Agonizing. Thatās how Iād describe the New York Mets 2009 season.
They didnāt excel in many areas last season. One category the Mets dominated? Injuries.
Down goes Reyes. Down goes Beltran. Down goes Delgado. 7ā¦8ā¦9ā¦ The Metropolitans dropped harder, and more repeatedly, than someone on the receiving end of Muhammed Aliās right hand.
Fans had great expectations for a team celebrating its inaugural season in Citi Field. Unfortunately, the on-field product had as much success in 2009 as the company for which its field is named.
At least their two biggest rivals didnāt square off in the World Series or anythingā¦
Enough about the past. The year is 2010. Time for a fresh start. A new beginning. Aā¦.no…it canāt beā¦more injuries?
Carlos Beltran is out until at least May following āminorā knee surgery (against team doctorās orders ā no less).
And, just days ago, doctors diagnosed Jose Reyes with an overactive thyroid. Healing instructions include refraining from athletic activity for two to eight weeks – is swinging a bat considered an athletic activity? Reyes will surely begin the season alongside Beltran ā on the disabled list.
What about players on the field? Everyday Lineupā¦eventually:
C ā Rod Barajas
1B ā Daniel Murphy
2B ā Luis Castillo
3B ā David Wright
SS ā Jose Reyes
LF ā Jason Bay
CF ā Carlos Beltran
RF ā Jeff Francoeur
SP ā Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Fernando Nieve
RP ā Kelvim Escobar, Ryota Igarashi, Pedro Feliciano, Sean Green, Tobi Stoner
CL ā Francisco Rodriguez
The Mets entered the offseason with one significant hole, starting pitching. Free agent possibilities included John Lackey, Rich Harden, Randy Wolf and Joel Piniero. So who did the Mets sign? You guessed it, Josh Fogg.
But letās talk about what theyāve done right.
The Mets made one major free agent splash, signing OF Jason Bay to a high-priced contract. They will lean on his power bat to make up for other lineup shortcomings (Murphyās lack of power, Francoeurās lack of contact, etc).
Speaking of shortcomings, the Mets front office heeded their playerās advice and lowered the outfield fences. Sorry pitchers.
Since weāre on the subject of pitching…
Everyone knows about Johan Santana (and if you donāt, read below). The jury is still out on the likes of John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez. Do they have talent? Sure. Are they consistent? No. All three recorded double-digit victories in 2008. Last season? 20 wins – combined. Time for a renaissance.
Enough with the jokes. No one can argue this team is devoid of talent. Add David Wright, Luis Castillo, a (rejuvenated?) Gary Matthews Jr. and K-Rod to the aforementioned list ā and you have the makings of a winning team.
And theyāll have to prove it ā immediately. The Mets face one of the toughest opening months in baseball. Four of their first eight series are against 2009 National League playoff participants ā three of which are on the road. In a division with the back-to-back World Series participant Philadelphia Phillies, a young and improving Florida Marlins and an always steady Atlanta Braves, the Mets will have their work cut out for them.
Can they win the division? No. But at least they’ll have a chance to get off the mat.
Team MVP: Johan Santanaā¦because if heās notā¦this team is in BIG TROUBLE. The staff ace must live up to his billing to hide other rotational deficiencies. The 2-time Cy Young Award winner recorded only 13 wins last season. Heāll need a lot more than that for this team to contend.
X-Factor: Can I pick health? Fineā¦Iāll take David Wright. Why choose a 2-time Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner? Wright hit only 10 home runs last season. A baffling number for someone who hadnāt hit less than 26 in his previous four full seasons. He blamed his spacious home park. Was it the truth or is he the boy who cried Citi Field?
The Nationals are a baseball team. They are not the national team however, that would have to be the Yankeesā¦some might say the Cubsā¦but it is definitely not the Nationals who lost more games than anyone in baseball last year. My favorite team plays the Washington Nationals 19 times a year. Out of those 19 games I expect to win 16 or so. These are all indirect ways of saying the Washington Nationals are a franchise with some problems.
The Nationals were the Expos. Wait let me backupā¦Before that, Iām told the Nationals played in Washington D.C. and then moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. A new team was founded in Washington and called themselvesā¦the Nationals. They stayed for awhile and then moved to Texas to become the Rangers. The Expos were their own team, and decided to move to Washington to becomeā¦thatās rightā¦the Nationals. Itās all very confusing, but if youāre a Nationalās fanā¦well maybe you should prepare yourself for an eventual move because this marriage of team and town seems to be a fleeting one at best.
