Once again, the guest prognosticator series returns. Leading off the 2012 Washington Nationals season is blogging pioneer Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion. Among countless other things, he’s the subject matter expert for former Shea Stadium teams. You may recall last year’s Q&As about the Mets and Jets.
WFY: Are the “new” Mets uniforms (really the old Mets uniforms without the black) the best thing about the 2012 Mets? Do you prefer the classic pinstripes or the white “head spoon” home jersey?
EM: While I am happy about the new “old” uniforms, there are some reasons to be interested in the 2012 Mets. They’ve moved the fences in and made sure they were painted with the traditional blue and orange color scheme. David Wright seems completely healthy as does Johan Santana. And seeing Lucas Duda in the lineup every day is potentially exciting. The kid has got a big bat — I watched him hit a pair of dingers on Saturday afternoon — and he has the potential to turn even routine fly balls into an adventure.
Are the Mets going to challenge for the Wild Card in a terribly competitive NL East? Probably not, but the starting rotation is stable enough to help them keep things close and the middle relief has some potential. I think they’ll be about a break even proposition in 2012.
WFY: The Mets are not in a good place right now — broke owners, declining attendance, Is the lowest point since Donald Grant (and Dick Young?) sent Tom Seaver to Cincinnati? Are you hoping Bud Selig takes over them like he did the Los Angeles Dodgers?
EM: Bud Selig will not pull a McCourt with the Mets. As for the post-Sever trade years, I remember those seasons quite vividly, and there isn’t another era in team history that was nearly as painful. Still, there’s a stark recognition that this team is at best going to be treading water for a few seasons as the Wilpons get their finances sorted out. As I indicated above, this team isn’t as bad as some may thing, it’s just that it isn’t going anywhere given the level of competition in the NL East. The real question will be raised as we get nearer to the trade deadline: does the team trade David Wright? He’s been on fire thus far, and would fetch some prime prospects in a deal later this year if he keeps it up. GM Sandy Alderson will have to consider the return carefully.
WFY: Has Johan Santana’s return improved your outlook for the 2012 Mets?
EM: Yes. Without him at the top of the rotation, the team would be a serious threat to lose 90+ games this year. I don’t expect the old Santana back, but I think he can win 15 games this year.
WFY: Did the late 1980s Mets underachieve? If they did, do you think current Nats manager Davey Johnson contributed to them only winning the division twice and pennant/World Series once?
EM: Yes, but I would never blame Davey Johnson. You need to remember that during the era when the Mets were riding high, both the Cubs (’84 and ’89) and the Cardinals (’85 and ’87) had pretty good ball clubs. Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry, two players who looked liked mortal locks for the Baseball Hall of Fame, partied too much. But the real killer with those teams was the fact that Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter just got old — a point that Jim Leyland would often make while he was managing the Pirates.
WFY: The Mets honored Gary Carter on Opening Day and will throughout the season. It is unclear whether the Nationals, who in a previous corporate incarnation were Carter’s Montreal Expos, will do the same. Do you think the Nats should honor somebody who never played in Washington?
EM: They’ve already honored Andre Dawson, so I see no reason why they shouldn’t acknowledge Carter. Then again, I can’t see anyone matching the tribute that the Montreal Canadiens gave for Carter a few weeks ago before a game at the Bell Centre.
WFY: Who is your current favorite member of the Mets?
EM: It’s R.A. Dickey hands down. He came out of nowhere two seasons ago to absolutely rescue the starting rotation. Without him, the Mets would really be a terrible team. And while he’s already 37, as a knuckleballer, he could pitch till he’s 50. And how can you not love a guy who named his bat “Orcrist” after a sword from “The Hobbit?” When he walks to the plate, the stadium PA system plays the “Imperial March” from Star Wars. He’s approaching Mookie-like levels of devotion from Mets fans.
WFY: Where do you get your Mets coverage these days? Do you get to follow Mets broadcasts much? How are the broadcasters now? Historically? Does Chico Escuela do Spanish broadcasts?
EM: I try to watch as many games as possible online. As for coverage, I default a lot to ESPN New York, but also like to read Faith and Fear in Flushing, which is co-edited by Jason Fry. Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are actually pretty good. Darling is 1000 times better now than he was during his time behind the microphone in Washington. As for Spanish-language radio broadcasts, that’s no joke with the Mets, as they’ve been doing them for decades, and actually simulcast games in Spanish as well.
WFY: Nationals Park has the half-smoke — does Citi Field have a signature dish?
EM: Back in the day, the signature beverage at Shea was beer with white paint chips that were flaking off the seats. As for favorites, CitiField has had a Shake Shack since it opened, and the lines are always long there.
WFY: What is the best case scenario for the 2012 Mets?
EM: Break even baby! 81-81 and they don’t fade from the Wild Card until after September 1.
WFY: How do you think this series will go and what about the season series?
EM: The Mets have won three straight and are due for a fall. I say the Nats take two of three on the way to winning 11 of 18 this year.