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Q&A: Mets Beat Writer Gives Spring Insight

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 04, 2008 05:13 AM | Comments: 16
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I had a nice phone conversation Feb. 25 with Anthony DiComo, beat writer for the New York Mets at MLB.com. It’s the first of what will be a series of Q&As with DiComo throughout the 2008 season, so we can get a solid glimpse into the world of our chief rivals, the New York Metropolitians.

DiComo answered questions about the Johan Santana deal, the resurgence of Moises Alou and Duaner Sanchez, young standouts and the key to the 2008 Mets offense.

PHILLIES NATION: How confident are the Mets right now?

DICOMO: Every team, from best to worst, has confidence. But the Mets have a lot of confidence, and they wouldn’t have to throw a pitcher out there to get it. They have arguably the best confidence in the game, you can see it just in the clubhouse demeanor.

Are you surprised by Carlos Beltran’s retort to Jimmy Rollins?

I’m not surprised that someone came out and said it. I’m surprised that he’s the guy who did it.

Has the collapse been discussed in the clubhouse?

Willie Randolph made it a point [the first week of camp] to say he hasn’t addressed his players about last year. … He said on multiple occasions there’s nothing he needs to say. Everyone knows they have to deal with it; if that’s not motivation enough I don’t think it’s anything more.

If the Mets fail to make the playoffs in 2008, is Willie Randolph fired?

You know, it’s really tough to say. There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ that can happen from now until October. People thought he could’ve lost his job after last year and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think he should’ve. Everything depends on what happens this year. Say Johan Santana gets hurt in the middle of the year, is that Willie Randolph’s fault?

Directly after the collapse last year there was a thought that somebody has to pay for this. Really, no one did. They kept the team largely in tact. It’s good from the coaches’ perspectives that the front office has confidence.

What was the biggest concern for the Mets going into the offseason?

The rotation. They lost Tom Glavine; say what you want about the guy at the end of the season, but he was the most consistent pitcher all year and gave them double-digit wins. But they pretty quickly turned that concern into a strength when they signed Santana.

Did you think the Johan Santana deal was a win for the Mets?

When I read the deal it almost seemed like robbery. They didn’t give up anyone that they would consider ‘elite.’ They knew Carlos Gomez would develop into a big hitter; Fernando Martinez looks like he can be something special. His numbers don’t pop off the sheet but you have to realize, he’s played as the youngest player in every level. The fact they didn’t give up those guys was a good job by Omar Minaya.

How does Pedro Martinez look this early in the spring?

He looks as good now as I’ve seen him [before]. … He’s kind of transformed himself as a pitcher, where he still has some life on his fastball, but he’s a pitcher now. He knows how to work counts, work batters. Regardless of if the Mets think he’s an ace, they have Santana around, and that takes a ton of pressure off him. I don’t think there are any questions about health anymore, which is the biggest thing.

How does Mike Pelfrey compute into the Mets Opening Day plans?

If Pelfrey has a lights-out spring, I would be surprised to see him in the Opening Day rotation. … [Last year] there’s no question he put pressure on himself. He could spend another year in AAA again; obviously he’d rather be in the Majors, but I don’t think there’s pressure on the Mets that they need him. If he needs another year or half year in the minors I think they’ll be perfectly content with El Duque.

Duaner Sanchez missed 2007, so is he ready to come back and perform in 2008?

I’d say Pedro Martinez looks good. But Duaner Sanchez looks unbelievable. His fastball looks unbelievable, his changeup has life on it. There was a ton of concern because here’s a guy who’s coming off major surgeries and hasn’t pitched since 2006. But not only does it give them obviously the best setup and closing [tandem] in the league, it shortens the game. You got [Aaron] Heilman, [Pedro] Feliciano, Sanchez and of course, Billy Wagner. … With four parts like that, it’d be tough to match.

Are there any concerns about Billy Wagner after ending the 2007 season so poorly?

There’s always concern when guys are blowing games. He was remarkable until early August and then he dropped off. He can’t throw 100 miles an hour anymore, but he’s a guy who’s trying to refine his game. He’s adding a curveball to his repertoire. And he’s going to the windup instead of the stretch all the time. He’s going to need to adapt if he wants to stay in the league. I’m not worried about him at all.

Any prospects or Minor Leaguers who could reach the Opening Day roster? Anyone surprising you?

Eddie Kunz has a great fastball. He can project right to the Majors quickly. You’ll probably see him in September if nothing else.

And [Fernando] Martinez is in camp, and he looks like he has the tools. He says that we’re going to see him this year. But the thing with the Mets is there are so few jobs to be won. Backup for the middle infielders, fifth starter, and one spot in the back of the bullpen that’s probably going to be Matt Wise or [Steven Register]. If these youngsters have brilliant springs they won’t make the team anyways.

