Monday, April 19, 2010

Link: A Season of Unexpected Pleasures

A truly great article by Howard Megdal today:
On the eve of the season, I had the Mets at 73-89. And that still seems about right to me. Simply put, assuming greatness (or even goodness) from a team that prepared to begin the season with Gary Matthews, Mike Jacobs and Alex Cora in the starting lineup, and with the return of both Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran uncertain, struck me as optimism bordering on foolishness.

So what's been enjoyable about the first twelve games?

* * *

For one thing, the starting pitcher is fascinating to me nearly every time out. In the case of Santana, the reason is obvious: the visceral joy of watching Santana pitch. With Mike Pelfrey, it has been the joy of seeing a truly decent guy get his third pitch (a splitter) working.

In the case of Oliver Perez, it has been the chance to watch someone reinvent himself. Absent that plus-plus fastball, Perez has become a pitcher of many tricks, with a cutter and change mixing with an above average heater and tremendous slider and slow slider (acts like a curveball). And Jon Niese gives every indication that he is growing into a strong rotation member as well (provided he doesn't need to pitch regularly in Colorado, where the altitude is kryptonite to his curveball).

Even John Maine is compelling, in a car accident sort of way. I feel for him. Clearly, he's simply physically unable to throw the fastball that got him to the Major Leagues. But to see him last night, pitching for his job, was an absolutely fascinating spectacle.

And I haven't even mentioned the unexpected pleasure of seeing Jeff Francoeur repeatedly work out a walk. Frankly, even the 2-0 counts are still new and exciting.

I think that gets to the heart of it, frankly. The joy of baseball lies in the unexpected pleasures.

* * *

But from this angle, here in 2010, the only things that can happen unexpectedly are good ones. Should the Mets rally and challenge for a playoff spot in 2010, it will be surprising. That the team seems ready to move on from the ridiculous notion of starting Matthews and Mike Jacobs so soon is a type of dexterity seldom seem in recent years by the organization.
Well said, all of it. Howard Medgal really nails it. I don't know where he came from but he's got to be one of the best in the business right now, and is worth reading just about every time out.

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