Tagged: Spring Training

Juicebox Heroes: I Heart Baseball 2/14/18

And although still a bit nasty for Houston’s standards, Spring has arrived for the pitchers and catchers of our World Champion Houston Astros! Position players join them on the 19th at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for their first full squad workout. The first spring training game set for the 23rd vs The Nationals. Hope SPRINGS eternal. Baseball is back and with that the dreams of all ball clubs as the boys of summer limber up and push to make squads, contracts and championships.  Every team is in it, except maybe the Marlins. (Who am I kidding no other team has a shot….GO ASTROS!)

palm beaches

Photo: Discover The Palm Beaches

 

Filthy I tell you, FILTHY.

This season the Astros return the core of the their 2017 roster intact, minus Carlos Beltran (retired), Joe Musgrove (trade to MIA), Mike Fiers (to DET), Luke Gregerson (new closer for STL) and various bench players that have yet to sign anywhere in Maybin, Liriano and Clippard.  They also made some key acquisitions to the pitching staff.  Gerrit Cole (from PIT via trade) as a starter, and Joe Smith (from CLE Free agent) and Hector Rondon (from CHI Free agent) as relievers. Of course you also get Mr. Upton errr Cat Daddy errr Justin Verlander for a whole season.

Cat Daddy

Cole projects to be a middle of the rotation arm which essentially means the Astros will have one of the deepest and most talented starting rotations in all of the majors.  They will be FILTHY. Verlander, Kuechel, Cole, McCullers and Morton should eat innings, keep you in games. and keep the bullpen rested.  Barring injury any one and all of these pitchers will push 20 wins with Verlander almost a lock to get that many.  This essentially leaves Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh out of the rotation.  Peacock will return to his long relief role while McHugh has been rumored in trade talks with Baltimore.  The Astros had been interested in Zach Britton last season to bolster their bullpen however with Britton recovering from a ruptured Achilles he won’t likely be pitching until July.

Rosenthal reports Baltimore’s interest in McHugh

The additions of Smith and Rondon  bolsters an already capable bullpen.  Smith struck out 71 batters in 54 innings of work while pitching for both Toronto and Cleveland last season. He has a plus slider that has a lot of movement due to his sidearm delivery and gives the Astros the odd look out of the pen they haven’t had since Pat Neshek left. Rondon likely wants to improve on his performance last year as he struggled with a 4.24 ERA while allowing over a base runner per inning.  He also struck out 69 in just over 57 innings of work for the Cubbies. He’s just two years removed from his championship with the Cubs and three years since he saved 30 games.  He has a 97 mhp 4-seam fastball and great command of the slider and sinker.  He will also bring some toughness to our pen.

Hector Houdini

Joe Smith Funk

The rest of the bullpen remains intact. Ken Giles will be back as the closer much to some people’s chagrin. While Giles seemingly imploded in the playoffs pushing him into a multiple inning role was not what he was accustomed to during the season.  With only 4 blown saves out of 38 chances he actually did pretty well during the regular season.  He also dropped his ERA by almost 2 runs while striking out 83 in just over 62 innings of work.  The base runners remain an issue and it certainly seems like it is an adventure with him but its his job to lose. His fastball remains his go to pitch. Teams will catch up to it occasionally.

100 Miles Giles

Along with Giles, Rondon, and Smith the bullpen will round out with Chris “Devo” Devinski, Will Harris, Brad Peacock and McHugh (barring a trade) as virtual locks while the rest of the spots come down to some questionable situations. Sipp, Gose, Boshers, Gustave, Hoyt, Martes, Paulino, Guduan, Rodgers, Perez, will all compete for the remaining spots. Hopefully a couple of these guys pan out.

Is that a Sipp jersey?

The Juicebox Heroes return

The Astros offensively will look to dominate again this season.  2017 saw the team first in almost every major offensive category. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa anchor a lineup that has very few holes.  Alex Bregman is a soon to be All Star at third base and Marwin Gonzales returns at his role as super utility man (let’s get him into the All-Star game this season). Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, Yuli Gurriel, Jake Marisnick and Derek Fisher will round out the fielders.  Fisher will need to prove he belongs with a glut of talent that will be pushing him in the OF or for the bench spot.  Evan Gattis benefits the most from Beltran’s departure as he is slotted to get more at bats as our DH. He should easily improve on Beltran’s average of .231  from the DH spot last season. Gurriel will open the season with a five game suspension for his questionable gesture about Darvish in the World Series.

