineup but nonetheless who can say anything but wonderful to see?

Delgado 0 for 2 walk and a run scored, Delgado badly fooled. But Delgado at least in the lineup and hopefully a man of many RBIs to come else we'll consider taking him out horse-style and putting him down with his dodgy hip and hole in his swing.

Pagan and Church to follow. Not precisely music to my ears when I hear that Lastings Milledge is in his Nats uni making Omar look sillier by the day but for one day anyway, they haven't embarassed themselves and if the Spring was any indication, Pagan might be the unexpected hero to emerge from the doldrums and elevate the batting order.

Ok, a few yips, like Luis Castillo failing to make it home on Carlos Beltran's two out double in the first inning? Gimpy knees, first full speed run all Spring?

But how about Jorge Sosa's impressive K with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th?

The magical bash-around in the 4th that saw the Mets jump ahead 6-0?

Well, the first is over. Still undefeated. Let's see a 162-0 season!



With the season neigh upon us, time for a quick look at 5 Things In Favour of the Mets Winning The NL East and 5 Things That Might Prevent The Mets From Making the Post Season.

5 Things That Might Prevent The Mets From Making the Post Season:

1. Age of the Pitching Staff: We all know that age kills over the course of a 162 game season. Having top line starters or the meat of your order pushing 40 is an open invitation to breakdown and disappointment, unless of course, a plucky bench and a depleted farm system can come to the rescue. Of the pitching staff, Pedro, coming off a season he pitched less than a half dozen games in, Scott Schoenweiss and Billy Wagner are all either 35 or older or will turn 35 this season. The 80 year old El Duque is already on the 15-day DL and will require yet another force majeure, a miracle of age and wonder, to avoid the physical collapse that would fail every other senior citizen in his position. When you consider that he contributed 24 starts and nearly 150 innings of work last season, you have to wonder where how deep the water is in that well of eternal youth he keeps drawing from. These are arguably four key discs in the spinal column of the pitching staff and if all stay healthy (with the exception of Wagner's predictable meltdown in games that matter) the Mets will be able to hold together a strong run for the pennant.

2. Age of the Batting Order: Of the every day batting order well, we already see two of the most powerful bats in the lineup with worrying problems: Moises Alou, who usually is polite enough to wait for the season to start before getting hurt is already out for the beginning of the season following a hernia operation. It doesn't take a molecular biologist to have easily predicted a season of less than 100 games for Alou and relying on a 41 yeard old, injury-prone man to drive in 100 runs and patrol left field under those circumstances is simply wishful thinking. Wishful thinking that borders unrealistic expectation.

Compounding Alou is the nearly 36 year old Carlos Delgado's worrying performance last season combined with a dodgy hip, just the sort of injury a man who has already pushed beyonhe

Now consider that the Mets replaced and ageing Paul Lo Duca with the hamstrung 31 year old Brian Schneider at backstop and backing up Schneider is the injured 31 year old Ramon Castro and the soon-to-be 35 year old current backup Raul Casanova and you can easily envision a potpourri of injury and breakdowns in one of the key positions on the team.

Yes, the Mets sensibly rid themselves of one senior citizen in Julio Franco, they will still be relying upon the 39 year old Damon Easley to plug many of the regular season holes as well as the 34 year old Marlon Anderson.

3. Bullpen: Forget for a moment that the Wagner is far more successful when it doesn't count than when it does, not precisely the attribute you want in your closer and worrisome enough in and of itself. Now combine this with questions like will Aaron Heilman provide a durable and meaningful work as Wagner's set-up man or will Willie be forced to make coy comments all season relying upon the rehabilitation of a worrying Duaner Sanchez, who doesn't at this point anyway, look in anyway prepared to regain his brilliant 2006 pre-taxi accident form. Schoenweiss, is a questionable bridge between the starters and the pen. Jorge Sosa will be drafted into the rotation should there not prove to be a capable fifth starter which means there is further potential to see the bullpen, which collapsed late last season, to turn to dust again when it counts. If they ever get off the ground, that is.

