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Talking with the Enemy: Off-Season Edition

I thought I'd take this slow news time and swap some questions with one of our division rival's blogs. Below are five questions that I asked Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue about how the Mets off-season is going. As one of our biggest rivals, I thinks it's important to keep tabs on what the other teams in the division are up to. I also answered some questions of his about the Braves that should be posted soon.

Q: There seemed to be a lot of sour feelings from Mets fans when Tom Glavine left, but didn't you always think that he would go back to the Braves? Where does the animosity come from?

A: To be honest, I don't think a lot of Mets fans were sad to see him go. Over the course of his five seasons in New York he transitioned nicely from hired gun to rotation stalwart, but his last game as a Met -- the 1/3 inning meltdown against the Marlins on 2007's final day -- probably sealed his fate in the hearts of Mets fans. I think $8 million is a very reasonable sum for one year of Glavine's services, and I wish him luck back in Atlanta. I don't know that he ever really wanted to leave, but John Schuerholz low-balled him in 2002 and Glavine reluctantly took all of the money the Mets threw at him.

To answer your question more directly, I don't think Mets fans have sour feelings about Glavine leaving, but rather they feel he let them down with his performance in that final game.

Q: How do you feel about your starting pitching now? Will Pedro and Orlando hold up?

A: Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez are definite question marks health-wise, but Pedro looked very good in his short time back at the end of 2007 and I think everyone is optimistic about his 2008. If the Mets can get 25-30 starts out of each of them they will be very strong in the starting pitching department. John Maine and Oliver Perez, both of whom the Mets picked up for next to nothing, showed flashes of brilliance in 2007 that were punctuated with stretches of inconsistency. If they can tighten things up a bit and go from "sometimes excellent, sometimes so-so" to "almost always good-to-great" then the Mets will be in very good shape.

Q: Why were the Mets hell-bent on letting Paul Lo Duca walk? With Johnny Estrada, you're not really getting a catcher who is that much better, maybe a bit younger, but look at their career numbers:
       Lo Duca - .288/.338/.414
       Estrada - .280/.320/.406
Do you actually gain anything with Estrada?

A: Mets management had reportedly soured on Lo Duca's attitude, and they probably thought better of offering a multi-year deal to a soon-to-be 36-year-old catcher with little defensive value and a declining offensive skillset. The Mets could do far worse than Lo Duca, but his offensive value is completely tied to his batting average. He hits for zero power and rarely walks, so with batting averages fluctuating as they do, you are as likely to get a poor season from Lo Duca as you are a decent one.

Johnny Estrada is nothing special, and he has attitude baggage of his own. There is some talk that the Mets may still look elsewhere for someone to split time at catcher with Ramon Castro, and if they do they would simply non-tender Estrada or look to spin him off to someone else. That said, dealing for Estrada was more about unloading Guillermo Mota than it was about acquiring another catcher. If the Mets ultimately hang on to Estrada for 2008, a one-year, $4.5 million deal to him makes a lot more sense than a two- or three-year deal for more money to Lo Duca.

Q: What kind of damage did last year's end of season collapse do to your fan base? With basically the same team returning next year (to this point), can Mets fans really get excited about this team?

A: I think Mets fans will be okay, and will look to draw on their two strengths: Their resiliency and the fact that they have grown accustomed to their team's history of heart-breaking failure. There is plenty to be excited about this team, from the (hopefully) continued development of David Wright and Jose Reyes, to another strong year from Carlos Beltran, to young starters like John Maine and Oliver Perez working out their kinks and becoming better pitchers in the process.

I think there will be a different feel heading in 2008 than there was last year. In 2006 the Mets were a couple of hits away from going to the World Series, so 2007 was a chance to show that 2006 wasn't a fluke. The Mets obviously missed the playoffs in 2007, but I think the flukish thing about 2006 was the performance of the rest of the NL East. The Mets' closest competition rebounded with a strong 2007 while the Mets stayed about the same.

2008 will be about the Mets showing they can rebound from a horrendous end to the 2007 season and to show that they have the talent and the consistency to play well for an entire season.

Q: In your eyes, what missing pieces do the Mets need to add in order to win the division?

A: I think the Mets are good enough right now to win the division. They certainly won't be runaway favorites without some additional changes, but they were a game away from making the postseason last year and neither the Braves nor the Phillies are likely to get significantly stronger this offseason. The Mets will look to bring in a frontline starting pitcher at this year's winter meetings as well as bolster a bullpen that wore down at the end of 2007.

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