Yuli mocks Yu

Diamond Players

Altuve will follow up his MVP campaign with hopes of repeating his past success.  Having won the batting title 3 of the last 4 years and having over 200 hits 4 years in a row it is hard to believe he has room to improve.  Maybe RBI’s? He is possibly the only player in the modern era that has a shot at batting over .400.  In the last 6 years he has had 30 stolen bases or more. He’s fast, patient at the plate (except when he drives the first pitch) , hits for power, hits for average, hits lefties, hits righties, hits the fastball, hits on the road, hits the curve, hits, hits, hits and he’s got mad hits like Rod Carew. He even won a Golden Glove in 2015. Mighty Altuve can do it all. He will compete for the MVP again this season. Don’t be surprised if he wins it. He’s a Sure Shot. Again.

Mad hits like Rod Carew

IMG_1419

Photo: 20th Century Fox and Roy Bonario Jr.

Altuve’s middle infield counterpart, Correa will also be looking to improve on his 2017 campaign. His thumb injury was a major concern last season but he overcame it just in time for the playoff run.  He showed no ill affects in the playoffs going a robust .288 with 5 HR’s and 14 RBI’s. He will return to his clean up spot in the Astros lineup where he ended up the initial 162 with a .315 BA along with 24 HR and 84 RBI’s . It could have been a whole lot more.  Arguably when he got injured last season he, along with Altuve, were both MVP candidates. This season will be his 4th and we still haven’t seen his ceiling. 30 HR power and 100+ RBI’s should become a staple year for him. He also pulled the smooth move and asked his girlfriend to marry him right after clinching game 7 in LA.  Hopefully he hasn’t been too distracted. That may be wishful thinking.

Steve Harvey on Correa Proposal

The Infield rounds out with a stud youngster, a wily veteran and a should be All Star.  Bregman proved last season that he has the talent to be one of the best third baseman in the league.  Starting with his grand slam on Derek Jeter night in NY, to his game winner off of Jansen in game 5 of the World Series. He just oozed clutch.  His throw out at the plate of Frazier vs NY in the ALCS was also a one in a million throw.  Nobody but nobody gets that out. But he did.  Don’t forget he hit down in the lineup most of last season, this season he should be hitting in front of Altuve. He will see a lot of pitches to hit which should prevent some of the slumps he has been prone to have over his first 204 big league games. He also went beast mode in the weight room for three months. BAM POW!

71A451AE-D0AA-4F38-9603-3BDBD7FDA592

Photo: Instagram-Thekevinpoppe Premier Baseball League of Texas

Gurriel despite his gestures and Sideshow Bob hair flirted with .300 all year long. He also hit a crucial game tying HR off of Kershaw in game 5 of the World Series. That hit changed that game and it was awesome to see him jog to first while looking at the dugout as if to say. “See. I told ya.” Worries about his glove and handling first base are largely gone now.  He is just a good fit for this squad. His numbers were virtually identical to Bregmans. Almost 20 HR, 75 RBI’s .290-.300 BA. Expect pretty much a repeat to those here in 2018.

Marwin Gonzalez plays all infield and outfield positions.  Need a Left Fielder? Marwin. Need a Shortstop, 1st base? Marwin. Pitcher? Marwin??? Well this player without an everyday spot probably could pitch after we saw him gun down Bird in Game 1 of the ALCS (After which he spent the night at the hospital welcoming his third child into the Astros family). His HR off of Jansen in game 2 of the World Series was also as clutch as it gets. He didn’t try to pull the pitch. Just swung where it was and tried to drive it. As contract situations loom for this squad many believe Marwin will be the odd man out. If he keeps the power numbers rolling and the average above .300 it will be a tough player to possibly let go.  He’s also the only switch hitter left in the lineup which again emphasizes his flexibility. How does a guy that finished 19th in the MVP voting not make the All-Star team?

MarWIN!!!

