Saturday, April 28, 2007

NL East Thoughts

In a season in which many landmarks and records are at stake- Tom Glavine closes on 300 wins, several players are approaching 500 home runs or 3,000 hits, and Bonds within easy reach of the all time home run record- one record that stands to be broken has not gotten that much attention: during Spring training, everyone liked the Nationals chances to break the Met’s single season record of 120 losses.

As a point of nostalgia and pride, it is the duty of every Met’s fan to hope that the loss record stays with the franchise, and to wish the Nationals well (we wouldn’t be Met’s fans if we found nothing appealing about an underdog). The terrible early years are a crucial part of franchise lore, and if the 1962 team were to stop being measurably the worst of all time, some of the magic would be taken away. It seems that the current team shares my nostalgia.

Fortunately, as of now, the Nationals are not on pace to threaten that record (they actually are currently posting a wining percentage only thirty-three points behind the Yankees)- but they are still a pretty awful baseball team. And while I appreciate the efforts that the 2007 Mets are making to protect the ’62 loss record, they have to move on from that and start beating the Nationals mercilessly.

One of the things that tells against the Nationals, is that, other than themselves, the division has the potential to be fairly competitive- certainly far more competitive than it was last year. The Marlins are probably not going to take anything, but they have an interesting mix of young talent, and the potential to win some games. The Phillies initial assessment of their position within the East seems to have been wildly optimistic, but they still have some guys who can pitch and some guys who can hit, and have the potential to do something as the season progresses. And, as always, the fiercest competition comes from the Braves, who have an improved bullpen and long, long, history of bringing out the worst in the Mets.

In fact, commentators have pointed out that success in the NL East is going to be heavily influenced by who can take the best advantage to their meetings with the Nationals and most effectively gouge wins out of the struggling ball club. This is even more important to the Mets than to their division rivals, since the Metropolitans got completely hosed by the schedule maker and will play every single American League team that made the playoffs last year- while other NL East teams dew opponents like the Kansas City Royals and ‘whatever little league team A-Rod’s kid plays for.’ The Mets have absolutely no wins to give away to the Braves and the Phillies, and they have to know that those teams are also going to be looking for wins from the Nationals over the course of the summer. When the Mets face the Nationals they have to realize that they are facing one of the easiest sources of wins they will see all year, and to know that when they don’t get those wins, their division rivals will.

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