During this past spring training there was a lot of optimism surrounding the New York Mets, that they would bounce back from last season’s horrid collapse and retake the National League East division. Two years ago when the New York Mets ran away with the national league regular season crown they had a lineup that looked considerably better than any other in the national league. But now with Philadelphia being the team of the national league’s MVP award winners over the past two seasons in Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard with possibly a third coming this season with Chase Utley , and Atlanta solidifying their lineup the way they have, the New York Mets no longer win beauty contests on paper. The reason many predicted the Mets to win the National League east division in 2008 was because of their Starting pitching, which was supposed to lead the pack.
Thus far in this 08' season the Amazin's have gotten off to a sluggish start which has driven Mets fans nuts after they expected more from a team who let them down the way they did last season. The pitching has been ok but they've missed the man who got things started in the Omar Minaya- Willie Randoloph era, and that man is Pedro Martinez. Martinez who helped lead the Boston Red sox to their first world series chanmpionship in 86' years in the 2004 season was Minaya's first major player acqusition when he took the job as Mets general manager in the fall of 2004. Martinez represented the beginning of what was dubbed the “new Mets” as he brought a championship air about himself with a hall of famer's presence on the mound. He put on a show for New York baseball fans during that first year in 2005, giving a Mets franchise which had finished in last place 2 out of the previous 3 seasons instant credibility. Since that first season in 05' however, Pedro has left Mets fans wanting a taste for more as his magic has been curtailed by a number of ailments that have left him on the disabled list for most of the past two seasons.
Because of how lowly the franchise was before Pedro came to town and how much he did to reenergize the fan base once he came on the scene, the four year $53 million dollar contract he signed with the Mets before the 05' season has not been looked at as a disapointment. He is now in the final year of that four year deal and if he is not able to deliver the goods over the final four months of this season, after missing the first two months, that deal could start to look disapointing no matter how relevant he made the franchise three years ago. Somewhere the Boston Red Sox are saying “I told you so” after they let argubly the best pitcher in the franchise's history walk to New York when his Red Sox contract expired at the end of the 04' season.
This season was supposed to be the one that Pedro joined Johan Santana at the top of a Mets rotation that was complemented beautifully by John Maine and Oliver Perez at the backend. A rotationon on paper that looked potentially as strong as any in the game. But Pedro pulled up lame with a hamstring injury in his first start of the season all the way back on April 1st in Florida. Now Pedro finally makes his return to the Mets rotation tonight in San Francisco against the Giants. When Pedro is on the top of his game his starts become events. He has the personailty and the assortment of pitches in his aresenal that can electrify a home crowd and gives his teammates a confident winning feeling. Because he is an ace and that's all he knows, even though his pitching reportoire has changed drastically since his Cy young days in Boston when he routinely through 95 mph plus heat past opposing batters. He hasn't consistenly reached 90 miles an hour on his fastball since midway through his first season in New York. But he is such a great pitcher and craftsman on the mound that he has still been able to dominant at times whenever his rapidly fragile body has allowed him to take the mound. No one really knows except for Pedro how much he has left in the tank, which evuentually will determine how much of a presence he can be for the Mets this season. And it's a presence that can be enormous for the boys from Queens who can desperately gain from the aura that Pedro alludes when he is on the top of his game. Pedro is not only pitching to help get the Mets back to the heights they were before they crashed to the groud at the end of last season, but he is pitching for a new contract in the final year of that 4 year $53 million dollar deal. A deal that can really make the Mets' money look well spent if over these next four months he can be the Pedro that we all know and love.