Outside the Diamond

Oh George. How we love thee. Your World Series MVP run is the stuff that legends are made of.  I will note that Hinch stuck with Springer despite his struggles in the ALCS vs the Yankees. Hinch’s confidence was repaid a thousand times over with 5 World Series HR. #SpringerDinger alone was responsible for over $100,000 being donated to #HR4HR the campaign T-Mobile tabbed as Hurricane relief during the World Series. He isn’t the prototypical leadoff batter but he certainly makes it work with 34 regular season HR’s and a .367 on base percentage.  He is also a plus defensive player in Centerfield even if he occasionally gambles as he did in Game 5 of the World Series.  His play will land him a gigantic contract soon and at least he was rewarded with a raise to break arbitration at 12 million per year for the next two.  He is an anchor for this club. His importance cannot be understated.  Hinch is right to have him in the leadoff spot because he simply sets the tone.

2/3 of the Earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by George Springer

Look, I can play, Centerfield

Josh Reddick will reprise his roll in Right Field.  Many will be quick to point out his .169 postseason batting average but that doesn’t tell the whole story on this veteran. His hit to tie Game 4 vs Boston was crucial. His presence in the locker room kept this team focused.  His channeling of Ric Flair got the “WOOOOOO”s going for the fans.  And his ceremonial  wrestling belts gave the team something to strive for daily and kept things loose.  A .314 average, 82 RBI’s and his gun in right field didn’t hurt either.  I think he was pressing some in the playoffs so he certainly gets the pass there.  His numbers should see no significant regression in 2018.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

That leaves the Left Field spot which is generally up for grabs.  Whereas Marwin was a fixture there throughout the postseason either Derek Fisher or Jake Marisnick will man the short porched area in front of the Crawford Boxes during the 2018 campaign.  Marisnick is coming back from injury and more than likely will project as the defensive replacement for late innings or as a pinch runner.  Although his average topped out at .239 through the 106 games before injury he did find some pop in his bat stroking 16 HR’s. The interesting situation may be with Fisher. He batted .318 at Triple A last season with 21 HR’s in 84 games.  He will need to prove he is ready for the big leagues at the plate but he has the ability to field his position. He will struggle but should nail down a majority of the innings in Left Field barring another player having a stellar Spring.

Fisher has some wheels

Jake’s Gun

Channeling Ausmus

Brian McCann and Max Stassi look to be our catchers going into the season with Evan Gattis, as mentioned before,  primarily working in the DH spot.  McCann isn’t the offensive player he has been in the past but he still commands great respect at the plate and certainly knows his way around hitters.  His age is a concern and being that he may move on back to Atlanta following this season or next, I would not be surprised to see the Astros make a move in this area. The Astros have shown interest in the Marlins J.T. Realmuto but their asking price thus far has been fairly steep wanting phenom minor league OF Kyle Tucker. Realmuto projects to be one of the best catchers in the league for at least a 5 year window and trading for him might mean sharing some at bats out of the DH spot as well.  The other option is signing Astros fan favorite Jonathon Lucroy who is still a free agent. Formerly with the Rangers he likely will want an everyday roll again meaning he might have to take some at bats at DH if he signs here. I don’t think this position is settled as of yet.

Tucker for Realmuto

Best of the Rest

AJ Reed, Tyler White, Kyle Tucker, Tony Kemp and Max Stassi all look to compete this Spring for a roster spot.  Reed, White, Kemp and Stassi have all had at least a cup of coffee in the bigs.  None really doing enough to stick.  Tucker is the real deal and if he doesn’t make the squad it will be because they want him to develop some more at Triple A.  More than likely he will play for the Astros this season as a call up or injury replacement.  Reed and White are both vying for the similar spot on the roster so their battle seems to be against each other. Stassi may make it as the back up catcher. Kemp batted .329 in the minors but only .216 in 17 Major league games last season.

I’m just playing a Hinch

A.J. Hinch returns to helm this 101 win team from a year ago. The major coaching change being that bench coach Alex Cora will now be sitting in a dugout in Boston. Hinch really works at being a player’s coach. He worked diligently at creating a great atmosphere and keeping the attitude of his players positive despite injury struggles, slumps and Hurricane Harvey. Does he focus on analytics too much or too little? Is he making the right decisions with making pitching changes too late? Has he ever ordered a hitter to bunt a runner over? 162 different lineup cards? He has the luxury of moving a very versatile lineup around. Why wouldn’t you want to tinker some to keep players both sharp and rested for a long post season run.  He may lose a few games by having confidence in his players but sometimes it really truly works out. He will manage this team now with a huge target on its back.  He also will have more pitching at his disposal than he has ever had as a manager. Criticism aside he is one of the better managers in the MLB.

