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Talking with the Enemy: Mets @ Braves Series Preview

Once again we trade some questions with D.J. Short of MetsBlog in anticipation of the Braves four-game series with the Mets (including the double-header today). We talk a lot with MetsBlog, but I always find it enlightening to hear what they have to say.

Q: What's the problem in the Mets' clubhouse? Is this just a blip on the radar, or does this friction date back to last year? And is this something that can be remedied with time, or is this just the wrong mix of players?

A: Since I'm not in the clubhouse, I can't possibly be sure. I am hopeful that the differences aren't irreconcilable, but this is not the first time something like this has come up. As you may remember, Paul LoDuca brought up similar concerns about player availability to the media last June. There's no question that certain players are sought out more by the media, either by virtue of the language barrier or those more likely to give a juicy quote (i.e. Wagner, LoDuca). Clearly, Wagner needs to be more careful about keeping his concerns in-house. There is nothing the media would love more than to see the locker room in turmoil with the backdrop of last season's collapse. I'm convinced that winning, not time, will cure all of these rifts, however real or magnified they may be by the media.

Q: In this the fourth year of Willie Randolph's tenure as the Mets' skipper, and after only one postseason appearance and all the recent clubhouse troubles, do you think the Mets' brass are looking for a replacement?

A: To be fair to Randolph, when he took the reins, the ballclub was clearly stuck between eras. Jose Reyes couldn't stay healthy, or take a pitch, for that matter. Willie brought a resume of winning to the organization and his contributions aren't lost on me. He's managing under a microscope this season, and rightfully so, considering last season's collapse. I mean, the team has been mediocre since the end of last May. I'm sure the front office is always considering other options to manage the club, and they would be silly not to, but I'm sure they would rather see the team do well than come to the point where Willie Randolph would even need to be replaced. Former Brave Ken Oberkfell, who manages Triple-A New Orleans, would make a fine internal candidate, though. I've always advocated his promotion in the organization. I hope it doesn't have to come to that, of course.

Q: With the signings of Abraham Nunez and Eric Reed, are the Mets grasping at straws in an attempt to jump start the offense?

A: Funny. Hey, if either of those players see the field we are in serious trouble. I hear Julio Franco is available. Wanna take a flier on him again?

Q: Up to this point in the season, what player has been the biggest disappointment on the Mets team? What player has been the biggest surprise?

A: Without question, Aaron Heilman has been the biggest let-down for me. He was recently demoted out of his eighth inning role, which has put the bullpen in a bit of flux. Duaner Sanchez has yet to go full-tilt on his pitches or show he can carry the load on back-to-back days. Joe Smith looks brilliant so far, but he got off to a great start last Spring, too. He has a lot to prove, durability-wise. It's important that these roles are clear come July and August. The Mets need Aaron Heilman to find his confidence in order for this bullpen to perform at its highest level.

As for the season's biggest surprise, I'd have to go with Ryan Church. The trade of Lastings Milledge was criticized for many reasons -- call it lingering paranoia over the Scott Kazmir trade. I still think Milledge will be a fine player, but he lacks the polish of Church, especially defensively. When you are used to seeing the bellyflop dives of Shawn Green in right-field, anything is an improvement, but Church has looked like a gold-glover so far. It doesn't hurt that he has been the most consistent hitter in this lineup from day one. Now, if only we could convince Willie to bat Church #2 everyday...

Q: Finish this sentence; For the Mets to win the National League East they will have to...

A: …get 2006 or first-half of 2007 production out of Jose Reyes.

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