Here's a few opinions about the Braves and Mets...
Me...Lang, don't let those chilly outfield bleachers at Shea effect your brain. You were wearing your Braves cap Monday night, weren't you?
Everyone gets a pass in April, as far as I'm concerned. The Mets have spent money for the past several years and stumbled, though this could be the year they win the division. As usual, the press is on their bandwagon. Seems like Pedro always has the Braves number. They should win.
The Braves weren't supposed to win the division the last two years. Last year they won even after scrapping two-thirds of their outfield, in addition to reworking their bullpen in midseason. They won even though many spent time on the shelf with injuries…Hampton, Smoltz, Hudson, Thompson, Ramirez, Furcal, Chipper, Francoeur, Perez, Reitsma, Boyer, Jordan, Mondesi, and others.
This year some people picked Atlanta because the Phillies, Nats, and Marlins are still down, but just as many picked the Mets. Everyone has to deal with injuries. The bug has already begun…Chipper will ache throughout the season, as will Horacio, Boyer, Kelly Johnson, and Renteria. There are plenty of other questions…will Smoltz's arm hold up the entire year? Will Sosa repeat his 2005 year? Will there be a sophomore jinx? (I think not, particularly for Langerhans, Betimit, McCann, and Francoeur).
The offense has been doing fine so far. Francoeur is starting to come around. Betimit is no slouch, and hopefully this is the year LaRoche puts it all together. Andruw seems to be picking up where he left off last year (enough clichés yet?)…and the second home run he hit last night was on a tough pitch to hit…low.
Even with the trouble the starting pitching has had, they still have made most of the games close. At the end of the year hopefully we won't be regretting that one or two hits didn't fall in. Smoltz and Hudson should be ok, and Thompson and Davies have had good outings. I hear that if Sosa will just back off the heat just a little, that his stuff will still be good enough to win. The bullpen is better than last year and could improve, when Boyer comes back and Devine gets some experience. Ray is a nice addition, but no Mariano.
The Braves should be in the thick of things, which may be as good as we can hope for, given their salary structure, injury situation, and high-paid competition (the Mets and Cards). For the money, the Braves are one of the best teams in baseball. I can't argue with the organizational philosophy. Spending money is always nice, but you can't blame them for having a budget. No telling what a new owner will do, or who will replace Schuerholz and Cox when they retire. There's a good chance things won't get better. Is that what we should "worry" about?
Dontrell isn’t paid much…would the Braves give up one or two of their SS/3B prospects for him? The Marlins don’t need a first-baseman…they wouldn’t take LaRoche…they’d want Jurries instead. Willis would be worth signing to a bigger deal. The Mets gave up a top prospect for Zambrano. The Mets, Yankees, Angels, and others will be lining up trying to get Willis.
He’s cheap enough right now to get for the short term, but the Marlins will want so much that the only way it would be worth it would be to lock him up long term.
Lang...Yeah, I had on my Braves hat but I took it off after being cursed at for 4 innings. Put it back on in the subway. Their fans are ridiculous, acting like it was a World Series game.
Funny, but I don't really notice the Mets press bias, I guess because they write about the Mets up here every day. I did cut out the back page of today's NY Post and hang it outside my office to shut everyone up: http://www.nypost.com/img/back042006.gif
I love Andruw -- he's always been my favorite Brave and he's my favorite MLB player -- but I'm wondering if he's on steroids. Look at how big his head looks this year! that homer he hit off Glavine looked like he was jammed in on the hands and he drilled it over the opposite field wall, which he never does. And he almost went opposite field the game I was at. I understand his strike zone recognition is a lot better, but he's obviously bigger than ever before. I know the AJC says he's been working out a lot in the offseasons, but...It's an interesting conundrum to face. What if stuff starts leaking out that he's a user? Do we Braves fans still root for him? I hope I'm wrong, but...
And Frenchy...I was telling someone at work the other day that the thing about Francoeur is that he challenges everything we know as fans. Take the first pitch? Work the count? Patience at the plate? Wait for your pitch? Nope. But he still puts up great stats, so we live with it. He's like New Coke or something.
I guess what I'm mostly worried about is that this is the decline of everything. So many years we've been so good, and is this the year we start to slip? It has to happen eventually, right? Good news is as I'm writing this I'm watching the Padres shut down the Mets, 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th.
And Saturday morning Wifey and I are going out to San Diego, where she's speaking at some conference. I called the Padres' PR director and played the SI.com card and he's leaving us tix for Saturday night, Pedro vs. Chris Young. I hear Petco is awesome, so I'm pretty excited to get to the game. (And I think I'm gonna write my Si.com column this week on people overrating the Mets and their crazy fans, who swear they're going all the way this year. Should be good for a lot of hate mail.)
My CPA friend... I am not worried about the Braves - If I am worried about anything, it is that the Mets are going to run away with the East - though I don't think they have a starting pitching staff capable of allowing the team to put up a 100-win season (which is what it would take to "run away" with the division).
However if you look at the Mets stats, it is obvious they are not going to keep this pace up all year. I have no doubt that Wagner, Delgado, Beltran, Wright and Pedro (if he stays healthy) will have big seasons. But the '06 Glavine is not the '91 Glavine and Trachsel and Zambrano are still Trachsel and Zambrano.
I believe Atlanta is in much better shape this year, at this stage of the season, than they were in '03 or '04. However, this is still a 90-95 win team (best case scenario).
But, maybe the Mets do run away with the East and Atlanta wins the Wild Card with 90 wins. We then "upset" the Cards in the first round, and then beat the Mets in 7 in the NLCS (taking Game 7 at Shea). I will take a trip to the World Series (or even the NLCS) over another Division title.