Bregman on Hinch

Projected Opening Day Lineup and Bench

Starters

1-Springer CF

2-Bregman 3B

3-Altuve 2B

4-Correa SS

5-Gurriel 1B

6-Gonzalez LF

7-Gattis DH

8-Reddick RF

9-McCann C

Rotation

Verlander, Kuechel, Cole, McCullers, Morton

Relievers

Giles, Smith, Rondon, Harris, Devinski, Peacock, McHugh, Sipp

Bench

Marisnick, Fisher, Reed

 

trophy parade

Photo: Associated Press

2018 Predictions

2016 showed that even with everything looking good on paper, teams can struggle. 2017 was a special year for the Astros. This season the Astros certainly look like an improved team.  They have the makings of a elite dynasty.  Teams will be circling their showdowns with the Astros and certainly the teams we played in the 2017 post season all have made incremental improvements.  This season will be hotly contested, especially in the post season.  I predict they will get to 100 wins again and win their division.  They should also be able to repeat their Championship run becoming the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back to back championships. Go Astros!

 

Written by Trey Looney

@3TimesLooney

Treylooney99@gmail.com

 

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Mets Sunday Brunch 3/27/16: Spring Training is Way Too Long; Final Observations and Predictions

By Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2Remember how excited we were six weeks ago when we were counting down the days until pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training? Now we can’t wait for it to end.

After a long, cold winter, we here in the East are looking forward to short sleeves and sunshine. And when things started in Port St. Lucie for the Mets, that was what we got.  Only that was all we got.

We couldn’t find “games” on TV, and when they were televised, the recognizable names played just a few innings. Why was Jeurys Familia pitching in the fourth inning?

Of course, that’s what spring training is for, to get ready for the regular season. But I think that times have changed dramatically for baseball and to some degree most sports, when it comes to spring training / training camp / exhibition season.

Do we really need seven weeks of spring training in 2016? Maybe in 1952 when players had to work in the fields and dig ditches (do people still dig ditches by hand?) in the off-season, they needed seven weeks of spring training to get back into baseball shape.  But in 2016?

Aren’t players that report to training camp already in-shape? Other than the Giant Behemoth in Boston, Pablo Sandoval, what players need Spring Training to actually get into physical shape?  Don’t they work out all year?  Did they all ditch their personal trainers to avoid steroid temptation?

I understand they need to “get their legs” and work on their control and timing, but Spring Training in baseball is starting to look like pre-season NFL football – almost unwatchable. Most of the times, players are being “protected”, or just trying not to get hurt.  It’s more like a showcase for the minor league players.

When exhibition games require a three-hour bus ride (oh, heavens!), most veterans stay home. What’s the point of playing 25-30 games and keeping track of the standings, when the players and coaches don’t take it seriously?  I understand the need to compile statistics so you can get a read on how an individual player may be performing.  But keeping standings on ESPN, including winning streaks and home / away records?  Isn’t everyone away?

How many times have you read that a pitcher was “just working on things”? And who are these guys wearing uniform numbers in the 80’s and 90’s that aren’t Turk Wendell?  Did you even know that the Mets have a kid outfielder named Travis Taijeron who has played in 17 games this spring (34 AB’s) and leads the team in RBI (10)?  Of course not, why would you?

The Mets have hit just 9 home runs as a team in their 20 games so far, and they came from nine different players, none of which wear #52. Does that really matter?  Maybe to fantasy players, but in the overall scheme of things, other than injuries, does anything that happens in spring training matter?  Exactly.

Remember how the Mets used to end their Spring training schedule? It used to be a game or two up the East Coast on their way home to NY. Or a few games at Shea Stadium before the season started.  Not anymore.

The Mets complete their Grapefruit schedule this week with 3 games in Florida, and then head out West on Thursday to play their final two games against the Cubbies, one in Arizona on Thursday and then the Spring finale on Friday in Las Vegas, before getting Saturday off.  Then another plane ride up to Kansas City for the season opener on Sunday night.

In a bizarre quirk to the schedule, the Mets and Royals have an off-day on Monday before concluding the season opening 2-game series, but the Mets are off on Wednesday and Thursday before the home opener against the Phillies on Friday. So the Mets will have three off-days before they have played three games.

