Yesterday afternoon, Mark Hale of the New York Post, shared some of his insights with me over the phone about the New York Mets. Mark is the beat writer for the Mets, and his articles are required reading for all Mets fans. He is certainly one of my favorite sports writers. He also has a great Mets Blog. This is the second part of the interview. The first part was posted earlier today.
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Joe – I have to ask you about Lasting Milledge, did he look as good as his spring training numbers would indicate, and do you see him taking over at right field at some point this season?
Mark – I would not be surprised if at some point, and that might be later this month, or in May, or whenever it might be, I would not be surprised if you have Milledge, Ben Johnson, or even a guy like Carlos Gomez starting in right field for the team. It will be interesting to see what happens with Green. I think one of the interesting things to watch is how Green’s leash might be tied into how well the team is playing, regardless of whether he struggles.
I remember there were some cases last year, one of which was with Matsui at the beginning of the season who really wasn’t playing that well, but the team was winning a lot. I seem to remember whenever we’d ask Willie about making any changes or giving some more at bats to Valentin, he was very resistant about making any changes. I think he believes you can hold off on making those types of changes when the team is playing well.
Look, Green could possibly have a really strong year and then it becomes a mute point anyway. The point is that if the team continues to keep winning, they’ll continue to try keeping Green in there for two reasons; number one, maybe he gets it going again and he hits well, and number two, maybe he hits well enough to entice another team to trade for him if the team decides ultimately that they want Milledge playing everyday. They probably hope that Green plays well, and if he does then they’re probably gonna get rid of him. Regardless, I would be surprised if Green went the whole season as the starter in right field.
Joe – I think one of the players I read and hear the least about is Pedro Feliciano. I really love his makeup and he is coming off a superior season last year. This spring he looked even more dominating and I have to ask, is he the real deal and can we be looking at the closer of the future for the Mets?
Mark – Well, I don’t know about the closer aspect of it. I’m not saying he can’t, I just never really thought about him in that kind of a role. He’d be a different kind of closer because he’s not really a hard throwing guy, and it’s hard to envision him or anyone else as a closer because Wagner is still the closer and probably will be for the next couple of years.
But, you know you’re right, he is very, very underrated, and part of that for me is that some of us, including myself, probably have not given him the credit, or publicity, or attention that he deserves. He had a phenomenal season last year, and you’re right he also had a terrific spring. He has really become a guy that if he can have another great season like he did last year, than all of a sudden he becomes one the best lefty setup guys in baseball. He’s become a very, very valuable person for this team and he has become very reliable. You kind of forget about him and then all of a sudden you look up and you say "wow, he hasn’t given up any runs in his last ten outings" or you look at his spring numbers and say "wow, he’s scoreless in ten innings, or whatever it is" and it makes you realize how good he’s been.
Joe – Lets wrap this up with a question on Carlos Beltran. Obviously he’s off to a great start after hitting his first two home runs last night, but it wasn’t long ago that he was showered with boos at Shea Stadium after an injury plagued first season. Last year he turned those jeers into cheers and finished 3rd in the MVP voting after a stellar season. What’s next for Carlos Beltran?
Well, before the season he was my pick for the National League MVP. I wrote something the other day that I would certainly stand by, and I think you could make a very real case that after Pujols, Beltran could be the best all-around player in the game. He has become one of the guys I really enjoy watching.
As I’m thinking about it, let me just say that I love to watch Reyes, and we all like to watch Reyes, he’s so exciting and obviously he has speed and athleticism, but I really enjoy watching Beltran play, especially on a professional level. He just does everything so well. He’s still my pick for MVP, and obviously he’s off to a great start. I mean just in this three games series he has the two home runs, the RBI single, the sacrifice fly, he’s getting on base, and makes a great catch in center field, he steals a base, he’s just a phenomenal player. There’s other players you can talk about and obviously I think Pujols is a clear number one, and then there’s probably a lot of guys that you can make a case for at number two, but for me, I would put Beltran ahead of any of them.
Thanks Mark, I appreciate the time. It was fun and I look forward to speaking to you again soon.