Dodger Stadium, Summer 2007 (see note below)
I’m in the middle of project which has kept me from blogging even irregularly of late.
I do have some things to say about the NBA season and I’ll be chiming in here as the season comes to a close but let me drop in and say a hearty “welcome” to the Boys of Summer as the MLB Season officially kicks off stateside tonight in Washington, D.C.
I always look forward to baseball season but this year couldn’t come soon enough. The total historic collapse of my beloved Mets last year was part of it (nothing like a new spring to banish the old demons) but their signing of Johan Santana, done in the midst of the Giants’ amazing Super Bowl run, really got me excited for baseball.
I sense good things for my boys this year and I’m looking forward to seeing them on the field.
To my surprise, I saw that no one on Saturday that ESPN’s Baseball Tonight picking the Mets to even win the NL East. That’s right. Instead, former player Eric Young and former Mets beat writer Buster Olney both picked the hated Atlanta Braves.
I gotta give the A.T.L. its due. They got a nice pitching staff and some great young players and I do think they’re going to be better than the overrated Phillies but I just don’t see how the Mets, barring some major injuries, are going to not win the East by at least four or five games. And really, how much more does Tommy Glavine have left in the tank anyway? As much as I love the guy, I'd be surprised if he wins more than 10 games this year.
Santana is a big reason. When you’ve got a guy like Santana going every fifth day, you’re not going to have many long losing streaks. The bullpen is much stronger and will get even better when Duaner Sanchez returns from injury (he won't until after the Mets break camp in Florida) and Jose Reyes is going to have a monster year, if only to shut up all the folks who said he was taking the game too lightly.
Carlos Beltran and David Wright are going to be battling all year long for the MVP I think. I don’t remember Beltran looking so good, so comfortable this early in the year. And confident.
And if Pedro can continue to throw like he has this spring, the Mets are going to be very hard to beat. Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson told ESPN the other day during the Civil Rights Game broadcast that during a pitching session, he complimented Pedro on his throwing. To which he said Pedro answered, "Don't call me Pedro. Call me Picasso." Nothing like competition at the top of the rotation to bring out the fire in a competitive pitcher's belly. He's in great shape after his year-long rehab. He's learned how to pitch to his diminishing skills and speed -- I expect a huge year from Pedro this year.
Think about this: the Mets are a better defensive team than they were last year when they were one of the top fielding teams in the league and they got better in those areas – bullpen, right field where they were suspect. Maybe they could use one more right-handed power hitter but every team is weak somewhere.
All good reasons why the Mets will return to the top of the division this season but the real reason I’m picking them is John Maine.
Maine is the Mets’ big right-hander who pitched 7 2/3 of hitless ball n what at the time was the most important game of the Mets season last year. He started the season last year on a roll and was almost unhittable in April and May.
He ended up winning 15 games last year but he should have won 18 at least and that’s why I’m predicting Maine as the NL Cy Young Award winner for 2008. With this lineup and the way he’s capable of throwing, Maine should win 20 games this year.
Right now, he’s slotted as the number 4 starter behind Santana, Pedro and Oliver Perez and in front of El Duque. He’s always had great stuff but he’s learning how to harness his talent AND keep his focus on the mound. You read it here first: John Maine is going to win 20 games.
Now for my 2008 Predictions:
NL East – Mets
NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers
NL West - Arizona Diamondbacks
NL Wild Card – Colorado Rockies
AL East – Boston Red Sox
AL Central – Cleveland Indians
AL West - Seattle Mariners
AL Wild Card – Detroit Tigers
World Series: Mets over Seattle
Enjoy the spring everybody!
Full disclosure: Particularly observant fans might note that I've altered this photo, taken at Dodgers Stadium last summer. I actually reversed the score in a game the Dodgers won but it's spring and it's baseball and we should all be able to look at our teams through rose-colored glasses, even virtual ones.