4. Speed or Power?: With Alou out and Delgado questionable, two primary power sources in the every day lineup have gone missing which invariably leads to the question of who is going to protect David Wright in the order? Ryan Church? Angel Pagan? Granted, if all were healthy and hitting, the batting lineup assembled would be quite impressive. But we all know that isn't the case, there's some big holes in this lineup potentially that could render the Mets into a singles-hitting, bunt and steal and sacrifice sort of team. Admittedly, this would perhaps be more effective - after all, it's precisely that sort of the team that usually makes it to the World Series so not having three 40 homer guys isn't the end of the world. Provided they actually CAN execute the bunts and the sacrifices and steal the bases and not make the sort of dumb mistakes that often plagued them last year.

5 Does Bonehead Willie or Competent Willie Manage the Team? Anyone who has watched the Mets over the last few seasons will easily recall the crazystupid sort of moves Willie has made over the course of his managerial stint. We don't doubt he will surprise us even further this year with questionable calls but he failed miserably in last season's gut check, leaving it to veterans with little or no leadership skills to recover the sinking season. That isn't to say that The Collapse is entirely his fault but certainly you don't see Hall of Fame managers lead teams on the sort of irrevocable and historic downfall that Willie oversaw last season. Willie's job is on the line no doubt and the first bit of adversity will have the Mets questioning themselves - it will be up to him to make sure they get over the hump.

5 Things In Favour of the Mets Winning The NL East

1. Johan Santana, Pedro and Maine: The caveat to this is in knowing that starters don't usually finish games and even if these three pitch masterfully there will still be the issue of the bullpen holding the lead to keep the victory in hand. Still, when you sign one of the best lefties in baseball as a form of solace after blowing an entire season, you expect there to be some pretty massive knock-on effects. The entire team, not to mention the fan base, was buoyed by the trade for Santana and their pennant hopes will likely rise and fall with how well Santana the losing streak breaker, performs.

2. No One Else In The NL East Is Very Good: Let's face it, the Mets are the cream of the division. They've spent more money, made more sensible, if splashy signings over the course of the last few seasons, have come the closest of anyone of the NL East Three to get to the World Series and are built for success NOW. Yes. both the Phillies and the Braves are perennial pains in the arse as opponents but if the Mets play to their potential, let's face it, the Braves and Phillies are going to be left choking on fumes. It's the Mets' division to lose. Even those muppets in Philly and the rednecks in Atlanta can see that.

3. Carlos Beltran's Guarantee: Ok, incredibly unoriginal but I like the fact that the guy who is supposed to be leading this team by now has finally opened his gob and said something controversial, dared to speak with words rather than constantly attempting to lead quietly by example. Yes, that unnamed Philly won the league's MVP after making similar comments last Spring and one would think since he's laid it all on the line like that, Beltran is going to similarly have to rise to the occasion. The result could be a big season. And of course we all know the song, IF Alou and Delgado are healthy and hitting, blablabla. Whilst David Wright and Jose Reyes remain the most promising, in the end Beltran will have to lead and lead strong.

4. Karma: If last season's collapse didn't absolutely gut them (and there's no sign that it has) then the signing of Santana and the humiliating experience of last season are going to be a hefty one-two combination when it comes to comeuppance. You might consider that the Mets could well be playing this season with a chip on their shoulder, angry at the squandered opportunities and ready to kick in the NL East door early and keep everyone else down in the cellar the rest of the season. The Mets will be looking not only to grab the lead but make it a lead so bloody big no collapse could possibly dwindle it to nil.

5. Because They Bloody Well Better: If they aren't winning the division by double digits come the All-Star break everyone and I mean everyone is going to be talking about The Collapse. It might even behoove the Mets to sneak up making a late season run to gut someone else's fan base for a change and then roll on to the World Series but the point is, the Mets have got to do something big to make up for last season. Something memorable in a positive way and little short of a World Championship is going to do that. The first step is the NL East.


nb: The season might well be decided in the first month when the Mets play the Phillies and Braves a total of 12 times.

NL Central
1. Chicago
2. Cincinnati
3. Milwaukee
4. Houston
5. St Louis Cardinals

NL West
1. Arizona
2. Los Angeles
3. San Diego
4. Colorado
5. SF Giants

NL East
1. NY Mets
2 Atlanta*
3 Philadelphia
4 Washington
5. Florida

Mets crush everyone in the NLCS

Because they've humiliated themselves once. No team can be more motivated.

