Three in the book, only 159 to go and Mets’ fans should be very excited as the
Florida Patsies come to town. This latest group of Metropolitans could be the most imposing lineup in the National League. No longer do we have to hope for Mike Piazza to find the fountain of youth, or for Carlos Beltran to become the second coming of Willie Mays. The days of banking on Doug Mienkiewicz and Mike Cameron as middle of the order sluggers are a distant memory. The 2006 Mets are a force to be reckoned with, and the Braves unbelievable streak of 14 straight divisional titles is in serious jeopardy.
The Shea cynic might ask, "How the heck can anyone forecast after only three measly games?". The optimist might retort, "How you start the season can set the tone for how you finish". However, I am neither, I am an idealist! So, break out the disco beat, cause as far as I’m concerned there "Ain’t no stoppin us NOW, We’re on the move, yeah-ee-a…". It’s been twenty long years since I was able to taste the sweetness; since I was able to partake in the only parade I’ve ever marched in; since I was
able to say that my Mets are the top dog, ain’t no one any better. So, forgive me if I dream a little dream- the dream of Mookie and Mitchell and Doctor K and Mr. Ray, the dream of Mex and Straw, the Kid and rubber armed Jessie pointing to the sky, the dream of the only time I ever witnessed my team win a world series, the dream of 1986.
Sorry, I kind of lost it there for a second. Here are my first thoughts after watching the opening series against the Nationals-
Willie and his crew have enlivened this team with a little extra juice in their blood (and I don’t mean steroids). The spirit is there, the top seven in the order are DANGEROUS, the bullpen is mighty and the starting rotation is just as good as what the Braves have to offer.
Let’s start with the rebuilt bullpen—Duaner Sanchez, Chad Bradford and Aaron Heilman give the Mets their most solid middle relief corps since Doug Sisk, Randy Myers and Roger McDowell donned the baby blue in the late 1980’s. Those great Mets’ teams also sported a pretty effective side arming slinger just like Bradford (Terry Leach). With Wags in tow, the Mets have their most dominant closer since Jessie Orosco- no
disrespect intended to Mr. John Franco. Yeah, I know Ryan Zimmerman took Big Bad Billy yard in game two, but the truth is Zimmerman is a helluva hitter, maybe rookie of the year, so I give Wagner a pass on that one. The only guy in the pen who I would chuck is Jorge "look how straight my fastball is" Julio. This guy stinks, and with the exception of 2002 always has. The Mets will figure out soon enough that Julio is nothing more than a mop up man, but no worries, Alay Soler (St. Lucie) is just a phone call away and a pretty good pitcher as Mets’ fans hopefully will find out.
Omar Minaya did a great job fortifying the holes in last season’s lineup and the result is a deadly combination of power and speed. Jose Reyes and David Wright look like the best left side of the infield the Mets have ever had. I was especially pleased with Reyes’ improved patience at the plate in this opening series. Wright looks like an assassin in the batter’s box, Carlos Delgado is our Strawberry, and Cliff Floyd could be the best number six hitter in the league. Beltran- well we’ve never had a player like him, a switch-hitting gold glove in centerfield with 30/30 ability. Paul Lo Duca finally gives us a catcher who can play defense and a pretty good hitter to boot. Piazza never could have pulled off
that play at the plate (game one) where Alfonso Soriano was thrown out when Lo Duca gracefully recovered the ball as it trickled down his arm and fooled the ump into thinking he never lost it in the first place. Xavier Nady could be the real wild card of this lineup as he enters his prime. He could very easily turn out be what Kevin Mitchell was to the 1986 club. Victor Diaz, old man Julio Franco and veteran Jose Valentin add solid thump off the bench. As long as Anderson Hernandez keeps flashing soft hands at second base, we can more than deal with his anemic bat.
The biggest question for this team will be the state of the starting rotation. Pedro Martinez’s toe, shoulder, back and the rest of his body parts will be under scrutiny all season, but when he’s right there isn’t anyone better. Tom Glavine’s age will constantly be brought up whenever he has a bad streak, but let’s face it, he’s not a hard thrower, never has been, so as long as his mind is right he’ll keep the Mets in games. The same can be said about Steve Trachsel, another control artist with a highly intelligent approach on the mound. If his back holds up, he’ll be fine. Victor
Zambrano’s wildness concerns me a bit, but he has more life in his arm than the rest of the rotation combined. If he falters we can always make a deadline deal in July for an upgrade. And lastly, there is young Brian Bannister. His performance in game two might have been the most impressive of all the Mets this week. I’ve been following him for the last three years and I can tell you that composure, intelligence and pure guts will be his trademarks. If you missed his start in game two, think of a young Paul Byrd or if you really want to dream, think Greg Maddux. While his fastball won’t scare anyone, he will frustrate a lot of hitters with a four-pitch arsenal that will keep a lot of hitters off balance.
Here’s to 1969, here’s to 1986, here’s to… do I dare say it? I better hold off, I mean it’s only been three measly games. But, I will say to all Mets’ fans, whether you’re a cynic, an optimist or an idealist, you gotta believe in the magic, cause the way I see it there "Ain’t no stopping us NOW, We’re on the move, yeah-ee-a…".