“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon” – Napolean Bonaparte
The Mets were supposed to be the cellar dwellars of the divison, but jumped out of the gate sweeping the rival Braves. Apparently no one told the Mets they weren’t supposed to win. One reason for their hot start is the return of staff ace Johan Santana. The former Cy Young winner missed all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery. It looks like the bionic arm the doctors gave him is working as he has an ERA below 1 in his first two starts.
One player the Phillies might be able to avoid in the series is third baseman David Wright. Wright fractured his pinkie against the Nationals, and his return is still up in the air. Not only is Wright the face of the franchise, he is the only intimidating bat in the Mets lineup. When the team comes down to earth don’t be shocked to see Wright’s name wind up on the rumor mill. If only the Phillies needed an all star third baseman in his prime who hits right handed…
Player to Watch: OF/IF Lucas Duda
Ignoring his hilarious last name, Duda has provided early power for the Mets. He launched two home runs against the Braves last Saturday that still haven’t landed. His overall stat line won’t knock your socks off, but he did post an .852 OPS in about 300 at bats last year. Duda’s power is sorely needed on a Mets team that is void of a major slugger. He’s not an all-star, but given the chance to play for an entire season could put up solid numbers. Think John Mayberry Jr. from the left side.
Most Hated Met: R.A. Dickey
Who throws a Knuckleball anymore, honestly? The art of the dancing pitch has been mastered by a select few, but you can add Dickey to the list. With Tim Wakefield out of baseball someone had to take the torch as the lone knuckle-baller. I have to tip my cap to him, as he has had sustained success over the past two years. Unfortunately, most of that success has come at the expense of the Phillies. There is nothing more frustrating than watching Phillies hitters swinging at air as his knuckleball wobbles into the dirt. Like most knuckleballers the rest of his pitches are mediocre at best. Hopefully bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer has been able to throw some knuckleballs in batting practice or else expect more of the same against Dickey.
Fansided Perspective: I threw some questions out into the world wide web and Rising Apple writer Matt Musico answered them.
1) How long will the Mets be able to hold onto first place in this bizzaro version of the NL East?
It has been bizarre for sure; I figured the Mets would win on Opening Day (because they normally do), but I wasn’t expecting them to be playing this well this early into the season. I think that they can hold onto first longer than analysts think. I’m usually bad at predicting behaviors, but I’ll say that until Howard and/or Utley return to the lineup, which could be May-ish, the Mets have a decent chance to hold onto first. However, we all know that baseball is a funny game, so we’ll see how things shape out, especially with New York going on the road for the first time this year.
2) The Phillies have struggled with R.A. Dickey in the past, is his knuckleball legit or just smoke and mirrors?
His Knuckleball is definitely legit. What makes him different from a prototypical Knuckleballer is that he can change the speeds of the pitch according to the situation, and he mixes in his fastball more often than most I’ve seen. In his first start against the Braves, he close to 30 fastballs out of his approximately 90 pitches; that’s a heck of a lot of fastballs for someone who’s primary pitch is a knuckleball. Finally, what makes his pitch legitimate is the fact that he’s only been throwing it for about five years. Even though he’s 37 years old and has been in the league for about 10 years, the knuckleball is at its height of effectiveness, and he can combine it with the wisdom he’s gained over his years in the MLB. There aren’t many knuckleballers that can throw the pitch like he can right now and think the way he can.
3) With the Mets financial problems well documented, will I have to spend $15 for a shake shack burger and $20 for a bud light when i go to Citi Field?
You know what, I’m not sure since I haven’t gotten a chance to head down to Citi just yet. To be honest, shake shack burgers are the best burgers I’ve ever had, so I would actually pay that to get it, especially since fans normally wait a good 45 minutes in line. If I was in line that long, I would shell out the money. As for a brewski, I’m hoping they didn’t increase the $8 price, which is a bargain compared to what they’re charging at Yankee stadium. The financial problems are well documented, like you said, but with all of the ticket deals they’ve been advertising, like the $2.50 seats for the Johan-Strasburg matchup, $22 for a seat, a hamburger, and fries, etc etc. I think the Wilpons are more concerned with getting fans to the ballpark than anything else. If they keep winning and keep offering these crazy deals, they will come.