AL Central

1. Detroit
2 Kansas City
3. Cleveland
4, Minnesota
5. White Sox

AL West
1. Oakland
2. Seattle
3. Anaheim
4. Texas

AL East
1. Yankees
2. Boston*
3. Tampa Bay
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

Oakland v Mets in World Series with everyone still laughing at Barry Zito


Opening Day

Seeing as how Opening Day is a day away (or yesterday's today, tomorrow's yesterday ?) in Japan and doesn't feature the Mets or even an NL team, we aren't considering this official in the traditional sense.

Accordingly, rather than recount the deeds being done so far, far away or write some baseball satire, eyeball-popping headline like Pedro Loses Right Arm In Bar Brawl, I've chosen instead to regale yea fortunate readers with a little baseball poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, writer and founder of the infamous City Lights Bookstore. Ferlinghetti, for those of you unfamiliar, was jailed in those dark and evil days or yore when publishing "obscenity" was punishable by jail terms. Just imagine what they'd regard the majority of non-political blog content these days, or 90% if the internet these days...

Baseball Canto
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right
through the

Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up for the National Anthem,
with some Irish tenor's voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops in their black suits
black caps pressed over their hearts,
Standing straight and still like at some funeral of a
and all facing east,
as if expecting some Great White Hope or the Founding
Fathers to
appear on the horizon like 1066 or 1776.

But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first,
and a roar goes up as he clouts the first one into the sun
off, like a footrunner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
as he keeps running through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleechers go mad with Chicanos and
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
"Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!"
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don't come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he's escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he's beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up,
and the Chicano bleechers go loco again,
as Juan belts the first ball out of sight,
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going and hits paydirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

But it don't stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the territorio libre of Baseball.


Battting Order Review: Finding the Sickness You Like

"It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."

Jackie Mason
Having recently reviewed the cause for cautious optimism for the prospects of the Mets pitching staff in 2008, we now turn our weary eyes to the dilemmas facing us in the field and at the plate.

Catcher and Outfield

When perusing the Mets potential starting lineup in the field let me make one thing abundantly clear for the 1000th time. Yes, brilliant job getting Santana, Omar but I'm still picking the shit sandwich out of my teeth every time I see Brian Schneider and Ryan Church running around in a Mets uniform and Lastings Milledge in a Nats kit.

I've put this unusual combination first because considering the vacancy in right field (ok, the Jesus Freak is out there when he isn't concussing himself but that's only to provide cheap entertainment on windy day middle outfield pop-ups and an easy bull's eye for the Army when frustration sets in - let alone the fact that he's a near-invisible bat), the vacancy in left field (Moises Alou: I'm good for at least 50 games this season and none of the outfielders off the bench should be starting on a regular basis) and the bird-boned fragility of Carlos Beltran (sorry, Charlie but you ARE just a tad too hamstrung and knee-prone to be a franchise player) I just don't see how you trade Milledge away knowing the outfield depth is heavy reliant on utility players rather than every day superstars.

The degradation of the outfield with the departure of Milledge is the highlight of a difficult season of holes to plug day in and day out that Willie is going to have a trollying headache trying fix. Milledge, away from the disgraceful Johnny Goody Two Shoes cult that helped drive him out of New York, will thrive and prosper in the meaninglessness of a Washington National's season. Ryan Church is not an answer but a prayer, the punchline to the question: Which pair of useless idiots did the Nats trade to get a superstar like Lastings Milledge?

Worse still, every where you look, Endy Chavez is the thumb-in-the-dyke answer to injuries and incompetence in the outfield, regardless of the position. But Endy, even if healthy, can only fill in one position at a time. Do the Mets have a serious chance at the NL East with Damion Easley? I think as much as we will all love Damon, none of believe this is the sort of championship calibre outfield we were dreaming of: Chavez-Beltran-Church, or Chavez-Chavez-Easley. And let's not forget, Easley is old enough to be Milledge's father and isn't going to thrill and amaze us with his durability either. There is a real hole in the outfield. Unless you're willing to concede the Mets will be smart enough to keep Angel Pagan on the roster. Pagan isn't the guy you want to have to succeed in order for the Mets not to fall flat on their faces but on the other hand, somebody's got to play and an up and coming up from nowhere former reject now happily re-embraced is just the sort of thing we could be writing about in June with gushing accolades. Or not.

