Saturday, December 27, 2003

Dwelling on the recent past

I've got the privilege of being the resident Mets fan. I write that without irony now, and I owe that to my dad. He’s a Yankees fan, and to his credit when he's said things like “I read that Rey Ordonez added five pounds of muscle in the offseason” and “I think Piazza’s actually better when he bounces the throw to second” they were only meant to cheer me up. It’s easy to spare a kind word, though, when your team is a perennial World Series favorite whose exploits in DVD line our shelves. He recently passed up one of those great cinematic events in favor of our battered VHS of game seven in '86, which is a credit to both his empathy and my voluble cursing this offseason.

I don’t know why everyone focuses so hard on the sixth game and Buckner, although with plenty of Red Sox-rooting friends I'm familiar with the human propensity for obsessing over failure. Sure, it’s a memorable moment, and I dearly enjoyed the commercial a few years ago that replayed it in super-slow motion, but it didn’t seal the deal. That drama’s in game seven, and we watched it in silence except for a few exclamations over the key moments: Ray Knight’s home run, absolutely crushed – the Sox reliever dropping his head, realizing Knight had hit it on the button; Strawberry launching one of his own, a no-doubter he didn’t even hit well; Strawberry and Gooden standing side by side in the dugout, young, good, hadn’t pissed it away yet, looking like they belonged in the old classy Mets’ pinstripes in a way they never did while wearing the Yanks'. And the best of all: Orosco when it was over, firing his glove into the air, my dad and I rewinding a few times to see if we could figure out where it landed. It was a good turn plastering that one up at Shea for the kids to ask about; maybe looking up at it they’ll miss the grimy poor-side-of-town feel the rest of the place now projects.

Ah, there I go. Already the present state of affairs is elbowing out my enthusiasm for the Mets I grew up with. We’re pretty far removed from ’86, that’s for sure. Might as well be comparing Orosco the champion to Orosco the spare part; you can work “glove leather” and “thrown up” into both descriptions all too easily. But there’s still a lot to like about the ’04 incarnation, starting but not ending with Jesse himself being nowhere near our roster. I’ll post again soon with my projections for the coming season with the caveat that I’m not going to sign off on some sabr projections – not because I’m averse to learning what the hell they mean, or because there are millions of them, or even because they have names like VORP and PECOTA and if I ever said VORP out loud to someone I’d shoot myself – but because I think that plenty of people already do that well and they're not the real reason I watch the game. So here’s hoping for an entertaining 70-80 wins: whether that entertainment comes in the form of dugout haircuts or dugout celebrations, I’ll be along for the stories.

Reach for more in 2004 lol

This is the Sox fan here. Frankly I think I have the easier job of the two of us. It's easy to write about winning, which barring a catastrophe of Grady-esque proportions (I guess I'm not totally over him yet, sue me) we'll do more than half the time. And when the Sox lose, it's usually in way that's easy to write about. It might not be happy writing, but it's easy to do. The Mets, on the other hand, are expected to lose. And it gets hard to find different ways of saying "The starting pitching gave up 6 runs and the lineup scored 2, so by my math we lost. Fuck."

Firstly, this team should win at least 96 games and will DEFINITELY be in the postseason. There's still a little fine tuning to be done, but the A-Rod trade is dead and the basic team is set. Our lineup and rotation rate like this so far

Rotation: A-
With Pedro and Schilling, followed by Wakefield and Lowe, followed by Kim/Arroyo, the Sox have one of the best rotations in team history. Pedro and Schilling are both legit #1 starters for any team in baseball. And we're going to need this rotation to have any chance at not embarrassing ourselves in this division.

Offense: A
With the exception of Todd Walker, this is the same lineup that smashed several obscure offensive records last year. With the loss of Walker and the inevitable crashing to Earth of the good ships Mueller and Ortiz, the offense won't be as good, but it'll certainly be more than good enough to outscore any team in the league in a single game.

Bench: B
Our offense off the bench will be about the same, acceptable but not really our greatest strength. Kapler will be a good speed/power threat off the bench, but he has a disturbing knack for striking out in key situations. Bellhorn or Reese, whichever person doesn't win the starting job at 2B, will be a good person to have in late game situations

Bullpen: C
Well, it's better than the D- we got last year. Foulke is HUGE, no doubt. Timlin is a good guy to have around, he's a 38 year old power pitcher though. I've never liked Embree, but he'll do. Whoever doesn't make the 5th spot in the rotation will be a good long man. Also, do we still have Mendoza? I hope not. If we do, I think a trade to Japan for some assorted hentai magazines for Manny Ramirez would make sense.

Defense: B-
Infield and outfield defense are still competent. Pokey "Pokey" Reese will be a vast improvement over Todd "If I only had a heart" Walker (Get it? He fielded like the Tin Man. Get used to it, folks). Manny should be okay most of the time, any idiot can field left field in Fenway.

The only concerns I have about our team are about our new and improved division and chemistry issues. The AL East is no longer our personal stomping ground, any team in that division can be a serious problem. Except of course for the Devil Rays, who will be sure to inflate our record in a good way. In terms of Chemistry, we tried to trade our two best offensive players, Pedro is working in the last year of a contract (something he doesn't tend to do quietly) Also Nomar's going to have something to prove. I'm hearing a lot of people saying that with something to prove, Nomar will go back to the hallowed 99-00 Nomar of old, hitting .400 with ease and 50 homers on top of that. Trouble is, there's another shortstop in his contract year who did horrible because the pressure was too much. Any idea who it was? Here's a hint, his last name rhymes with "Sayonara", which is also what he said to his team's playoff hopes when he decided not to run to home after getting interfered with. Best of luck with the O's, my man!

All in all, there's a reason to hope this year. And best of all, we're not the Mets.

Updates will be sporadic in the offseason because I like to pretend that I have a life. Try to deal.