Sunday, April 17, 2005The Semi-Hot Corner (#1)
First and foremost, my team, The New York Mets Baseball Club...After a frightening 0-5 start they've won six in a row and are undefeated at home.
The good news is this club is completed smitten with Pedro Martinez and for good reason. He's just what this club needed according to Newsday's Mark Hermann [link]
"I'm very proud, I'm very aware of it," Martinez said. "It's nice to see that Shea Stadium had 55,000 people who wanted to see me. Seeing those people come over here is a good sign for the team, for management, and I hope I can continue to do that and I hope I can continue to be a ticket every time I come out.
"You're starting to see some Dominican flags and things like that. Everything is probably going to change. People are going to start following me, and I have a lot of people."
Martinez gives this club exactly what he gave the Red Sox -- a shot of credibility. His ego is big enough to think that he alone can erase a losing mentality, that he can erase years of cynicism from a fan base.
He's also got Mets fans feeling the rush. If the Mets are going to compete over the next few years it's going to be from the confidence generated from Martinez.
However not is all bright with the Mets. Mainly I'm talking about their bullpen, which is complete garbage. Let's do a quick rundown.
Manny Aybar: So far 5 outings and two holds. But one blown save and an 8.44 ERA isn't good from the 7th inning guy. With the top half of the Mets' pitching staff being primarily 6-inning guys, this is a crucial spot and Aybar isn't ready to handle it.
Mike DeJean: The one guy that was thought to be reliable in the bullpen had one disasterous outing, giving up four runs in a 9-5 loss to the Reds, but has been okay otherwise. Being the primary setup guy he can't continue to walk guys (four walks in 4.1 IP) but I don't think he's going to blow too many leads.
Felix Heredia: So far, so good for the left-handed setup man. He needs some work but in his two outings he's been perfect.
Roberto Hernandez: A pleasant surprise so far. Hernandez's velocity continues to be his best friend and it's a nice addition to a fairly soft throwing bullpen. I had my concerns about this guy but he's went through 4.2 IP with seven strikeouts, one walk, a hold and a victory. He's the best reliever the Mets have right now.
Dae Sung Koo: Mr. Koo is also doing well as a Met reliever so far. He's given up a few hits and walked a couple, but his stuff can be tough on righties.
Mike Mathews: He hasn't gotten much work but he worked his way out of a two-on, one-out jam in a 4-3 victory over Houston this week. He earned a win for his troubles.
Braden Looper: Herein lies the problem. Looper is atrocious right now as he's already blown two saves. The Mets went through this in 2003 when Armando Benitez blew four of his first seven save opportunities and much like Benitez, Looper's blown saves have been so dramatic that it's mentally effecting him. At 5.3 million, he'll be hard to deal but after blowing his second save Saturday, I don't expect him to man the closing spot alone much past May 15 unless he goes on a major hot streak.
So where will the Mets go? I expect them to continue to go after Danys Baez and now they can offer a starting pitcher like Aaron Heilman for eventually.
I would expect the bullpen situation to be shored up before the end of next month. There's no way Omar Minaya is going to see his $180 million dollar investments be foiled by blown saves.
Keep on Rockin'
John Rocker is back in New York and apparently he wants peace.
"To say I'm a lot more mature at 30 than I was at 24 or 25 is an understatement. I'm more grown up. There's not a whole lot I haven't been through," Rocker said yesterday in a private interview in the Ducks' dugout after the first day of Atlantic League spring training at the Homestead Sports Complex.
Not surprisingly he wants a shot at the big leagues. Right now I don't see it happening. The current John Rocker may be more mature, but he's not a good pitcher.
In his prime...year...he wasn't a good pitcher, but he could throw the ball 97 MPH, now he's not a good pitcher and his fastball rarely tops 89. He spent some time in the Devil Rays camp last year working on his curveball and trying to add a split-finger fastball. But apparently his speed is coming back and his business ventures are flourishing.
I don't think we'll ever see Rocker back in the big leagues, but it's definitely going to be interesting to monitor his time in New York, a very smart tactical move on his part to get his name back in the public limelight.
Sheffield Gets Off
Gary Sheffield expects to escape Thursday's fan incident without any punishment or fine. [ESPN] It's not surprising since he'd appeal whatever he was handed and by all accounts it seems that baseball wants everyone to forget about this incident before it escalates.
In the end it was much to do about nothing. The guy took a swipe at either the ball or Sheffield (it's hard to tell) and in the end he wanted to distract the outfielder more than anything else. Sheffield deserves some credit for holding himself back, the security guard who swooped in deserves the most credit for keeping the peace.
In the end it's now apparent that everyone, fans included, are sick of seeing the Yankees and the Red Sox. Let's move on.