While the pitchers are targeting their last appearance as their “final tune-up” before the season starts, I think we could have gotten away with just two weeks of games instead of four weeks. You know, if the veterans aren’t playing the entire game anyway, what good are you getting out of it by having minor-leaguers play against minor-leaguers in a major league game?

We were all waiting with bated breath for pitchers and catchers to begin reporting in the middle of February so we could begin washing the sour taste out of our mouths after losing the World Series to Kansas City in November. I’m over it by now, what about you?

SPRING TRAINING OBSERVATIONS:

Just a little concerned over the lack of power the Mets have shown in their 20 or so games. Not enough to raise any red flags, but Maikel Franco on the Phillies has 8 home runs on his own – and he has only 16 hits.  The Mets have hit only nine home runs as a team all spring … Other than Jenrry Mejia getting re-re-re-suspended, it has been a quiet camp … For those of you that care about this sort of thing, Daniel Murphy is hitting .243 this spring with the Nationals (9 for 37) and no home runs …Like what we’ve been hearing about Noah Syndergaard.  Can’t wait to see him in Game 2 of the season against the Royals.  Actually, can’t wait for the first pitch … Sorry to see Reuben Tejada go.  Looks like Matt Reynolds or (heaven forbid) Eric Campbell will take his spot on the roster.  Tejada is still staying in his hotel at Port St. Lucie (with his girlfriend and 9 month-old daughter)  and driving the 40-odd miles to the Cardinals training camp.  Looked odd in Cardinals red this week against the Mets, but he did make an error at short … The supposed fifth Beatle, I mean outfielder, Michael De Aza, is hitting over .400 so far in the spring with Cespedes not far behind at .394 …Hope that David Wright can thrive in the 2-hole this year and not worry about hitting 25 home runs anymore.  Also hope he is smart enough to understand that it is one thing to be able to play through the pain, but another thing to perform at a very high level on a team that is trying to get back to the World Series.  The Yankees never took Derek Jeter out of the lineup in his final year and maybe they should have.  Let’s hope we never have to make that decision with our Captain.

SOME PREDICTIONS FOR 2016:

Mets win 96 games and the NL East again. The Cubs and Dodgers crash and burn and don’t even make it back to the postseason.  Mets and Giants play in the NLCS, but Mets take it in seven and go on to face the Blue Jays.  Mets are World Champions, 4 games to two … Noah Syndergaard is the Cy Young award winner … The Yankees fail to make the post season and finish last in the AL East … Clayton Kershaw is a disaster for the Dodgers and the Nationals finish third behind the Marlins … Bartolo Colon hits a home run over the fence in Philadelphia … David Wright goes on the DL in July and never returns … Steven Matz is sent to the minors when Zack Wheeler returns because Colon is 12-2 … Cespedes breaks Mets team record of 41 home runs in a year, but still decides to opt-out of his contract …

See my complete 2016 Mets Preview by clicking here: Looking Ahead To The New Season

Cubs Camp Opens With a Twist

By Richard Kagan

Cubring

Leave it to Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon to shake things up. Yesterday he drove into Chicago’s Mesa, Arizona spring training camp with a 70’s era van, replete in a tie-dye T-shirt and bandanna.  Earth, Wind, & Fire music blasted from the van, as Madden’s prank stirred things up.

The Chicago Cubs are full of optimism this spring. And why not?  Loaded with off-season acquisitions, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, and Jason Heyward, The Cubs figure to be  the front-runners in the NL Central.

Based on a torrid Summer, the Cubs made the wild-card and beat the Pirates behind Jake Arrieta’s brilliant game. Arrieta, who picked up the NL’s Cy Young Award, is back with a newly minted contract.

Left-handed pitcher Travis Wood is expected to take the ball for the opening game of the Spring Training season.  The frontline starters of Arrieta, John Lester, and John Lackey are not expected to see action until next week.

The Cubs want to start off this Spring Training — this –feeling out process — in a managed way. The team knows what it has. It just wants to start out slowly.

Mets Sunday Brunch 2/14/16: Pitchers And Catchers In 3 Days, The Winter of Sandy Alderson and Questions, Questions, Questions

By Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2Good riddance to bad rubbish. Jenrry Mejia threw it all away and for some strange reason, I just don’t care anymore. And neither should you.  We’ve got much nicer things to talk about today!

