Seems like only yesterday we were watching the Mets stumble with a lead we always sort of assumed they would lose, watching the bullpen disintegrate night after night, watching the NL Playoffs for a second season in a row with no real rooting interest other than for anyone who was playing the Phillies.
Now here we are, Spring Training camp open, the fun about to begin all over again. Or the misery, depending on how optimistically you are capable of performing in these early days despite the last two Septembers.
So let's go to the video tape, so to speak and hash it out, John McLaughlin-style:
Issue One: Is Jerry Taking The Piss Or Is He Really Thinking About Dropping Reyes Down to Third in the Order and Moving Senor Somnambulism into the Leadoff Spot??!
- there's a wide ranging lack of consensus on this from hmmm, so weird it might actually work to are you fucking kidding me? schools of thought.
Here's the Army's take: Firstly, it might not be a bad time come September if Castillo is still awake considering the choke job Reyes has done the last two seasons running and the fact that the choke jobs were integral to the collapse of the Mets offense two Septembers running. Question is, do you do this in March or wait until things are dire? Bonus question is - Reyes and maturity and being force fed team theory, which gets regurgitated first, the ego or the team? Will he take what seems like a demotion of sorts like a man or pout like a child? Consider this: What would David Wright do? We all know of course and the fact that we don't really know for sure how Reyes will react speaks volumes of his own maturity.
Secondly, I can almost sense the oddball theory in action: Castillo has been told this is it, hermano, now or never. Presumably, he's not going to be the same fat, pensioner-knee'd somnambulist he was last season because what, he's got pride and he's fighting for a contract? Nyet. Apparently the thinking is he's got to get a quick start and why not give him a quick start at the top of the order where he'll get the most at-bats, etc. I believe this method-thinking is akin to saying hey, I've got a great idea, let's take our least productive and least enthusiastic employee and put him in charge of productivity! Whoop! Again, nyet. Whilst it's not a bad idea, dropping Reyes to third, and whilst if healthy and awake Castillo gets on base more often than Reyes, the reality is nyet. That's it. Nyet. My instinct is that this is just a stupid idea waiting to become an idiotic reality. Like making Luis Ayala the closer.
Lastly, I think what the hell, it's an experiment. Golf claps to Jerry for getting all experimental and Absurdist on us before the fun of Spring Training even begins. If Castillo starts off hot in the Spring, they can ride him as long as his Fred Sanford legs will take him (mid May, early June?) and then stick Jose back up in there where he'll be grateful for the chance and perhaps somewhat more refreshed in September. Reyes hitting third is an interesting concept. Unlike Beltran, you probably won't see him bunting in key RBI situations, just swinging away from that third spot and perhaps even more excitement in mid-lineup. I'm not against it. I just wish someone more reliable than Castillo could be the man leading off.
Issue Two: Will signing Livan Hernandez make any difference to the 2009 Mets?
Well, he may or may not be taking his half-brother's designated DL roster spot. Livan joins Fat Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding as the larger name candidates for the 5th starter in the rotation but El Duque is rumoured to be ready to heal just enough to get hurt again by May.
Any one of these sorta-has-beens-not-quite-wanna-be's could become the story of the season. Yes, there's also Jon Niese, et al. hanging on around the periphery but let's face it, no need to rush him or the others and unless everyone else falters, those kids trying to hang with the old guys will be playing in Buffalo.
These three; Livan, Fat Freddy and Redding are the primary pool from whence the Mets will draw their early 5th starter, provided of course, no one else of the four starters who will precede them falter or get hurt.
Whilst I sense Livan has the least chance at this stage to have an impact, if you look back at those who pitched last season for the Mets and those who were expected to have a bearing on the season, well, you'll see clearly this is basically impossible to predict. Who else has such a thick 5th starter competition though? Grudgingly, let's give Omar credit for making the rotation deep, ready for all circumstances bar a season-ending injury to Johan.
Issue Three: Is K-Rod Stupid Cocky Or An Uncanny Clairvoyant?
This isn't the first time the bullpen saviour has opened his mouth to spew controversy. Just after signing with the Mets he'd already named the Mets as the team to beat so quite frankly, this is old news.
I don't care if K-Rod calls out the entire Phillies team and urinates on Cole Hamels' hairpiece (oh, who knows, but why not start the rumour?). If he does his job, solidifies the closer role and continues to do so into the post season as far as I'm concerned he can say whatever he wants.
The Mets didn't choke these last two seasons because of anything Rollins or Beltran said last year and the year before.
Thing is, even if we ARE the team to beat so what if we end up being the team that's beaten. Which is basically what a visibly annoyed Brett Myers appeared to be saying on SNY TV. You'd think that guy would be a little happier to be back in baseball and the warm Florida sun. Is it the 13 losses last season that's still eating away at him like a cancer?
Worse still, it appears all of Philly is jumping on the Met Hate Bandwagon. Just have a read through For every champion, there's a chump...
"But I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Abject failure is in the Mets' DNA. The only thing they do better than folding in September is opening their mouths and inserting their cleats in February."
I dunno, maybe the Mets should all stay stum and get their revenge in their deeds rather than their words. It's a little hollow, this team to beat rubbish given the last two seasons.
In any event, who is going to believe a guy with eyes redder than Jeff Spicoli's in a bong-smoking contest? special sun-blocking contacts, my arse. Get this kid some Visine, pronto!
Anyway, Happy Spring Training!