But there is promise in the Nationals organization. They have been relatively bad for some time, and have been able to parlay that badness into high draft picks. This past year, the Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg (Cy Young reincarnated) with the first pick of the first round. Stephen Strasburg throws the ball 214 miles per hour. Or 100 miles per hour. One of those two. He has some pretty terrifying secondary pitches. He likes to smile.3
The reality is that the Nationals will be able to field a really respectable everyday lineup. Morgan is a fine leadoff hitter and has the ability to swipe maybe 40 bases. Adam Dunn is a lock to hit 40 home runs with 100 RBI. Cristian Guzman usually has about 175 singles at the end of every year. Pudge, Willingham, and Kennedy are all solid veterans that can help a locker room cope with losing 95+ games.
Ryan Zimmerman is the star of the team and after a 2009 that saw him compile a .292/30/106 lineā¦as well as a 30 game hitting streak, Nationals fans have to be excited that the team has an All Star locked up for the foreseeable future.
But back to that losing 95+ games bitā¦The Natās pitching staffāwhile Iām sure are a bunch of nice guysāis going to really struggle in that division this year. The Phillies, Mets, Braves and Marlins all boast fastball killer lineups. And thatās what the Nationals have. A bunch of pitchers that throw fastballs that donāt move so fast.
Marquis is a great third or fourth starter on a playoff bound team, but heās no ace. Lannan is really aided by their huge stadium, but he quietly posted nice numbers last year. Scott Olsen looks to regain some of the promise he showed in Florida while Craig Stammen and J.D. Martin are two gentlemen I couldnāt pick out of a lineupā¦and I watch this team 10 or 15 times a year. Washingtonās other young Zimmerman, Jordan, will miss the 2010 season following surgery to his pitching arm. If youāre a home run ball collector, you could have a worse business plan than buying season tickets in the left field seats this summer.
Matt Capps had varying levels of success as Pittsburghās closer over the last few years, but heās probably not going to surprise anyone this year. If he notches 30 saves…it’s a good year.
The real story in Washington is when will Strasburg arrive, and how will he do against major league hitters? If you havenāt seen his stuff, take a look at this. Those college kids look like theyāre swinging blindfolded up there, but who knows what major league hitters will do against him…
Team MVP ā Zimmermanā¦heās simply their best player on offense or defense and he should improve upon last yearās legitimate breakout campaign
X-Factor ā Again itās Strasburgā¦if he comes up in the early summer months and dominates, fans in Washington will give the team a free pass for another season or two
Last week Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers played 34 minutes and recorded 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 assists. He managed two steals and two personal fouls and without those you may not have even know he was there.
Michael Wilbon made a brief argument on PTI that Fisher is a guy who does the āother thingsā to help his team win. Iām sure he was moving the ball, screening, playing some defense, and being a leader and a nice guy, but in 34 minutes you think he would pass it to a guy who would make a shot or he would accidentally run into a rebound. Fisher was just hiding in plain sight, not contributing anything noticeable.
*Comedy Central airs the last new Chapelleās Show on July 23rd. Borat opens the first weekend of November at the top of the box office. The confluence of these two events that happened just 3+ months apart created a venn diagram overlap in pop culture relevance where it became virtually impossible to escape people quoting Chapelle/Borat, especially if you were in college at the time. Chapelle was on safari and done with the show, but new episodes aired with many re-runs of the old ones and three and a half months was not long enough for some people to beat those jokes to death. And then Borat happens. So the quote wheel keeps spinning for the frequent repeaters out there.
*Terrell Owens leads the NFL in touchdown receptions and has 1,180 yards receiving.
*Michael Vick throws for 2,474 yards and runs for 1,039 yards and combines for 22 TDās.
*Larry Johnson is second in the league in rushing and rushing TDās, with 1,789 yards and 17 TDās. He also added 410 receiving yards and 2 receiving TDās.
Now those three fantasy football studs are hiding in plain sight. Vick is out of jail and on the bench. TO is in Buffalo not doing a whole lot and Larry Johnson has been cut by the Chiefs for vomiting his thoughts on Twitter.
Many professional athletes and celebrities and people not famous have not yet evolved the filter between the brain and the fingertips. And it is not their fault. Evolution takes time and social networking is relatively new. The brain to mouth filter was not even fully evolved in many and now they are under stress to develop a second filter on the fly to protect themselves from their thoughts escaping through their fingertips to Twitter and the world. Maybe we should cut all these athletes who type stupid stuff a break because evolving that kind of ability will take generations.
Ups, Downs, and Laterals
Of course sports are cyclical and players begin to decline once theyāve reached a certain age, but TO, Vick, and Johnson seem to still have enough ability to offer a team something productive. Instead they are just being hidden in plain sight by their own specific circumstances.
