From The Stands
Kaz Matsui looked impressive in his first big league game. Going 3-for-3, with two doubles, a leadoff home run, 3RBI’s and two walks, Matsui’s performance immediately drew comparisons with another Japanese import, Ichiro Suzuki. Despite a forgettable and somewhat disappointing Spring Training, Matsui may turn out to be the great leadoff hitter that the Mets have been missing for the past fifteen seasons.
It’s premature to liken Matsui to Ichiro, but at least for one day, Little Matsui has given the Met faithful (and people who drafted him in their fantasy leagues) something to legitimately cheer about.
Most people don’t expect the Mets to contend for the National League East this year, but, if Reyes and Matsui continue to inspire, a .500 season is not out of the question. Finishing in the basement the past two seasons, the Mets can only look up. Jim Du quette’s philosophy of holding on to young talent, and getting rid of bloated veteran contracts, will make the Mets a better team for the future and possibly playoff bound in 2005.
While Met fans are painfully optimistic, the whole team’s performance against the Braves on Tuesday was spectacular. With solid defense and hitting, it was one of the best opening days in Mets History. For one day, Met fans weren’t second-class citizens in their own city.
The American League East will, hands down, be the most competitive division in baseball this season, and it is almost a lock that the American League Wild Card winner will come out of this division. While the Yankees and Red Sox are the likely favorites to win the division and the wild card, do not discount the Blue Jays and Orioles.
New additions to Baltimore, Javy Lopez, Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro are some of the best run producers in the game. While the Orioles may lack the arms to compete with Boston and New York, the bats will arouse fear in opposing pitchers. Lopez is coming off of a career season, with 43HR’s and 109RBI’s, Palmeiro had 38HR’s and 112RBI’s, and while Tejada slumped a bit last year, he was the 2002 American League MVP with 131RBI’s. Even if Baltimore’s starting pitchers give up six runs a game, the new additions will keep them afloat in the AL East.
Toronto is another team that looks good. With Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells, Toronto will compete. In an offseason that saw them sign Pat Hentgen and Miguel Batista, the Blue Jays most exciting transaction this winter was the acquisition of their new awful logo. This new logo will go down in history with the San Diego Padres of the early 1980’s, and the short-lived Mercury Mets. It’s important to note that Toronto just got a new logo last year. Apparently it wasn’t ugly enough.
Now back to the serious-
The Yankees own the Red Sox. Yan kee domination over the Red Sox has been well documented – and each year, Boston fans think they have a team capable of winning a World Series. But this season it’s really a possibility. Sure, Peter Gammons always picks the Sox, but this time he means it.
Boston general manager Theo Epstein had a successful offseason. Picking up closer Keith Foulke and starter Curt Schilling, Epstein certainly improved his pitching, but with Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Nomar Garciaparra all in the final season of their contracts, this will surely be Boston’s last hurrah for a while. Add the Manny Ramirez saga, where the team placed him (and his salary) on waivers, you have a team full of personalities and talent (not unlike the Yankees.)
For Boston to succeed, they will also have to forget the Arod-Manny-Nomar-Magglio Ordonez fiasco (nearly impossible.) With 19 games against each other, dozens of characters, volatile players, and another Boston-New York rumble always around the corner, the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays will make the AL East the most enjoyable division to watch in baseball this year.