Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm going to do something I never thought I'd do...

I'm going to say a few nice things about the Mets.

The prevailing national wisdom, as expressed by Tim Kurkjian last night on ESPN Radio, seems to have conceded the NL East to the Braves. At present, that seem like a reasonable guess, since the Braves are playing better than anyone else in the division, they'll only get better as they get healthier, and they are starting with a five-game headstart on everyone other than the fading Nationals. That said, I had a strange sensation watching games this weekend: the Mets could conceivably make a run. I doubt that they can win the division, but is the Wild Card an unreasonable goal? Bear with me for a moment:

1. They're six games out of the Wild Card right now, but assuming a Washington fade, they're only 1.5 games behind Philly and a game behind the Cubs. In other words, they don't need to get that hot to win the division.

2. They have very good starting pitching. We all know about Pedro, but the rest of the rotation is surprisingly good. They're #2 and #3 starters - Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson - both have ERAs that start with 3.5, which leaves Tom Glavine as a perfectly competent #4 starter. They also have a defined 8th and 9th inning combo in Roberto Hernandez and Braden Looper, although Looper has been somewhat underwhelming. In short, they have the best pitching of any of the wild card contenders, assuming that the Nats' pitching returns to reality and the Cubs a) don't figure out their bullpen woes and b) can't keep Wood and Prior healthy for an entire half season, which is an empirically solid bet.

3. A Cameron-Beltran-Floyd-Wright string in the order would produce a fair number of runs. Cliff Floyd is likely to slow down a little, although his performance this year has reminded me that at one point, before he got hurt with the frequency of Ronaldo in his Inter Milan days, that he was a very good hitter. That said, Carlos Beltran is likely to hit better in the second half as he gets healthy and remembers that he isn't being paid the GNP of Burkina Faso for a .766 OPS. If the Mets figure out to bury the decomposing corpse that is Mike Piazza lower in the lineup and threaten Jose Reyes with a "stop swinging at everything or you're going down in the order to play with the closeted crypt keeper" order, they might score enough runs to see October.

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