Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 1, 2008
BASEBALL: Opening Well
Just a couple quick thoughts on yesterday's Mets opener, which I had to follow on the web after the batteries in my transistor radio died:
1. Definitely shades of last season in the first inning: Castillo fails to score on a Beltran double, setting up Delgado to go quietly with two men in scoring position and two outs. It was Delgado's two-out, men-on troubles as much as his overall numbers that were painful to watch last season.
2. Advantage to starting the season in Florida: fewer worries about pitching arms tightening up in the cold weather, allowing Randolph to stretch Santana out to 100 pitches, getting him a step closer to midseason form. (Contrast this with opening in, say, Cleveland, where Victor Martinez' hamstring tighened up on him, or Chicago, where Martinez left last season's opener with a quad injury).
3. One item of concern for Santana, who was otherwise brilliant: dating back to last season he has now surrendered 16 homers in his last 14 regular season starts.
4. Angel Pagan batted ahead of Ryan Church. I just don't understand this. I mean, presumably the Mets thought Church would hit enough to be a real corner outfielder when they acquired him. He's a career .271/.347/.462 hitter, .279/.355/.484 on the road. Pagan, by contrast, has a career batting line of .280/.337/.373 in the minor leagues, and hasn't slugged .450 since rookie ball; his career major league line is .255/.309/.417. Even assuming this was because of Church's struggles with lefties like Mark Hendrickson, a career .254/.331/.392 line, the switch-hitting Pagan's career mark against lefties is a pitiable .219/.280/.406. I know Pagan is a good athlete and had a good spring; I know at 26 there's always the outside chance that he will take a step forward; and I know the Mets are short-handed. So I understand why we may be stuck with him getting playing time. But I can't see any reason for batting him ahead of Church.