Before we get into all of the Opening Day festivities, let's take a quick look at our opponent for the upcoming series, the New York Mets. I sent 5 questions over to Eric Simon of Amazing Avenue and he kindly sent back 5 responses. Here he is, in his own words:
1. Everywhere one looked during the WBC there were Mets players. Do you think it was a positive or a negative to have so many players from your team away from camp for an extended amount of time but playing in games that had a playoff like atmosphere?
ES: I think it depends on the player. For established stars like David Wright and Carlos Beltran it's probably good for them to get right into big-game action. For a fat bag of crap like Oliver Perez, it probably would've made more sense for him to be in camp working out every day with the team and his pitching coach.
2. Are you satisfied with Jerry Manuel as a manager? What does he do well? What does he do too often? What doesn't he do that you wish he would?
Jerry Manual is an adequate tactical manager and a terrific post-game interview. He's brimming with personality, which doesn't necessarily help him win games but it does endear him to the New York media and the local fans. He's never reluctant to give young players a chance -- see: Daniel Murphy batting second this year -- which is far more than I could say about Willie Randolph. Manual could show a little more creativity in his bench usage and he could definitely manage the bullpen better, but at the end of the day he doesn't really bother me much, which is as ringing an endorsement of a Mets manager as you're likely to get from me.
3. The Mets made some huge efforts to fix the bullpen this off-season. What do you consider the biggest hole with this team now? What needs to happen for the Mets to make the playoffs this year?
The range of possible outcomes from the starting rotation is expansive. Johan Santana: great. Livan Hernandez: fat. John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez could all be great #2 pitchers, but they could also be lousy #4-#5 type starters. That crapshoot is the Mets' biggest problem right now.
4. After consecutive seasons of watching the Mets slip out of first and just miss the playoffs in the last week of the season, how is the psyche of Mets fans at this point?
It's battered, but that's nothing new for Mets fans, really. I think fans are optimistic about this year's team, but they're also frustrated by the recent near misses that you pointed out (thanks!). The Mets will have one of the top payrolls in baseball again, and at some point you've gotta start making the playoffs. We can piss and moan all we want about upper management, but the fact is that they've spent plenty of money on this team and the players haven't performed as they should, overall (plenty of individual players have been brilliant). Mets fans don't have the obnoxious sense of entitlement that Yankees fans have, but they probably complain more than is reasonable.
5. Are there any young players we may not know who could make an impact with the big league squad this season? What about in the near future?
The aforementioned Daniel Murphy, who looked good in limited action at the end of 2008. Bobby Parnell won a spot in the bullpen out of Spring Training, but with Putz and Rodriguez in the bullpen you're not likely to see Parnell on ESPN or MLBN anytime soon. Depending on how the outfield picture shakes out the Mets could see top hitting prospect Fernando Martinez at some point this season. He's had some trouble staying healthy in the minors so far but he could definitely be an impact bat within the next few years. Or he could be Wily Mo Pena. Who knows, really?
Thanks Eric for taking the time to answer the questions!