Friday, March 28, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: New York Mets

A look back: What a choke job. After having the division all but sealed, the Mets coughed it up to the Phillies on the last day of the season to surrender the playoffs after coming within one game of the World Series the year before. To fix that problem, the Mets turned to Johan Santana, one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Positives on the field: When healthy, the rotation is one of the best in the game. Santana is as dominant as any ace there is, Pedro Martinez is still dependable when he gets a chance to pitch and John Maine blossomed into a strong hurler. With Billy Wagner anchoring the bullpen and the return of Duaner Sanchez as a possible setup man, if Aaron Heilman doesn't hold the role, the Mets will have pitching as a strength.

On the other side of the ball, how the Mets look depends on where you look. On the left side of the diamond, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better pair than Jose Reyes and David Wright at shortstop and third base respectively. Elsewhere, there are questions, but these two will continue to be strong for years to come.

Positives off the field: The Mets will move into CitiField next year, ending the run at Shea Stadium. Shea isn't an awful stadium, but it's not historic either. The Mets don't need to capture it in their new park other than the Big Apple, and they aren't going to.

Negatives on the field: As good as the left side is, the right side is shaky. Carlos Delgado is aging and injured (and a prick, but that's neither here nor there), Luis Castillo is recovering from surgery, Ryan Church is the right fielder, the list continues at positions manned by players not named Reyes and Wright. Ultimately, the Mets' shakiness outside of their two big stars will likely be their undoing.

Outlook: The Mets shouldn't choke away the playoffs this time around. But they might still be looking up at the Phillies when all is said and done. Philadelphia looks to be a more complete team, and the Mets are missing something. That something is probably either leadership or all-around talent in the lineup.

Projected finish: 2nd in NL East, beat Diamondbacks in NLDS, lose to Phillies in NLCS. Season opener is March 31 against Florida at Dolphin Stadium. Mets home opener is April 8 against Philadelphia at Shea Stadium.

Spring base: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, Fla. The team plays its games on the east coast of Florida.

Fan of the team?: Check out Amazin Avenue, the Mets fan community.

Come back tomorrow: The road trip continues with the short trip down I-95 and a visit to the cheesesteak capital of the world, Philadelphia and the Phillies.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Eric Prydz.

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