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2009 NL EAST Champs N.Y. Mets-Not so fast

By Ian Sontag

Adding starter Tim Redding, reliever J.J. Putz, and closer Francisco Rodriguez is enough to overtake the Philadelphia Phillies and make the N.Y. Mets the N.L. East Champions for 2009, right? Not so fast my friends .
The Mets still lack a few things to win it all: like team chemistry, like NOT burning out Rodriguez early this season. During his press conference the Mets management bragged they would like to have Rodriguez get as many saves as his jersey number (66). Will Putz, who was a closer with the Mariners, get used to his new role as the eight inning man? Can the back half of the Mets starting rotation (Oliver Perez and Livan Hernandez) stay healthy and consistent?
Beginning with Rodriguez (K-Rod), the former Angels closer. He had a wonderful season last year. Of course it was a contract year for him and we all know how well players generally do during their contract year. Personally I believe he will do well, but possibly could wear down in the middle of August. Putz, who was injured last season and only saved 15 games for Seattle has been awfully quiet so far in spring training. I think it's rather odd that he jumped at the contract he was offered and couldn't sign fast enough. He really doesn't have an engraved spot in the bullpen. Are the Mets making him their Ryan Madson? We'll see.
Starting pitching, which I feel is the most pressing need for any baseball team to be sucessful, is still a huge question mark for the Metropolitans.
In New York, the fans feel their starting rotation is solid. Johan Santana, no argument here-an truly gifted talent. Mike Pelfrey, a very young pitcher who is maturing at a rapid pace, is a solid #2. Here's where it gets tricky for the Mets. Oliver Perez. Here's a guy that can either throw a shutout on 110 pitches, or can give up 8 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Take your pick with him, he's been on this roller coaster ride the last two years and can't be depended upon heading down the stretch. John Maine is their fourth stater. A young farm hand brought up through the Mets system, who they thought would be excellent has been sub-par at best. Last season Maine had 25 starts and was 10-8 with a 4.18 ERA. He pitched 140 innings, allowed 122 hits, walked 67, and struck out 122. Not bad the only real problem I have with him is he's going to make your bullpen work. How you say? Well, Maine averaged 5 2/3 innings per start, leaving 3 1/3 left for the bullpen. Could be a problem. Finally, the battle for the fifth starter goes to- Livan Hernandez. Are you serious? No offense, well yes offense is what your definitely going to need when Livan takes to the mound every fifth day for the Mets. If you're a Mets fan, when he takes the hill have your blood pressure checked, your heart medicine ready, take a stress test, you might even have to ask your boss for the next day off when you know he's pitching that day. Case in point. Livan was 3-3 and had an 8.03 ERA with the Colorado Rockies before being traded to the Minnesota Twins. When Hernandez arrived there, he wasn't much better, going 10-8 with a 5.48 ERA. The bullpen will be working a lot that night too.
Overall, Hernandez (Livan) is by far the weakest link in the rotation-pitching a combined 180 innings, getting smacked for 257 hits, only walking 43, while striking out 67. So if you want your heart pounding and your adrenaline up, watch him for sure when the Mets trot him out every fifth day.
Oh yeah, we also talked about team chemistry-the meshing of personalities in the clubhouse. There's your noted trash talkers: Jose Reyes and K-Rod who threw the first stone at the Phillies this year by saying we're the team to beat. Sorry K-Rod but on April 5th when WE-the Phillies raise the World Series Champions Banner, I do believe that we are the team to beat until we are beaten. So we do appreciate you stirring up the pot, but we're the Champs. Then you have your veterans David Wright, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and Fernando Tatis. Wright a good solid presence who puts up good numbers consistently. Delgado could do one of three things have poor years, have mediocre years, or have great seasons-1/2 of the infield can go one of three ways, I like the Phillies chances against them. Tatis was a great comeback story last year. I know he owned the Phillies and beat them a couple of times by himself. Can he continue his great comeback story, or will he regress? That chapter is yet to be written.
So let's do the overall comparison and see where the advantages lie shall we?
Starting pitching-I'll take Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton (hasn't lost for the Phils yet), Jamie Moyer, and newly acquired Chan Ho Park over Santana, Pelfrey, Perez, Maine, Hernandez (Livan)-and the newly acquired presently hurt Redding.
Infield-I'll give the nod again to the Phillies as I feel Wright is better than Pedro Feliz, Jimmy Rollins and Reyes is a toss-up, Chase Utley, no matter what condition he's in over Luis Castillo, and Ryan Howard (30 pounds lighter-10 home runs this spring) over Delgado.
Outfield-defensively about even. Offensively newly acquired Raul Ibanez will hit less homers than Pat Burrell did, but be on base a little more, Shane Victorino is clutch, and Jayson proved his Werth last season. Young and talented Daniel Murphy will be in left field, Beltran center, and Ryan Church in right. Slight edge to the Phils for experience.
Bullpen for the Phils still has some guy that didn't blow a save all year named Brad Lidge as the closer, lefty specialists J.C. Romero (suspended 50 games at the start of the season) and Scott Eyre who will be working a lot more until Romero comes back. Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, and Ryan Madson, setup guys. Who else-J.A. Happ, Robert Mosebach, Jack Taschner? They go against the Mets' Perdo Feliciano, Sean Green, Brian Stokes, Putz, and K-Rod. Who else for them might be Fernando Nieve or Darren O'Day?-Slight edge again to the team that didn't blow a save ALL season, the Phillies.
Finally the catcher position has steady Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste backing him up against Brian Schneider with Ramon Castro backing him up. Schneider and Castro pretty much can hold their own. The way Ruiz handled all the pitchers on the Phils staff from top to bottom during the stretch run, calming them down and just overall calling great games, obviously I'm giving the edge to the Phillies again.
Well, there you have it, until further notice, the Phillies NOT the Mets are the team to beat, as much as the Mets try to mentally focus themselves that they are the better team, we still will be raising the 2008 World Series Champions Banner on Sunday night April 5th, 2009.


  1. They also lack, most notably, a soul.

  2. Thanks for reading. New article to come Sunday before the season starts.