While individual players find a way to hide in plain sight, it is very difficult for teams to hide team weaknesses. And at the half-way point of the NFL season, with the playoff picture forming, those weaknesses are apparent to everyone.
The Panthers were marching, nearing FG range, down three with less than three minutes to go in the 4th quarter when Jake Delhomme fumbled and New Orleans recovered. Three and out for the Saints, followed by a DeAngelo Williams fumble returned for a TD by New Orleans on Carolinaās ensuing possession put the Saints up 10 with 2:00 to go and thereās your ball game.
The Vikings sat the week out on a bye and still gained ground in the division with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers losing. No word yet on any team boating excursions during the week off. Had there been some sort of team building exercise, Iām sure Twitter would have been a flutter. Maybe Brad Childress would have been in a drag. You never know.
The Saints have played three close games in a row which they won by one-possession scores. The Colts have played two close games in a row, winning the two by a combined seven points. The Vikings are a missed FG and a Brett Favre to Greg Lewis 32-yard TD with 0:00 on the clock away from being 5-3. There is no NFL team this season that is going to march over every opponent they play. Even the teams with the best records have won fugly a time or two and escaped with a win.
The New England Patriots not winning the AFC East would not be a Mets-type collapse, but probably more of a Minnesota Twins sneaking up on the Detroit Tigers sort of let down. It might be possible for them to get caught all season long, but nobody will believe it can happen. Tom Brady is connecting with Randy Moss like it is 2007 and they have a linebacker who is in his forties in Junior Seau.
āYouāll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, youāll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the pressāll think youāre colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob.ā
Tony Romo has 9 TDās and only 1 interception during his teamās four game winning streak. Miles Austin continues to be a big play guy, catching only one pass but for a 49 yard TD.
Philip Rivers took the Chargers down the field and threw a TD pass to Vincent Jackson with 0:21 on the clock to give San Diego a one point win. Eli Manning was 25-33 for 215 yards and 2 TDās, but the Giants were flagged for over 100 yards in penalties which will stop any team from gaining momentum in any direction.
The bye week for the Giants this week is sorely needed. DeMarcus Ware is salivating at the opportunity to play the Green Bay Packers and their O-Line this week. And the Eagles have to fly all way across the country to San Diego, which, for the sake of the entire city of Philly, I hope goes better than their trip to Oakland did.
The New York Jets come off their bye for a Week 10 match up with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who beat the Kansas City Chiefs last week. The Jets and Jags are both 4-4 with neither team having a realistic shot at winning their division, so this game is huge for both teams in the scope of Wild Card spots. Maurice Jones-Drew leads the NFL with 11 rushing TDās.
Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals went to Soldier Field and inspired the crowd to boo loudly the home team Chicago Bears. Tommie Harris went ahead with a punch to the face of a Cardinal O-lineman to get ejected four plays into the game. We like your enthusiasm there Tommy, we just need you to direct it in a more positive way. Warner and Jay Cutler both had big statistical games, but the Bears could not overcome 89 yards of penalties and or their inability to convert on third down.
The Packers were probably hurt most by their Week 9 performance, losing to first time starter rookie Josh Freeman and the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aaron Rodgers was bludgeoned again and the defense did not do much in the way of stopping a bad offense. Two weeks ago Minnesota, at 6-1, was coming into Lambeau Field to play a 4-2 Packers team. A Packer win gives both teams two losses and sets up the Pack up to tie the division at Tampa Bay with Minnesota on a bye. Instead, the cheese falls to 4-4 in an ugly way. Three of their four wins are against one-win teams: Lions, Browns, Rams.
Speaking of the Lions, Browns, and Ramsā¦ the Browns and Rams were spared by being on a bye, but the Lions suffered another loss. So did the Washington Redskins.
The Tennessee Titans won their second game in a row and handed the San Francisco 49ers their fourth loss in a row. Vince Young is 2-0 as a starter and Chris Johnson leads the NFL in rushing yards.
The Niners have lost their last three games by one possession scores. Next week Mike Singletary squares off against his old team, the Chicago Bears, in what will be a critical game for each teamās drive for the post-season.
To Week 10:
Thursday night games begin with the Bears and 49ers.
The Bengals and Steelers play to break the tie for the AFC North lead.
The Patriots go to Indy for an always fun game to watch.
And either the Chiefs or the Raiders will win because they play each other.
Here’s another post from newly minted writer Brent. His sports knowledge is vastly impressive and to be frank, a little worrisome. Below you’ll find a reference to Bo Jackson, someone named Charlie something and a Techmo Super Bowl video among other items. It’s quite the creation. We’ll try to get both new guys set up with accounts this week and cut out this bloviating middleman…
My fellow copywriter Ariel is giving you a taste of what youāll see in the playoffs this fall, but there is a lot you wonāt see again until Spring Training.