Could Fernando Martinez reach the Major Leagues before September 1?

Right now they have three great outfielders in Beltran, Alou and Church — he can hit lefties consistently. They have Endy Chavez, who is one of the better fourth outfielders in the game, and they have Angel Pagan. The fifth outfielder role is definitely his.

I’d be shocked if Martinez made the team out of camp, but it wouldn’t be out of the question. They’d be much more inclined to take non-roster guys like Ben Johnson. And they have Marlon Anderson and Damion Easley, who could play outfield. I don’t think they’re going to rush [Martinez].

You wrote early in the Spring about the resurgence of Moises Alou. What’s changed about him, and what could go right with him?

Last year, he looked and sounded like one of the most disappointed players when the Mets lost out. There was talk he’d retire, but I didn’t think he would retire because he had such an incredible September.

The thing with him is always his health. If they get 400 at bats out of him they’ll be thrilled, and that’s why it’s important they have that outfield depth. When hes healthy, he’s one of the best hitters in the game. He can turn on a fastball like a 22-year-old kid.

As a veteran, is Alou as a clubhouse leader?

That was kind of a big issue last year: ‘Where is this leadership coming from?’ You can’t expect David Wright to do it, or Jose Reyes. You can’t expect Moises Alou to do it [because it was his first season with the Mets]. A lot of guys looked to [Carlos] Delgado, who said ‘I lead by example.’

That’s why it’s interesting that Beltran [spoke up]. Maybe he’ll step up and be the vocal leader for this team. If you look at the complexion, you have a good mix of the older guys — Delgado and Alou — and younger guys like Wright and Reyes, who are both 24 but both veterans, too. It’s a clubhouse where you kind of know the direction they’re going into.

Who is the key to the Mets offense this season?

The key to the offense absolutely is Carlos Delgado. He had a very disappointing season by his standards. He’s at the age where you have to say, ‘Was that a fluke or can he have another season like that?’

If he can hit 30 home runs and in the high .200s in the middle of the lineup, that really changes the dynamic of the offense. He takes it from a very good lineup to an extremely good lineup.”

Jayson Stark, when writing about the Phillies-Mets rivalry, said the teams will brawl at some point in 2008. From what you’ve seen, is that possible?

I don’t think it’s the type of thing where they’re going to start brawling on the field. I think the Mets have to respect the Phillies — they won the division last year. What matters is what happens on the field. Until the mets get a chance again they have to respect that, and the Phillies have to respect the mets. It’s going to be fun, but I don’t think there’s any bad blood on a personal level.

Avatar of Tim Malcolm

About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1947 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Cheese

    What a surprise – everything’s just peachy keen in Queens and Randolph hasn’t even addressed last year’s collapse.

    The funniest part – “They have arguably the best confidence in the game, you can see it just in the clubhouse demeanor.” Really??? I’d like to have that argument…

     
  • Posts: 0 chris.I

    From what I gathered..Martinez, Hernandez, and Pelfrey all have some sort of pitching injuries. I can’t see Martinez coming back and making a impact this year anyway.

     
  • Posts: 0 Rob

    After Sanatana, it is 4 question marks in a row

     
  • Posts: 0 xfactor

    Thanks for the post, Tim. Makes me feel much better about the Phillies. How can the Mets be the most confident bunch in the league when they still have leadership issues? And Endy Chaevz is one of the better 4th outfielders in the game? This guy is drinking all the Kool Aid in the punch bowl.

     
  • Posts: 0 chris.I

    Whats wrong with Santana? I never heard that one yet

     
  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    I should’ve questioned DiComo about Chavez being a good fourth outfielder, and I thought about that after he said that.

    But nothing’s wrong with Santana; moreover, Pedro looks to be completely healthy and ready to go, by all indications. He does have a foot problem, but it’s very minor. El Duque, meanwhile, is having more trouble with his foot.

    The Mets are banged up, much moreso than the Phillies, but it’s nothing completely worrisome quite yet.

     
  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    Also, I need to reitterate this conversation happened Feb. 25, before the Church and Delgado problems and before some of the nicks surfaced. I waited to post this because of the first few games and the Hamels stuff.

     
  • Posts: 0 rob

    I’ll preface this by saying that – as a Met fan – there are a lot of things that Anthony DiComo said that I don’t agree with. Just off the top of my head, Church and Alou are not great hitting outfielders. For an outfielder, Church is barely a “good” hitter, and Alou is virtually powerless. He hits like an infielder now. Endy Chavez is a fantastic sub, but loses his value tremndously if he has to play everyday. Not enough pop to be an everyday outfielder. There’s a host of other things as well.

    However…

    since when did it become so outrageous for a Met fan to be optimistic about his 88 win team, but totally appropriate for Phillie fans to be over the moon about their 89 win team?

