In advance of the upcoming series against New York, I traded Q+As with DJ Short of Metsblog.com - he posed me some questions about the D-backs [interesting comments there, on the disparate way the two franchises are going about their business], and I fired back some about the Mets. Thanks to DJ for the suggestion, and for his responses.
1) What, if any, effect did last season's monumental collapse have on the team?
It's hard to tell sometimes. We often hear that the fans care more than the players, and I think that dynamic is still at play even this season. For a certain segment of Mets fans, they want to believe in the team again, but find it very difficult to do so. It's unfortunate, because the fickle fans are overshadowing the loyal ones. I'm not saying we should be blindly loyal, but the fickle fans make for better talk radio. I think the collapse did have an impact on Willie Randolph, who seems to be managing for his job right now. I mean, he used seven pitchers in a 4-2 win vs. the Phillies a couple weeks back. Seven. I guess he didn't forget his lessons at the Joe Torre school of micro-managing.
2) Johan Santana was, obviously, the signing of the off-season, possibly the biggest acquisition in the entire National League. So far, has he lived up to expectations, both yours and the general fanbase?
He is pitching pretty much as-advertised, but his penchant for giving up the home run ball (7 HR allowed in 40.1 IP) is somewhat troubling early on. I'd really like to see him give the bullpen a night off one of these days. Maybe Sunday? He hasn't pitched more than seven innings yet and the Mets have needed at least three pitchers in each of his three wins. Perhaps the most surprising part of his game is his pure athleticism, whether it's ripping a double into right-center or pouncing off the mound to field a bunt. He is a complete player.
3) Does Carlos Beltran's poor start to the season [only two homers and a .211 average] concern you?
I get this question a lot. I'm not as much concerned about Beltran as I am about how Carlos Delgado's struggles and position in the lineup have affected the type of pitches Beltran sees at the plate. I think Moises Alou's return (should be activated tonight -- knock on wood) will help, and stretch the lineup. I'm convinced Beltran will be fine; Delgado, not so much.
4) Pedro Martinez becomes a free agent at the end of this season. Do you think the Mets a) should, and b) will re-sign him?
What? You mean pay him to sit on the disabled list? Awesome. Seriously though, I'm convinced that this team wouldn't be anywhere close to where it is had the Mets not signed Pedro Martinez in 2004. It single-handedly changed the course of this franchise. I'm hopeful that he will get the chance, be it July or October, to show why the Mets should re-sign him, but right now he is too much of a wild card to even think about next season.
5) What prospect in the organization are you most excited about?
Right now the hype machine is all over 19-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez. He was limited to 60 games at Double-A Binghamton last season due to a hand injury, so I'm interested to see how he does over the course of a full season. Still growing into his body, the Mets project him as a 30-HR threat. He got some significant playing time in Spring Training while Carlos Beltran and Endy Chavez recovered from injuries. It was a real treat. He hits the ball squarely and sharply from the left side of the plate, with quick hands through the zone. He plays with a certain maturity that we didn't see with Carlos Gomez or Lastings Milledge. I'm hopeful that the Mets held on to the right outfielder.