Any Mets’ fan will tell you their team’s biggest rival is Philadelphia and not the Yankees. Afterall, it is the Phillies the Mets compete against for the NL East and not the Yankees, who occupy two of their weekends.
When the Mets coughed up the lead in 2007 and 2008, it was the Phillies who were the beneficiaries, including winning the World Series the latter season. But, truth be told, the rivalry has played out more in the papers and fans than on the field, where the Phillies have been the real team to beat.
It will be interesting to see how the Mets stack up to the Phillies this season. They are the odds-on favorite to win the division while the Mets have been picked for the basement in several circles.
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Here’s tonight’s lineup for the Mets in Philadelphia:
Jose Reyes, SS
Angel Pagan, CF
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Scott Hairston, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
Brad Emaus, 2B
Mike Nickeas, C
Chris Young, RP
Lineup comments: Josh Thole gets the night off. With yesterday an off-day, it amounts to two days off for Thole. Smart maneuvering by manager Terry Collins considering Thole is going to log a lot of innings this year.
The tarp is on the field in Philly, but they expect to get the game in. No word yet on if there will be a delay.
The Mets didn’t win their first road series last year until June. They didn’t win their first on the road against a National League team until August.
That’s just the beginning of a positive first impression to take out of the first weekend for the Mets, a team with lowly expectations.
Take away Mike Pelfrey on Friday, and it was a good weekend for the Mets in Florida as they received strong pitching performances from Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, questions going in.
“The first game was more of what Josh Johnson did than what we didn’t do,’’ said David Wright. “All in all, it was a good weekend, especially since the last couple of years we’ve had a lot of trouble here. It’s good to get off to a good start. We’re going to have to play just as well in Philadelphia [next series].’’
While nobody is getting carried away by the Marlins series, following the Mets must include finding your silver linings when you can. The Mets didn’t let blowing a ninth inning lead derail them Saturday and they put a team away Sunday, both signs missing from last season.
Chris Young will start for the Mets tomorrow night in Philadelphia, where things are always different.
Meanwhile, Jason Bay’s ribs are still hurting and he hasn’t begun swinging a bat, yet. I wouldn’t be placing any bets on him returning in a week. Also, Jason Isringhausen is feeling discomfort in his back. Just as well he took the extended spring training.
Angel Pagan said manager Terry Collins has not talked with him or Carlos Beltran about who will play center, but this is an important issue for the Mets to decide as soon as possible in spring training, and it must be the veteran.
With Beltran making $18.5 million this year, the Mets know they will not re-sign him to an extension. They also know with their roster they will not overtake Philadelphia and the wild-card is also a long shot. And, that’s with Beltran and Jason Bay healthy and producing.
Pagan was the better center fielder last year and might be better this season, but the best interest of the Mets in the short term is for Beltran to prove he can play the position.
The Mets have had surface discussions with teams about Beltran, but there aren’t any serious talks because nobody wants to take the gamble on his salary, age and injury history the past two seasons. And, there won’t be any legitimate conversations until Beltran proves he can play, and that means center field.
If Beltran is back in center and hitting, he’ll be easier to trade and a contender might bite. Because Beltran won’t be returning and the Mets aren’t winning this year, his value to the franchise is not as a player but what he can bring back in prospects and the salary they might save.
Sandy Alderson said Philadelphia’s stunning signing of Cliff Lee will have no great bearing or impact on his plans for putting together the Mets for 2011. Nor should it.
Alderson says the Mets can be competitive, but there’s room for interpretation on what that means. Will the Mets make a run at the wild card or just play tight, close games they’ll more often than not eventually lose? With the way the roster is compiled and limited spending to them, it is probably the latter.
The Mets talked bravely about the Phillies being better on paper, which is undoubtedly true, but they still have to play the games. That’s the way to slip into cliche mode. Adding Chris Young or Jeff Francis isn’t going to make a world of difference for the Mets. Fact is, with the Yankees losing out on Lee I can see them swooping down on Young to bring into camp. The $4 million he wants is chump change to the Yankees.
Alderson can’t write off 2011 entirely because he still has tickets to sell and he needs to change the culture by improving the remaining product on the field. A panic signing now, with all that payroll coming off the books later, does the team no good.
Just get used to it. This will be a rough year, but it is the needed medicine to cure the ills of the previous regime.