    The Phillies lost their 4th best offensive player, added a platoon outfielder, a replacement level closer, and inserted Brett Myers into the rotation, and now they’re riding the J-Roll express to 100 wins and a division title?

    But the Mets add Santana, Pedro and Sanchez to a team that pitched to nearly an 8.00 era during their 3 week collapse, and they haven’t made up that 1 game yet?

    Ok.

    Cool.

     
  • Posts: 0 xfactor

    Met fan Rob:

    In case you forgot, the Phillies did everything they could in April to give the Mets the division. So if you erase the Mets collapse you also have to erase the Phillies April.

    All the talk means nada. And no, you still haven’t made up that game because the season ran out on you. There’s no way the Mets can be more confident than the Phillies because we torched you 8 straight times to steal your lunch when it mattered most.

    This is going to be a great season and a great three-way race. If we can agree on anything with Mets fans, it’s “beat the Braves”.

     
  • Posts: 0 chris m

    Alou, Church, and Beltran are 3 GREAT outfielders? They have 2 average outfielders and 1 pretty good outfielder. (Even though Beltran is an overated fielder as they found out agianst the Phillies when he lost that one game by himself.) This guy is a joke, I don’t even want read him agian so please don’t have this bonehead on agian.

     
  • Posts: 0 rob

    xfactor – First off, let me summarize the importance of confidence in baseball.

    Were the Mets confident when they left Philly after getting waxed in a 4 game series?

    No way.

    Yet, within a blink of an eye, they started winnig again and their lead went back up to 7, thanks in large part to the ultra-confident Phillies dropping a bunch of games they shouldn’t have.

    Were the Phillies confident when they were down by 7 with 17 to play?

    Of course not.

    But 3 weeks later…they were division champs!!!

    Were the Phillies confident after pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in divisional history?

    Of course they were!

    Confident enough to promptly get swept by the Rockies.

    So yes…let’s talk about who is the more confident team. Its very important!

    Lets deal with the tangibile.

    Nowhere did I say that we should erase the Mets final three weeks of ’07 in handicapping this race. What I did say is they pitched horribly in that stretch, and they addressed that, and likley in a big way.

    I’m simply surprised by many Phillie fans’ dimissal of the Mets. I suppose all it takes is a one game margin to alter the universe.

    That’s ok…we’ll play ball soon and Madsen will pitch lights out, Hamels will become the 20 game winner this site predicts him to be, Lidge will close 90 % of his save opps, Rollins and Utley will both put up repeat career years, Howard will return to ’06 form, Victorino will make you all say “Aaron who?”, Feliz will be reborn in Citizen’s, and JC Romero will spin a sub 2.00 era all year long. All on the way to 100 wins and a division title, validating J-Roll’s roll as hardball prophet.

    It’s in the blogs…I mean stars.

     
  • Posts: 0 tom

    to say that mlb.com writers drink their team’s kool aid is a vast understatement, you could change the team name and the player names to the nationals and marlins and this interview would read exactly the same

     
  • Posts: 0 Mike

    Utley did not have a career year last year. He’s that type of player, and will be that type of player, year in and year out. Not to mention he missed 1 month, so he’ll certainly pick up more HR, RBI, and R. And you dbags were the ones saying that Rollins had a career year in 06. How’d that work out in 07? I forget.

    I’m always baffled by aholes who go to opposing teams message boards to make posts. I go to this site to get excited about the season with fellow Phillies fans, not idiots from Queens. Worry about your own team on your own boards. Jesus. It’ll all settle itself out on the field anyway.

     
  • Posts: 0 dan

    Sorry Rob, but at the end of the season, it’s not a matter of winning or losing one game anymore. The Phillies won the pennant and the Mets fell short. In any sport, it makes no difference how much they lost by. They just lost. You can argue as much as you want about how much Santana will make up for your team but until it actually happens, your talk doesn’t mean jack. The Phillies are division champs until they lose that title.

     
  • Posts: 0 Sebastian

    Let’s also keep in mind that the Phillies were decimated in every way imaginable last year with injuries. I think we had more minor leaguers pitch for us than the Blueclaws! Additionally, Howard has to have an upswing this season (doin’ alright in Florida), maybe Burrell can spark it up again, Utley is consistently great, Victorino is a superior fielder to Rowand (and he won’t endanger himself and the rest of the team, a la The Collision and The Collision part Deux) and really, how much can we possibly think Rollins is going to slide?

    100 wins is a lot, but I’m certain we’ve got more coming our way this year than last. Hell, we may even pull off a winning April!

     
  • Posts: 0 true mets fan

    Im a diehard met fan but the guy that wrote church can hit lefties is an idiot, thats church’s biggest problem and the mets biggest issue while facing lefties (hamels) he made some good points but the bottom line is staying healthy, and playing better against the phils, and not blowing games (wagner) it should be a fun year.

     
 
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