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Sounding the Alarm

Maybe it's a little late. Maybe it's a little early. I'm not quite sure about anything, except the fact that the Mets haven't been very good at all in Spring Training.

The team, as evidenced in Marty Noble's article on MLB.com, where he indicated the veteran Mets just aren't feeli"ng the magic of last year returning to the team this year.

As a fan, I tend to agree. The cautious optimism I had last year, forecasting the Mets to win it all, is lost. I struggle to make preseason predictions, for the most part because I fear the effect of a Mets bias.

What is this team capable of. On some level, we really won't be able to know until they play some games. In fact, they have to play a lot of games. However, there are immediate problems.

Last year, it was okay to worry about Darren Oliver going into the season. He happened to be arguably the Mets' best pitcher the first half of the season, and Duaner Sanchez had a great first half setting up closer Billy Wagner, and the Mets vaulted out to an early lead.

Wright and Delgado were on 50-homer clips, and everything seemed so perfect, despite the borderline horrendous starting pitching. The issue surrounding this Mets team is high expectations coupled with abysmal spring results. 10-20-1 is a sorry excuse for a record, even when the guys blowing the games are Hall of Fame caliber pitchers like Jon Adkins and Clint Nageotte.

Adkins blew another game yesterday, further cementing his status as very undesirable trade bait. Unfortunately, the relief pitching has been bad and the offense from our aging corner outfielders, catcher, and backup first baseman has been considerably worse.

The popular refrain is to hit David Wright second now, based at least in part on Paul lo Duca's likely regression and his spring struggles. Maybe Wright will be a good second hitter, even if it does sap his power.

But then take a look at the bottom of the order. Jose Valentin and his .184/.238/.395 line of September is likely to return to the field. Shawn Green and Moises Alou have looked totally slow and unready this spring. Can we worry?

The Mets' lineup of yesteryear thrived as a murderer's row. They would come back against weak bullpens in tight games, while their own strong relief corps held down the fort.

This year, the Braves' bullpen will clearly challenge the Mets' for supremacy in the NL East. Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez are strong additions, and the Braves also have Blaine Boyer coming back from surgery. Factor in that this might be the year that Joey Devine puts it alltogether, and that Lance Cormier has a 3-0 record and a 1.15 ERA this spring and even former Met farmhand Steve Colyer is doing well, we should worry about our ability to come back in games.

There's no more Chris Reitsma in ATL. I'm not quite as scared of the Phillies, to be honest, because their bullpen is awful and their starting rotation only marginally better. Ryan Howard is likely to regress, and as I have pointed out before, they will have Rod Barajas, Wes Helms, and Shane Victorino in their everyday lineup.

Opening Day will come soon, and with it will come a clean slate. The Mets will take to the new-ish Busch stadium, toasting near-felon Tony La Russa while the Cardinals fans take home obnoxious relics of a World Series due only to Yadier Molina's lucky homer.

Tom Glavine will start for the Mets on that night, as per usual during his tenure here, save for 2005. Then we can see what this team is truly capable of.

For now, wake me up when March ends.

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