- If anyone accuses me of bias, we're gonna have a problem:
Before anything, everyone knows I'm a Mets fan. It has to be understood however that I'm able to maintain objectivity. (For some unfathomable reason, half of Twitter thinks I'm a Yankee fan.) If nothing else, this should be proven by the fact that I had the Mets missing the playoffs last season when they were the consensus pick for National League champions in the pre-season. I had a bad feeling that turned out, in reality, to be nowhere close to the mark in predicting what happened.
Then again, the most negative prophet of doom couldn't have predicted what happened to the Mets last season. The Devil himself (and no that's not me) would've said enough's enough by July. Yet the hits kept right on coming.
Let's have a look.
National League East:
- New York Mets----Wins-91; Losses-71; GB ---
- Atlanta Braves----Wins-87; Losses-75; GB 4
- Philadelphia Phillies----Wins-84; Losses-78; GB 7
- Florida Marlins----Wins-81; Losses-81; GB 10
- Washington Nationals----Wins-69; Losses-93; GB 22
New York Mets:
The Mets were the butt of jokes from the time the injuries began piling up last season all through this entire winter and part of spring training.
Their minor league system was shot; their doctors were the equivalent of faith healers; the front office was in disarray; the players mistrusted the club from top to bottom; the fans were abused to the point of self-mutilation.
Then, once spring training started, the young players the Mets system----Ike Davis; Fernando Martinez; Ruben Tejada; Jenrry Mejia-----looked great. The team on the whole had an attitude of "Oh, enough of this already".
While the pitching hasn't looked great in the spring, the potential is there and the lineup will be able to score. Jeff Francoeur has made a concerted effort to be more selective; Jason Bay looks like his usual quiet and productive self; and the club has gotten cautiously good news on Jose Reyes after his hamstring surgery and thyroid condition.
The key to the entire season isn't the bullpen nor the lineup, but how John Maine pitches as the number 2 behind Johan Santana. If Maine pitches well, the Mets will contend. If not, they won't.
The season is going to go one of two ways. Either the ridicule is going to galvanize the team into an us against the world mentality to come out swinging with both fists at the naysayers; or things are going to spiral out of control and both GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel are going to get fired.
I think it'll be the former.
Had the Braves brought in a big basher----that one big bat guaranteed to drive in runs; hit homers; and get on base----I'd have picked them to win the pennant in the National League. Instead, they're rolling the dice on the oft-injured Troy Glaus and made a ridiculous trade of Javier Vazquez for Melky Cabrera.
They're again putting an undue amount of pressure of a young player in Jason Heyward to be that bat.
We saw how well that worked out with the aforementioned Francoeur.
The Braves pitching is good enough and deep enough that they're going to be in the mix for the playoffs; but they don't have enough hitting. Add in that Billy Wagner is completely untrustworthy in a big game----I can promise you he'll blow a couple of ultra-important games in September----and unless they make a drastic trade for an available bat at mid-season, they're going to be on the outside looking in by the end of the season.
I've gone on ad nauseam of what a terrible mistake the Phillies made in the lateral trade of Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay. There are two ways for a club to address their issues. One, they bolster their strengths. For the Phillies, that would've been to keep Lee and trade for Halladay. Two, they address their weaknesses. That would've been to upgrade the bullpen and back of the starting rotation.
They did neither.
Even with Halladay, they're still relying on Jamie Moyer as their fifth starter; they're counting on Brad Lidge returning to form; and getting usefulness from the likes of Jose Contreras and Danys Baez.
The lineup is formidable, but Jimmy Rollins is shot; Ryan Howard absolutely clueless against lefties; and expecting a repeat performance of 2009 from Jayson Werth is insanity.
The one thing I'd be concerned about more than anything is the arrogance that has come with a World Series win and a trip to the classic a year later. It's permeating everything the Phillies do; the mistakes they've made; and is an invitation to disaster and downfall.
And that's exactly what's going to happen.
As much as I admire the way the Marlins do business (and they made a great move to get Nate Robertson from the Tigers for nothing), there's something different this year that could be the catalyst for a step back.
The Marlins have always been cold and ruthless when it came to saving money and mining other clubs for their best prospects in exchange for Marlins veterans who were about to get paid. This off-season was different.
They were taking offers for Dan Uggla; trying to come to agreement with Josh Johnson on a long-term contract; and willing to listen on Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross. Then MLB stepped in and forced the Marlins to put more money into payroll, and the club agreed as if they'd done something wrong.
I don't see how the best run team in baseball had been doing something wrong by saving money and winning, doing it their way----a way that no one else in baseball, stat-based theories or not, has been able to accomplish.
The Marlins kept Uggla, Ross and Cantu; and signed Johnson to a long-term contract. They have the talent to contend and more, but I think there was an energy created by the edge-of-the-seat turnover the club always maintained. It was understood by all that anyone and everyone could be dealt away at a moment's notice.
The energy was important. The basic standing pat will cost them as they fall back out of contention and finish at .500.
The Nationals did a lot of "stuff" this off-season, but none of that stuff was enough to vault them into respectability. Jason Marquis? Chien-Ming Wang? Adam Kennedy? Ivan Rodriguez? Are these moves for a team on the rise?
Their expansion team style moves were to bring in recognizable names to hold down a fan base who's waiting anxiously for über prospect Stephen Strasburg. They have some players who can hit like Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman; they have a few decent arms, but they're not good. They're not respectable and their saving grace is going to be that they can't be much worse than the 59-win monstrosity (solid second half play aside) they were last season.
- 2010 National League Award Winners:
NL MVP----Jose Reyes, New York Mets:
I know, I know.
This was written before the thyroid condition and while manager Jerry Manuel had Reyes scheduled to begin the season batting third.
Batting third and having the opportunity to drive in runs was going to send Reyes into MVP contention. Now, who knows? I'll stick with the pick.
On another note, maybe it's a positive omen. Last year, in the American League, I picked Alex Rodriguez to win the MVP before his hip injury and while he didn't win the award, the Yankees won the World Series.
A guy can dream, can't he?
NL Cy Young Award----Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers:
I had initially picked Jair Jurrjens of the Braves, but his shoulder problems made me back off that choice.
Kershaw's handcuffs are off; he's got devastating stuff; and he's ready to explode. I'm talking about close to 300 strikeouts and dominance. The word potential will be removed from Kershaw early in the season, replaced by brilliance.
NL Rookie of the Year----Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants:
Bumgarner is ruining my aesthetic by getting rocked in the spring and sent to the minors, but considering how he decimated the minor leagues on the way up, it's not a negative for him to face some adversity. If he pitches well in the minors, he'll be back in the big leagues soon enough.
NL Manager of the Year----Jerry Manuel, New York Mets:
Much like everything involved with the Mets this year, it's feast of famine for their manager.
If they play well, he'll get a contract extension and receive post-season recognition; if not, he'll get fired. At least he knows his position. Since I think the Mets are going to play well, I have to believe Manuel will get the Manager of the Year award for running the ship.
Amazon and I-Universe. It's either going to launch me into the stratosphere or cause me to shatter into a million pieces. Or both. Watch the explosion.