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The 2008 New York Mets are looking to put last season's historic collapse of blowing a 7 game lead with 17 games remaining behind them. With the addition of 2 time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to the Mets rotation they are well on their way.
Such an improvement to the Mets already suspect pitching staff is welcome by all Mets players and fans. It even prompted normally quiet CF Carlos Beltran to predict, "I have no doubt that we're going to win in our division."
Offseason The Mets had the best offseason in the NL East thanks to GM Omar Minaya's ability to trade for Santana without breaking up the lineup or parting ways with the Mets number 1 prospect, Fernando Martinez. The Mets also acquired RF Ryan Church and C Brian Schneider from the Washington Nationals. Johan was the major addition, but the guys acquired for Lastings Milledge will have key roles. Church has good gap power and is a decent option in right field. Schneider hit just .235 last season but is a top notch defensive catcher.
Depth The front-line players are talented, but they're aging and injuries could be a factor. If so, the Mets are in trouble. They have no quality backup for 1B Carlos Delgado, and their outfield depth -- Endy Chavez and Angel Pagan are the backups -- is shaky. That's a big concern given LF Moises Alou's injury history and Ryan Church's struggles against lefties.
Pitching Pedro Martinez had success in the five games he started in 2007, going 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA, and there's no reason to believe that Martinez can't put up those numbers over the course of a whole season if he can stay healthy. Middle of the roation guys, John Maine and Oliver Perez, put up nearly identical numbers in 2007, both going 15-10 with ERAs of 3.91 and 3.56, respectively. Orlando Hernandez gives the Mets a nice veteran presence at the back end of the rotation, but, like Martinez, El Duque is injury-prone.
Bullpen Getting to Closer Billy Wagner will be the Mets' number one concern. While Wagner is lights out in the ninth, only blowing 5 save opportunities in 2007, the 8th inning will be the difference maker. Righties Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman will compete for the 8th with lefty Pedro Feliciano. Jorge Sosa is a solid long reliever but likely won't see time in the later innings. Joe Smith should improve off the good rookie season he had in 2007 and gives manager Willie Randolph an extra option for a late-inning matchup as his funky delivery makes him a perfect candidate to get out exclusively righties.
Line-up The Mets' first four batters - Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran - are a manager's dream. But after them, Willie Randolph's nightmares emerge. A declining Carlos Delgado, who has seem his number drop significantly over the past 2 seasons (batting average fell from .301 to .258, home runs from 33 to 24) will bat 5th. He will turn 36 this season. Moises Alou batted .349 in 87 games last season but he turns 42 this season. He can't stay off the disabled list and won't be expected to bat .349 for an entire season. The Mets do have one of the games best pinch hitters in Marlon Anderson who is tied for the NL record with 17 pinch hits in one season.