Meanwhile Schneider, whilst perhaps an adept but ageing backstop who can inspire pitching staffs if he ever gets around to healing his middle aged aches and pains and muscle pulls, well , IF. The only consolation is no more of Lo Duca's baggage and injury since he left Queens means one less smug little bastid to kick around.

The trade isn't something to carp on about all season but jesus, Omar, what the fuck were you thinking?


Now if you want another season of irritable bowel syndrome to ponder, imagine whether or not you'd purposely select Carlos Delgado for your fantasy baseball team. Of course you wouldn't. Old and rapidly ageing faster, breaking down and losing his hitting stroke is no way for a dignified closure to an otherwise decent career.

Now just imagine how painful it's going to be having to watch him create a huge black hole in the middle of the batting order every night. I mean striking out with the bases loaded, grounding into inning-ending, rally-killing double plays night in and night out just waiting to be moved down to number nine in the order or permanently replaced by the likes of who? Damion Easley would appear to be the correct answer, yet again. So, a rapidly fading Delgado or Easley at first base - and this isn't even accounting for the lack of power Delgado accounts for - no one, let me rephrase this: NO ONE on the Mets is going to make up the power missing in Delgado's presence, not unless they make a move for someone else before the end of spring and with $20 million owed Delgado you can be sure we are going to have to be very sick and tired, as will Willie and Omar and the entirety of the Metropolitan area, very sick and tired of Delgado before a solution reveals itself. The only answer has to come from Delgado. Stop being hurt and regain your former lustre. Don't count on it.

Now, the good news is Jose Reyes and David Wright are still here, shoring up the order and the infield. Frankly, I'm rather surprised that the same muppets clamouring for the departure of Milledge due to his allegedly bad attitude, weren't clamouring to get ride of Reyes as well this offseason. I mean after that late season meltdown, those refusals to run out a few choice outs and the taunting of the Marlins (which I think was completely appropriate given the odds of the effin Marlins of all teams to rely on humiliation and wounded pride to send Tom Glavine out of the Metsosphere and back to the Hillbilly Jug Band and Tomahawk Chop apathy of the Brave Old World,) it is rather encouraging that not even the collective minority of knee-jerk moralists among the Shea hordes were dumb enough to want to get rid of Reyes.

But that's it for the good news. There's Luis Castillo at second base and batting second when he's batting at all, yet another ageing, injury-prone cog re-signed to an almost unfathomably lucrative deal which will see him play out 40-50% of the games the Mets are involved in.

So what you see is: best case scenario, blah.

A mixture of bench players, oft-injured stars and downright idiots fumbling around in the outfield.

A mixture of bench players, oft-injured stars and a man who is seeing his prime sail beyond him at light speed, relegated to a dodgy hip and what will likely be venomous cat calls and hatred sailing in his direction at every home game once the collective Shea patience is exhausted some time around mid April.

A bunch of crap middle age catchers, a pair whittled down from a foursome, Omar's catcher fetish of the offseason.

And the bench? Well there won't be any bloody bench because the likes of Ruben Gotay, Chavez, Easley and company will likely be spending the majority of their time filling in for the injured starters. I think this might spell a little late-inning inflexibility which might even be a good thing in a way considering it gives Willie less chances to screw up or make utterly imponderable decisions that leave everyone cursing and scratching their heads the following morning.

So there you have it Mr Bright Scenario. Age and injury getting in the way all season in a batting order dominated by ineptitude and replacement players. The only hope is to pray some sort of Billy-Ball inspired speed and smarts on the base paths, guts and skill in the bunting box, the wisdom to sacrifice and maybe a helluva lot of stolen bases are the only way to keep those low scoring games the starting rotation looks promising to maintain from becoming an ugly series of 3-2 or 4-3 or 2-1 losses that drive us all slowly insane. Those of us not there already, that is.


Pitching: The Sheer Terror of Optimism

"The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror."
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

There are two ways to approach Spring Training:

1. Hysterical with joy or misery with every meaningless victory or loss regardless of whether or not your team fields its starting 8 on the field or a loose collection of minor league hopefuls getting some seasoning, OR

2. Complete indifference to results provided that at least one near-nobody comes out of nowhere to make the roster in impressive and unexpected fashion, possibly filling in a hole, and none of the guys you will expect to rely on throughout the course of the season suffer some serious injury before the games even begin to matter.

