Before the season started, Peter Gammons predicted the Mets were the team to beat in the NL East, “because the Mets may have the best four-man rotation in the National League East or perhaps the entire National League, period.”
Here was his reasoning:
Johan Santana is arguably the best pitcher in the game. Pedro Martinez has had a very encouraging spring, with Saturday’s outing against Washington more proof of his recovery. Pedro is not going to ever throw 95 mph again, but he is looser than he has been in years (he still doesn’t have to ice his shoulder), his command of four pitches is outstanding and he is so intelligent that he doesn’t have to throw harder than 88 mph to win. Oliver Perez is up in the 93-mph range with a very good slider.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the mix for the Mets this spring has been John Maine. Two years ago, GM Omar Minaya, who stole Maine in the Kris Benson trade, predicted Maine would be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Two years of working with pitching coach Rick Peterson and Maine may be just that. The Indians faced him Wednesday night and thought he was the best pitcher they’ve seen all spring. Where he was essentially a one-pitch, 92-94 mph fastball pitcher, Maine has been throwing 94-96 this spring with an improving slider and changeup to go along with his ability to command the fastball on all four quadrants of the plate.
Until they know what’s going to happen with El Duque, who for now is still throwing no higher than the low 80s, the fifth spot is in flux. But a fifth starter is usually a work in progress, and remember this — without Santana or Pedro and with Maine a work in progress — the Mets starters last year led the NL in wins and quality starts. So with the Phillies pitching in some question and John Smoltz and Mike Hampton set to leave Florida with slight physical questions, there seems little doubt that the Mets will head north with the premier starting pitching in the National League East.
That evaluation seemed entirely reasonable at the time, but now one has to wonder what Gammons would have predicted if somebody told him that Martinez would alternate this season between injured and awful, that Maine would take a major step backwards and sit out the last month of the season with a bone spur, that El Duque would miss the entire season, and that Oliver Perez would start slowly.
I’m guessing he’d probably give the Mets zero chance of winning the division.
Just goes to show that even the best made plans sometimes go awry — and sometimes things still work out. Thank god for Mike Pelfrey, eh New York?