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Weekend Preview: The Mets

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Keeping in tradition with last year, Joe Janish of Mets Today and I have exchanged some questions before the series kicks off this weekend. Here are my questions to him and his answers: 1. Let's go ahead and get it out of the way - how key was the Mets acquisition of Johan Santana? Well ... let's put it this way ... considering the recent news of Pedro Martinez's hammy, the Mets would be up the creek without a paddle right now without Johan. Considering that the Mets don't have the powerful offense from top to bottom that they had in 2006, I think the Santana trade was extremely important to the Mets' pennant hopes. After all, the Mets have some decent bats but are not going to slug their way to a title, therefore adding arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and making the pitching staff a strength, was tantamount to competing against the Braves and Phillies. Santana as the ace deepens the rotation, enabling the Mets to have John Maine as the number 4 starter -- and Maine would be a legit #2 on most other teams. 2. In taking a look at the 40-man roster, the Mets have five pitchers on the DL. Does it worry you to start the season out this way? How badly does it hurt the Mets to have both Pedro and El Duque out? It hurts less with Johan around, and knowing that Oliver Perez and John Maine are continuing to develop into dominant forces. But yes we're freaking out in Metville right now, knowing that the rotation is temporarily two pitchers short. 3. On a related note, how do you think Mets fans feel about Pedro now that he's having a third consecutive interrupted season? Did the Mets get what they bargained for in Pedro? The Mets would not be an annual postseason contender right now without Pedro. The numbers may or may not bear out his value, but his presence legitimized the Mets as a serious team. Without Pedro, Carlos Beltran is likely a Yankee, and who knows whether Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgado, or some other key players ever wear the orange and blue. With Pedro, free agents take the team seriously and the front office works harder on the short-term success. 4. What's the general consensus from Mets fans on this being the last year in Shea Stadium? What can you tell us about the new stadium? Most fans have some emotional ties to Shea Stadium, but even the most nostalgic purists concede that it isn't the most comfortable place to watch a ballgame. Citi Field looks like a fantastic upgrade that will make Mets fans forget Shea fairly quickly. From a fan's point of view, it is not unlike Turner Field, in that it will have an open concourse, great seating, and be extremely family friendly. From a player's perspective, it will be a pitcher's park, with deep fences. 5. Last but not least, what is the key for the Mets to take the series from the Braves this weekend? The team with the better bullpen has the edge this weekend. Games one and three look to be classic pitching matchups, and we can guess both will be close games that could be decided after the aces leave the mound. Game two -- Glavine vs. Pelfrey -- is a tossup. If the Mets can be patient with Glavine, and he doesn't get his strikes just off the black, it could be a slugfest for both sides in the early going (I'm not convinced Pelfrey can stop the Braves' lineup). So again, which bullpen can handle being stretched out over 4-5 innings? All in all, it should be a fun weekend! Update from Alex: Speaking of conversation with our rivals, I was interviewed by Jessica Bader at Take the 7 Train, the MVN Mets blog, about the Braves this year. She's smart. Check out my answers here.

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