And where hysterical meets indifference, that's where you'll find the Army marching in place waiting out these miserable days on Optimism Boulevard, waiting for the penny to drop and sniffing the pauperism in the air the like a jackal sniffs a carcass for a sign of life.

I say that because the stench of 2007 is still out there intermingling within the infamously warm Spring air in a Florida all the blogosphere is writing about. I don't have to go to Florida to be poignantly reminded about The Collapse to get a whiff of the laughing gas called Johan Santana.

Now nobody wants to read about some Billy No Mates sort of attitude stinking up a perfectly good little spring time sanguinity and quite frankly, if you can't put aside your misguided sense of reality for a few weeks before the season even starts, why you must be in wonderfully Cool Britania where the rain pisses down and the wind gusts miserably in from the North Sea or Cardiff Bay or the English Channel, all equally miserable wet winds on a land surrounded by miscreant bodies of charmless water, where the idea of sunshine and warmth is like some prehistoric memory.

Trudging around in an anorak every day is not the way to imagine the optimism of the Mets Spring.

Which is why I am not chasing dreams in Florida and deluding myself into thinking Johan Santana can play first base and bat clean up.

So whilst marching in place here rather than jetting off to Florida to follow my team as it puts itself through its embryonic paces, whilst suffering this miserable English weather in lieu of basking in glorious early March Floridian warmth, watching batting practice under the burning sun at Tradition Field or getting drunk on cans of watery lager with pensioners in Port St Lucie and taking cross-state bus rides to watch Mike Pelfrey nearly swallow or chew into oblivion his mouthpiece whilst easing another staccato 7 runs in 3 1/3 innings sort-of-outing, it isn't easy to make predictions about being the team to beat in the NL East.

Not every element of the team is in a state of flux, it just feels that way from afar.

For one, as unappetising as El Duque and Pelfrey are as fifth starters, Santana, Pedro and John Maine have done their part to offer encouragement as one of the more intimidating trios of starting pitchers in the National League, except for perhaps San Diego and Arizona.

Even Oliver Perez has typically toyed with a radical form of competence before making the predictable bounce back to mediocrity.

The starting rotation, with Pedro coming back and Santana delivered in a coup, is the strength, not the worry. Optimism Factor: A, no worries, mate.

The bullpen is a question mark, a seven-headed question mark. From the dog days of last August they were an emphatic failure; a 5.30 ERA after August 9th. This, on the heels of a 3.41 ERA before that.

Sure Billy Wagner can roll out a 1.29 ERA in Spring games that don't count or really matter but equally, to rely upon a closer with a history of gut checks that turn into abdominal cramps when the season is on the line, is a dangerous proposition.

And Duaner Sanchez, let's face it, hasn't been the set up guy we dreamt about two seasons ago in well, two seasons. His spring has not always been encouraging. But maybe he's simply working himself slowly up to speed or maybe he'll NEVER recapture that previously stunning form. The important scenario is that it doesn't matter too much for the Mets in the end, that others replace him and his return would be nothing but gravy, not a prayer in a season of desperation.

Oh the other hand, Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman have combined to toss 16 scoreless innings all Spring which you can't really rely upon necessarily for encouragement but equally, which doesn't make you as miserable as you'd be if they were getting battered around like a Joe Calzaghi punching bag every outing.

Scott Schoenweiss also looks to have put aside his miserable 2007; 1 run allowed in 9 innings of work, even in Spring, for Schoenweiss, who would take any sign of encouragement he could get, this is a nice omen.

It might even be ok to read too much into righty Matt Wise's spring, 1 earned run in 9 1/3 innings. Wise is over as a free agent (for those of you who don't automatically recall his signing as the humdrum highlight of the pre-Johan off season.) As a Brewer, Wise has a 3.27 ERA in 33 innings against National League East teams in the last three seasons so if you're looking for something hopeful you can consider that record along with his Spring and then recollect that if Wise weren't here, the self-inflicted Met-Killah Guillermo Steroid Strikeout Mota might still be. Upgrade is thy name.