On Wednesday morning, the National League Champion New York Mets – my Mets, our Mets – will begin the defense of their NL East Division Title as pitcher and catchers report to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie. How great does that sound when the temperature here in NY is in the single digits?

In case anyone has forgotten, General Manager Sandy Alderson has been a busy little beaver since the end of the World Series and for the first time in recent memories, the Mets are reporting to Spring Training with not a lot of holes to fill. Usually Tradition Field is the site of many question marks.  Who’s going to be the shortstop?  Can this veteran return to form?  Can this pitcher return from surgery? Who is going to be the bridge to the closer?

The offseason saw both sadness and joy for Mets fans.  Trying to reconcile the loss in the World Series to the KC Royals when we had the lead in every game was a tough nut to crack.  Then, Mike Piazza finally gets elected to the Hall of Fame and a few weeks later, Cespedes is back in the Blue and Orange.

My articles:  YA GOTTA BEREAVE    PIAZZA HOF   CESPEDES

The 2016 season has a completely different line of questioning. The question is no longer CAN the Mets get to the playoffs, now it’s WILL the Mets get to the playoffs.  It’s just a slight difference, but it means everything.  For the first time in a long time, it’s the Mets that have a target on their back.

Of course, Mets history always haunts us the year after making the post season. Did you know that the only time the Mets went to the post season in consecutive years was 1999-2000?  Remember the “Dynasty” of the 1986 team?  Just one other playoff appearances before it all fell apart, a 1988 loss to the Dodgers.  How about the strength of that 2006 team that came within one strike of the World Series?  I’m not even going to get into that disaster.

Although the 2015 Mets went all the way to the World Series, the club reporting to Spring Training is significantly better in a lot of ways. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors as we start dreaming of wearing T-Shirts and shorts outside again…

The Daniel Murphy Factor – Of course this was a difficult decision. Murphy was one of our best, if not the best hitter we had, hands down.  He was an emotional player and in most cases the heart of the team.  I was (and still am) a big Daniel Murphy fan.  But I had learned to come to grips with his limitations.  Can we all be honest here?  He was a liability without a bat in his hands.  He makes poor decisions in the field with his glove, with his arm and with his legs.  I know, he hit 50 home runs in the post season, but let’s be realistic, shall we?  I don’t know what Daniel Murphy that was and I don’t ever expect to see that Daniel Murphy again.  But I am quite sure the Washington Nationals are expecting to see THAT Daniel Murphy.  And when they don’t, he is going to be one very unhappy muchacho until 2019.  He should have taken the Mets offer.

My article:  WHY DANIEL MURPHY SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE DEAL

The Jonathan Niese Factor – Have you ever seen a pitcher with such mediocre talent that didn’t know which side of his bread was buttered? Niese was a malcontent that saw the writing on the wall with all of these young guns, and instead of embracing the future of this team and learning to become part of it, he whined and cried like a little baby.  He complained every time someone made an error.  If he got into trouble on the mound, he didn’t have the ability to get out of it.  Then, when he was traded to Pittsburgh, the first thing he said was he was happy to go to a team that played good defense.  Guess he didn’t know the Pirates led the National League in errors last year.  Good luck with that, Jonathan.  This was addition by subtraction for Alderson and the Mets.

The Remaking of the Middle Infield – Part of the Niese trade was bringing in second baseman Neil Walker from the Pirates. Walker is certainly an upgrade defensively over Murphy (who isn’t?) and is a pretty good hitter himself.  At the very least, this is a slight upgrade.  But Alderson went one better and signed shortstop Asrubal Cabrera for two years ($18.5m) a few hours later.  Now Wilmer Flores can become the super utility player the Mets have lacked for a long time.  And with David Wright’s back still a part of the great unknown, we are going to need a couple of guys that can play third.  This also gives Terry Collins a middle infield combination that he can pencil in almost every day.  This is a huge upgrade for the Mets.

My articles on NEIL WALKER and ASRUBAL CABRERA deals

The Bartolo Colon Show Returns – Was there any other Met that made you smile every time you saw him on the field? When he was standing on the mound, flipping the ball up and down, when he was strolling to the plate with a bat in his hand?  Bartolo Colon is like Bruce Springsteen on stage – he is thoroughly enjoying himself and getting the job done.  For $7 Million, Colon will easily be able to bridge the gap while Zack Wheeler rehabs from Tommy John surgery.

