The following is an elaborate spin-off of an essentially live blog entry I wrote in August as the New York Mets bullpen blew a lead for Johan Santana for the sixth time in the 2008 season. Part one/two/three/four/five/six.
The first step is admitting there's a problem.
There, I finally said it.
I wrote an entire article about the 2007 and 2008 New York Mets campaigns without using New Yorkers' least favorite eight-letter "C" word (caffeine and cupcakes being our favorites), but I've finally come to terms with it.
Collapse, collapse, collapse. See? I'm over it.
Why? Because 2009 is here.
We aren't the favorites in the National League East this season (though Mets fans know better), and our friends in the city of brotherly love are getting a little too cocky.
The Braves, Marlins, and Expos...err...Nationals, all think they got better, but none of them are even 85-win teams. It's a two-team race.
The Phillies replaced a right-handed offensive threat with yet another left-handed bat.
These lefties are no slouches—they can hit left-handed pitching, but bunched together in the middle of the lineup—likely with only one right-handed bat squeezed in between them—might make them vulnerable in late innings.
Philadelphia can win 90 games if Cole Hamels stays healthy, Joe Blanton keeps up his facade, and Jamie Moyer continues pitching like a seasoned veteran, not a senior citizen.
The biggest change in the division came in the most glaring weak spot since the 1991 Indianapolis Colts' offense.
Omar Minaya dumped those late-inning 89 mile-per-hour fastballs with earned run averages north of 5.00 for blazing heat with complementing breaking balls that will make Mets fans forget last season quicker than you can say "Aaron Heilman."
J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez anchor a revamped Mets bullpen which, despite the high expectations, really only needs to keep the total blown saves under 29 to be statistically considered an improvement.
Considering the aforementioned middle of the Phillies lineup, it would be beneficial to have a second left-handed specialist in addition to Pedro Feliciano. Ron Villone isn't the answer.
Putz and K-Rod can get lefties out, but they aren't coming in the game in the fifth, sixth, or seventh innings to get crucial outs. If the starter ducks out early, the middle innings could still be a weakness.
As for starters, the media has tried to scare Mets fans this month with the whole Johan Santana arm drama.
Don't buy it. He says he'll be fine? He'll be fine.
Mike Pelfrey struggled in 2006, 2007, and early 2008, but really turned the corner last May. As soon as he figures out how to beat the Marlins, he'll be a legit No. 2 without the pressure of having to pitch in the second spot.
Speaking of legit No. 2s, John Maine and Oliver Perez both turn 28 this year. The Mets have a great set of young starters who are only getting better.
Not having a fifth starter should bother Mets fans a little. Pedro looked great for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Just throwing it out there. There's no reason to trust any of the three currently vying for the No. 5 spot.
Questions looming in Port St. Lucie pertaining to the offense include how Carlos Delgado will fare this season, how long Luis Castillo will stay healthy, and whether or not Daniel Murphy is the real deal.
If Delgado gives the Mets 140 games, 25 home runs, 100 RBI, and a .260 average, we can chalk one up in the win column.
Anything Castillo gives us is an added bonus. Expectations are so low outside of the actual organization, nothing would surprise fans more than a healthy, productive season.
Did you see Murphy at the plate last year? The kid's a pro. Don't worry about him. Fernando Tatis will be ready if Murphy struggles early.
David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran—stay healthy. Do your thing. Ryan Church and Brian Schneider need to stay healthy, too, but the team's success doesn't rely on them as much as the big three.
The bench is always up in the air. It just boils down to what kind of season those guys are having. The biggest foreseeable problem with the bench could also be an asset.
There are a lot of left-handed bats available late for the Mets, but aside from Tatis, there isn't an impact bat from the right side of the plate.
Jerry Manuel and his staff worked wonders when they took over last June. Here's to hoping they can get the Mets off to a quick start and finish stronger than they did last season.
Let's stay healthy, boys. If we do, in less than eight months, life won't be so brutal anymore.