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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Hopeless Optimists Guide to the 2004 New York Mets 

Newspapers and radio is riddled with enough negativity about the Mets that it's about time someone spouted off something positive to start off the season. Might as well be me. If you are one of those self-loathing Mets fans that aren't happy unless you're miserable, stop reading now. If you are one of those stat geeks that aren't happy unless you are pulling some set of arbitrary numbers out of your ass to "prove" how bad the Mets really are, you might want to stop reading now also. If you are in the mood for a heavy dose of hopeless optimism to start off the season, you have come to the right place.

1. Tom Glavine will be much improved and eventually win his 300th game in a Met uniform. Hall of Fame pitchers just don't fall off a cliff in one season and it’s easy to forget that Glavine is only one season removed from a 2.96 ERA and 18 wins. Questec shmestec. Glavine’s strength has always been his smarts and ability to adjust. He’ll adjust to the new Questec era. If you want to read more hopeless optimism about Glavine's opening day start against the Braves, click here.

2. Tyler Yates is nasty. Mid 90 heat combined with several other pitches he can throw for strikes in any count is a filthy combination. But for Kaz Matsui, Yates is your 2004 Rookie of the Year.

3. Sit back, relax, crack open a cold brew (or soda if you are under 21 – the Hot Corner does not advocate underage drinking) and enjoy watching the development of the most gifted and exciting player to come through the Mets organization since Daryl Strawberry. And before you get too comfortable watching any Mets game, be sure to set your Tivo or VCR because Jose Reyes does stuff on the field you will want to stop, rewind and watch a few times just to make sure you saw what you think you just saw.

4. The best player in Japan will soon become the best lead-off hitter in the National League. Kaz Matsui was a huge acquisition for the Mets and while he might struggle to begin the season, just like Hideki Matsui and Ichiro did, Kaz will adjust and tear up the league en route to an All Star appearance and Rookie of the Year honors.

5. The last season Cliff Floyd was relatively healthy and not bouncing around from team to team, he mashed 31 HRs with 103 RBI and a .317/.390/.578 hitting line. Last season the only left fielders to put up comparable numbers were the big three of Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez. Cliff is healthy again and in the middle of a solid batting order. You do the math.

6. Mike Cameron is the X Factor. Never has a player of Cammy’s defensive abilities patrolled the vast amount of real estate that is Shea Stadium’s center field. Mets fans can look forward to a player in blue and orange showing up in Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems every day. But besides his defense, which is a given, Mets fans will be surprised by Cameron’s offense. He is already hitting the cover off the ball in spring training.

7. Ty Wigginton is a hard nosed player the likes of which Mets fans haven’t seen since Lenny Dykstra. Wiggy surprised some people last year by providing decent hot corner defense with a solid bat. Wigginton hurt his shoulder last year but played through it. Before Wiggy’s injury he had a .286 AVG, .377 OBP, .457 SLG. Wiggy is healthy and predicts he will hit 40 doubles and 20 HRs. With David Wright breathing down his neck, Wigginton has some added motivation this year as well.

8. Mike Piazza will become the all time home run king of catchers. There's a reason catchers don't usually hit that well - it's tuff as hell to 1) focus on calling a good game and 2) take a beating behind the plate day-in and day-out and still manage to be an offensive force in the batter’s box. This year, splitting time at first base, Piazza’s bat will be in the line-up more and more importantly, he will be rested and sharper than he usually is. As a DH, not having to concentrate on the rigors of calling a game and taking foul balls off his dome all day long, Piazza is a career .355 hitter with an OBP of .400 and has slugged .627. A fresh Piazza is a productive Piazza.

9. Scott Erickson’s wife is hot. Really hot. She might even go to some games at Shea. We’ll get to see her in person! She is hot.

10. Jason Phillips has the coolest goggles in baseball. If we could only combine John Olerud’s first basemen’s helmet, Kaz Matsui's orange mullet, and Piazza's beard with Phillip’s goggles, we would have the coolest looking first basemen in the game.

11. Art Howe will make sure the team “battles” every game.

12. Karim Garcia will surprise us all by not beating up any grounds crew members or pizza deliver boys. Garcia will further surprise us by not urinating in the parking lot behind the picnic area at Shea and will instead use the men’s room in the club house.

13. The Mets can use an upgrade in right field. The Mets have lots of money. The Mets have said that if they are “in it” at some point around the trading deadline, they will make a move. Carlos Beltran and Maglio Ordonez are in their walk years. Hhmmm.

14. Every year the nay sayers argue that Al Leiter is too old to get it done and every year he posts solid numbers. Last season was no exception as he finished the season with 15 wins and a sub 4 ERA. If not for a slow start and an injury, Leiter’s numbers would be even better. Leiter will put together a season that looks closer to his second half totals last year when he posted a stellar 2.15 ERA after the All Star break.

15. There has been a mass exodus of talent from the NL East. Other than the Phillies and of course the Mets, every other team has taken several steps backwards. This division will be competitive but it is very much wide open.

If you think I have missed other positive things we can look forward to this season, step up to the plate in the comment section below. Remember, it' opening day so what better time to get our hopes up and be irrational.
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