More Help For The Bullpen – Tyler Clippard is gone (thank goodness), but Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed will be back. Then for good measure, Alderson inked Antonio Bastardo, the lefty specialist the Mets were looking for all year.  Lefties hit just .178 against him last year while he was with the Pirates.  That is a pretty good three-man bridge to Familia.  With this starting pitching staff, the Mets are going to have a lot of 6 and 7 inning games from their starters.  That’s where these guys are going to earn their money.  With no more innings limits to worry about, the guys won’t have to start warming up in the 4th inning anymore.  Mets long relievers should already have a new nickname, “The Maytag Men”.  (You kiddies won’t get that one, sorry.  Google it)

The Big Bat We All Know We Wanted – The Mets and Yoenis Cespedes danced the entire off season, causing the fan base to lose their mind. Of course we needed Cespedes, but it turns out he needed us too.  Some teams offered him more money, others more security.  But when you get right down to it, the other teams couldn’t offer him what the Mets had – a stud pitching staff ready to take them to the next level.  The Mets fans showed him the love he needed to see after four teams in five years, but I think it really came down to NOT wanting to face these pitchers 18 times a year – especially if he signed with Washington.  Cespedes was able to see firsthand what NY was like in the postseason.  Not a lot of free agents get that on the tour, you know.

Now for some outstanding questions – Shall the nitpicking begin, then?

  • Is Lucas Duda an everyday first baseman?  If not, is the answer really Wilmer Flores?  This guy hits a lot of home runs, but they always seem to come in bunches.  He may not be as big a mental case as Ike Davis was, but it’s all in his head.  Maybe he can finally relax now that Cespedes will be hitting in front of him.  Let’s hope so.  Not a lot of talent in the minors to play 1B.  Why do you think they asked Plawecki and d’Arnaud to invest in first baseman gloves?
  • Will the Mets have the lowest stolen base total in baseball history?  Not going to be a lot of RBI doubles with a man on first this season, my friends.
  • Can our catchers throw anyone out?  To answer this I just say, oh yeah?  YOU try throwing down to second after five innings of catching 98 MPH heaters all the time, every day.
  • Is there any doubt that one or more of our stud pitchers is going to come down with what will initially be diagnosed as “arm fatigue” that turns into full blown Tommy John reconstructive surgery?  I really hope not, but these are MY Mets, after all…
  • Are Steven Matz and Michael Conforto ready for everyday duty at the Major League level?  Matz needs to show he can stay on the field and Conforto needs to show he can play against left-handed pitching.  This smells of “sophomore Jinx: all over the place.
  • What will Zack Wheeler be able to deliver when (if) he returns in July?  When Matt Harvey returned to Spring Training last season, he had almost 18 months without having to face a batter.  He left in August of 2013 and rehabbed the entire 2014 season making him very ready to return in 2015.  If you are going to have TJ surgery, looks like August is the best time.  But Wheeler is just a year out of surgery and even though he will not be pitching competitively until May or June, let’s just hope the Mets don’t “need” him in July because of an injury or something else.  We kind of got spoiled with Harvey’s return, you know.
  • Will both Wild-Cards come out of the Central again?  That’s a tough division to start with and the Cubs have gotten better.  Looks like the Mets will need to win the East again.
  • There’s another baseball team in this town?  Talk about role reversal!  The Yankees were very quiet in the Free-Agent market, but they seem to be building a great bullpen.  Did you know they led the league in runs scored last year until September?  But without that run production this year and suspect starting pitching, that bullpen is going to lead the league in “holds” while the Yankees scramble to score runs.  And I bet they wished Tanaka had that TJ surgery when he had the chance, don’t they?  And good for CC Sabathia in getting his life back together.  Not gonna matter, baseball fans.  This will be another banner-less year in the Bronx as their aging lineup has to start acting their age without the benefits of steroids.

Now that the Super Bowl closed out the NFL Season, it’s time to dust off that Mets cap and get ready for what is going to be one of the most anticipated springs in Mets history. After each one of our previous World Series appearances, there were lots of question marks and concerns.  Not this year.  We are coming back as Defending National League Champions and for the first time, we are even better.

I can’t wait, and I am sure you, my faithful readers, can’t wait either!