Jorge Sosa (1 earned run in 12 innings,) continues his conversion from a 13-3 starter in 2005 with the Braves to an unspecified role either as a long reliever, short reliever or, worst case scenario as we discover neither El Duque with his 100 year old bones of dust or Pelfrey and the cloud of baseless, optimistic dust, sputter and fall before they ever take off, the fifth starter.

But if we're looking deep into the pen, 7 deep, the battle for what might be the final spot, we see that Joe Smith and Brian Stokes have both looked pretty pedestrian thus far.

Smith, as we all know, started 2007 afire before mentally deep-frying and getting demoted to the minors. And Stokes was tied with good ole Chad Bradford in Baltimore for most relief losses last season so we can't be holding our collective breath for miracles poured from his arm.

Overall Optimism Factor: B minus. There's always the chance this could develop into a strength rather than the Achilles Heel it became last season but hopefully the weather in the bullpen will be more like Florida than England.

Only a week of fake worries to go before the worries become real...

Up Next...the batting order...


De Lovely Couple Or De Impending Disaster?

"It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely" - Cole Porter

I have to admit, when I first saw this photo and the nearly gushing article that accompanied it, I could nearly feel myself, as though in a preternatural dream of Spring Training, reaching for a little brown paper bag to hyperventilate into.

"So please be sweet, my chickadee
And when I kiss ya, just say to me
"It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable,
it's delirious,
It's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's

Because yet again we are reminded not only around us, as the winter's bleak veneer slowly cracks, but also in baseball, as through those cracks makes way for the promise of renewal, the warmth of summer days slowly grinding in to long, hot Augusts and mind-numbing Septembers where seemingly insurmountable leads evaporate...

"You can tell at a glance what a swell night this is
for romance
You can hear dear Mother Nature murmuring low "Let
yourself go"

Well, Mother Nature...not even with Johan and Pedro, or Johedro, if you like, the two-headed one-two gob stopping force majeure of National League rotations, am I quite ready to let myself go.

Not even this early. Not even with the whisper campaign that Pedro is in vintage form growing louder by the day.


Not with the injuries piling up reminding us that whilst Omar has indeed assembled a veteran squad he has equally assembled an auld squad. Two penciled daily starters alone; Moises Alou in left field and the seemingly gimp-kneed and ill-fated Luis Castillo at second base are by nature likely to miss more games than they play this season.

Added to the mixture is the dodgy right hip of Carlos Delgado, the starting first baseman whose swing, power and career may hinge upon "impingement" as the hip condition is so mysteriously hailed. There goes the theory of a comeback season from a rapidly aging free agent to be.

So you think well, three of the eight every day positions are essentially up-for-grabs when you consider the people playing those positions will be on the DL or recovering from the DL or ailing and less-than-ideally performing in between stints on the DL.

Then you think hang on, a strong breeze out into centerfield could set Carlos Beltran into a whirlwind of aches and pains as well and sure, he might keep quiet about it whilst his power numbers dwindle and his batting averages hovers at the corner of disappointment and mediocrity but the gist of it is, he plays at least a quarter of most seasons at half speed due to ailments.

And just look at the Laurel and Hardy impression the other day between Marlon Anderson and Jesus Is Your Only Saviour Church that almost killt the pair of them. This is what happens when you put second string second basemen at first base and muppets dreaming about salvation in right field. Collisions. Errors. Disasters.

And the catchers? Well, despite the long winter tales of his acumen with pitcher-handling and brilliant defense, I'm sorry, Brian Schneider is not my pin-up starting catcher. And whilst serviceable and perhaps even sporadically exciting, Ramon Castro is equally a name that will not blanket the All Star ballot this season. Neither one is particularly sprite or adept and surely we will be scouring the minor league depth charts come June looking for replacements, won't we?

But this is being picky. Curmudgeonesque almost. After all, we've got what might be the two best pitchers in the National League going one-two in our rotation. Don't we?

"You can tell at a glance what a swell night this is
for romance
You can hear dear Mother Nature murmuring low "Let
yourself go"

And of course Spring, with its warming winds after a long, cold winter brings forth yet again its most delightful creature: the fit bird shedding her winter rags...