To help get to know a little bit more about our current opponent, the Mets, I sat down to talk with both Jason and Greg from the outstanding Mets blog, Faith and Fear in Flushing. They brand themselves the blog for Mets fans who like to read, and you'll see why in this interview, which very well may be the best one we've had yet on The Nats Blog. Great stuff here:
The Nats Blog: My dad grew up a Mets fan, each year since 2006 he has said it was their year, but each year ends up being worse than the last. Why will this be the year the Mets make it back to the playoffs? Or will they?
GREG: Where did your dad go wrong in letting you slip away to a division rival? But seriously, this will not be the year the Mets get back to the playoffs. There is not nearly enough starting pitching and not a whole lot of relief pitching and, until Beltran and Reyes are back for good and playing like the Beltran and Reyes they have been, this is a lineup only intermittently informed by offense. In a best-case scenario, this will be a transition year for the Mets, wherein the three core stars, including Wright, get back on track; Bay fits in; Francoeur finds consistency; Ike Davis is called up; and Luis Castillo finds a new and rewarding career in the field of home electronics repair. They still need pitching beyond Johan, Feliciano and Frankie, however, and I've yet to detect any sign of it.
JASON: If everything breaks right, the Mets could sneak into the postseason. But it's famously said that luck is the residue of design, and I don't have a lot of faith in the current designers. Over the last couple of years Omar and Co. haven't just had buzzards' luck -- they've misread markets, evaluated players poorly and seemingly done no investigation into players' abilities beyond gut feelings. I don't trust the Mets' baseball-operations folks to make the right moves that would let everything break right for this team. That said, I think the 2011 club could potentially be a very good one, if some young players and prospects keep developing and the core veterans return to health and form. Granted, that's a lot of ifs, but baseball fans live on a steady diet of hopeful ifs.
TNB: What do you think about what Omar Minaya has done with the team in the last four years?
GREG: A war crimes tribunal might be too strong a tack to take, but I think Omar has destroyed a team he played a major hand in building. If we were having this conversation four years ago, I would have been singing the GM's praises to high heaven, so take this with a shaker of salt, but in retrospect, I wonder how much of what he did right was grab the Wilpon checkbook and not let go. In his first two seasons, he signed or traded for five key high-priced players: Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner and Paul Lo Duca. The Mets got out of them what remained to be gotten; except for Beltran, they were all essentially short-term buys, but it worked. Omar's other genius was detecting value in players others were ready to ignore or discard: Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin, Julio Franco, John Maine, Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver, Oliver Perez. All of them clicked in '06, fewer of them were clicking in '07, only Maine and Perez remain (neither particularly clickable) and almost nobody Omar has brought in around the edges since '06 has made the kind of impact those guys made when they got here. So while your dad has kept the faith since 2006, Omar has been letting him down steadily.
JASON: I heard a critique of Omar that he does pretty well with high-value players and bit players, but is bad at finding the right full-time players to complement the stars. That struck me as about right. The deals for Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez are hideous examples -- huge amounts of money over a lot of years for a guy who's a liability and a guy who's so erratic as to be completely untrustworthy. Omar also showed distressing signs of losing track of the basics last year: He seemed to have forgotten that Johan Santana had had an elbow scare in spring training, which is amazing, and the Adam Rubin contretemps was astonishing and awful. This seems to have continued in the offseason: It was reported that Joel Pineiro -- who would have slotted very nicely into the starting rotation -- wanted to come to New York but couldn't get the Mets to pay attention to him because they were so busy working on Jason Bay. You can't multitask at that basic a level? I don't know if whatever happened was a problem with Omar, or ownership hamstrung him, or what, but it was a sure sign that something's broken.
TNB: How does Citi Field compare to Shea?