I love Spring Training. I love that it gives every team a brand new start so they can suck and fall well short of expectations (New York Mets, Chicago Cubs), be awesome (Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees), or just experience more fledgling mediocrity (Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays). But for me, it doesnāt get much better than post-season baseball. Iām a Minnesota Twins fan and while the Twins havenāt had much success in October in the last decade, they have at least been in the playoffs in four of the last seven seasons, including a Game 163 in 2008 that they lost to the Chicago White Sox. John Danks shut the Twins out in that game but could not deliver the same result in his regular season finale this year against the Detroit Tigers when he walked three in the first inning, including one with the bases loaded. Now the Twins and Tigers will square off in Game 163. 2009 is the third season in a row to require a 163rd game. Two years ago the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 9-8 in 13 innings.
But there are guys who had phenomenal seasons who wonāt see stadium lights after October 4th. Zack Greinke led the majors in ERA at 2.16, led the AL in WHIP at 1.07 and finished 3rd in strikeouts in all of baseball. And he won 16 games on a team that won 65 all season.
Albert Pujols got all the press this year in the NL, but what about Prince Fielder’smonster season? Prince set a Brewer record for RBIās at 141, he hit 46 home runs, behind only 47 by Albert Pujols, and he hit .299 with an on-base percentage of .412.
Roy Halladayās reputation speaks for itself and because Toronto couldnāt get a deadline deal worked out (other than sending Alex Rios to the Chicago White Sox), he too will miss the playoffs, just as he has in every season of his career. The Toronto Blue Jays havenāt seen the post-season since they won back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993. Remember Joe Carter jumping around first base? That team also had Minnesota natives Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and former Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball stand out Dave Winfield (yes, basketball, he was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings without ever having played a down of football in his life) on the roster.
Fernandez went from the Pads to the Mets in 1992 in a deal involving former outfielder/running back D.J. Dozier and then the Mets traded Fernandez back to the Blue Jays in June of 1993. The Padres received McGriff, Dozier, and Wally Whitehurst in exchange for a World Seriesā¦ (more or less, Iām blowing it out of proportion. But I canāt help but be reminded of when the Vikings traded for now MMA fighter Herschel Walker and gave the Cowboys a dynasty. I think Hershal Walker also tried out to be an Olympic bobsledder at some point, too. He dabbles.).
Our old friend Charlie Leibrandt from a few paragraphs ago played with a couple of two-sport athletes. He was a teammate of Bo Jackson on the Royals, who of course was an Oakland Raider and legendary Tecmo Super Bowl player.
Besides getting ready to vacation in warm climates, what else do these guys have in common with Greinke, Fielder, and Halladay? In the next few years, theyāll each probably receive ginormous contract offers from teams you will see in the playoffs this year: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and The Los Angeles, California Angels of Aneheim, USA. Or other big market teams, like the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox.
Small market teams find it difficult to hold on to their best young talent, even through the playersā arbitration years, after all, Ryan Howard was awarded $10 million in arbitration after striking out 199 times. I wonder what Mark Reynolds of the Arizona Diamondbacks will get after striking out over 400 times over the last two seasons?
There are pitfalls to rooting for both small market and big market teams, however. Small market teams, like my Twins, have to wave good-bye to guys like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter because they cannot afford to keep them. The Tampa Bay Rays will find out the same thing when they try to hold on to Carl Crawford and others. The Florida Marlins know this reality well and will face it again when it comes time to pay Josh Johnson, Dan Uggla, and Ramirez.
Big market teams throw money at players like they are Pacman Jones making it rain. But that comes with great risk sometimes, too. San Francisco gave Barry Zito $126 million over seven years and they got a #3 starter at best. The Cubs are locked in to Alfonso Soriano for more than any club would like to be. Mike Hampton signed a monster deal once upon a time and then spent much of that time on the DL. The same can be said about Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt and others.
Things you should know that have happened sort of under-the-radar and may be of help to you in future fantasy drafts or baseball nerd conversations:
Jair Jurrjens had a 2.61 ERA for the Braves this year, good for 6th best in baseball.
The New York Mets hit 95 homers as a team, last in the league and 149 behind the league leading New York Yankess. The Mets could combine home run totals with seven other teams and still have fewer than the Yankees did. Handfuls of players could combine their home run totals to have the greater than sign in their favor when compared with the Mets.
Fielder, Braun, and Mike Cameron > 2009 Mets.
Mauer, Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer > 2009 Mets.
The second baseman of the AL East* > 2009 Mets.
Pujols, Fielder, and Carlos Zambrano > 2009 Mets.