San Francisco Giants: 2-4 (4/16-4/18)
The Giants have had a rough start to the season. They were swept by the rival, and defending division champion, Diamondbacks in the desert. To add insult to injury star catcher Buster Posey is out with shingles. I had to look up the illness, but it is not pretty. According to the fear mongering website Webmd.com, Shingles comes in the form of a skin rash that is caused by a virus. The Phillies would be wise to stay clear of Posey in warm ups, who knows how contagious this kid is. The last thing this clubhouse needs is a viral outbreak. With Posey quarantined for an unspecified amount of time the Giants lineup will be much less imposing for the Phillies staff.
Player to Watch: 3B/1B Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval
I never understood why someone would embrace a nickname given to him for his rotundity. Sandoval and the Giants fans have run with it, and he has responded with a hot start. The Panda is hitting .381 with an OPS of 1.268. Every ball being pitched to him must look like a giant Godiva chocolate straight from the factory, as he is devouring everything thrown his way. Sandoval’s physique is in large part due to his parents, who are major food distributors in his home country of Venezuela. I look forward to my mother’s home cooking when i go home, but Pablo takes it to a whole new level. His hot start is a good indication that he learned some restraint at the dinner table in the off-season, Phillies pitchers be warned.
Most Hated Giant: RHP Tim Lincecum(and his hair)
The wiry right hander has quickly become one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League. At the age of 27 he has already earned two Cy Young awards and a World Series (at the Phillies expense no less). What makes Lincecum so insufferable is his attitude, manifested by his long flowing locks. This is not a knock on his competitiveness, or even his history of dropping the f-bomb on national TV. It’s the long flowing hair, plain and simple. I feel like my grandfather scolding some young hippies for not cutting their hair, which only makes it worse. My wish for Lincecum is that he wind up with the Yankees down the road so that he is forced to adhere to a stricter code of barbery.
Fansided Perspective: 1-on-1 with Bryan Rosa, editor for Around the Foghorn.
1) Is Hector Sanchez really the answer to all of Barry Zito’s problems?
Well, Zito and Sanchez do have a small history as Sanchez caught Zito a bit in AAA and in Single-A San Jose during some of his rehab stints. In addition to the small history, they do seem to be on the same page (at least currently) as it pertains to game calling. Zito is a guy that normally calls his own game, but, Sanchez called the Colorado game and Zito said he only shook off about five times all game, so they’re certainly on the same wave length. That said, Sanchez can only do so much. If Zito is going to succeed, it’s going to be because of himself. During the start in Colorado, Zito’s arm slot was very repetitive, something he worked on when the Giants left him in Arizona post-Spring to work on the upgraded delivery mechanics. Barry’s a tough read – he did look really good, but I think everybody is looking for a good month or so from Zito. He’s notorious for a good two or three game stretch of starts, but starting the season off on the right foot certainly helps. But given his history, there’s plenty of reason for apprehension across the board.
2) Everyone and their mother has picked the D-Backs to win the NL West, should the Giants give up and play for the wild-card?
Honestly, I don’t think so and I don’t say that as a homer. The Giants offense is upgraded – by no stretch perfect, but, they have the ability to manufacture runs (unlike past years) and at least currently, look healthy outside of Freddy Sanchez (who is apparently going to AAA Fresno to begin a rehab stint). Despite the early season oddities, we all know their strengths are pitching and defense, so assuming they can put runs on the board – they’re going to be in the mix for the NL West, no doubt. Much like most teams, it’s going to depend on health. If the Giants have injury issues up and down the lineup as they did last year, they’re going to have trouble competing for a playoff spot (let alone the West), but if they stay relatively healthy – they’re going to be right there with the D’Backs for the NL West title.
3) Which is more popular by the bay, Kung fu panda hats or Brian Wilson fake beards?
Ha – that’s a tight race! I’d probably have to go with Panda hats, but the Beard is nipping on those heels – or, maybe paws? The Panda hats keep you a bit warmer on the cold San Francisco nights as opposed to the foam/fake hair bears. Either way, I know the team store is making serious bank off of both.