After a long hiatus, one of my favorite features returns — the guest prognosticator! To review, I ask people I know who are fans of the upcoming Washington Nationals opponent to talk about their team. Typically, I try to get a broad overview of both the team, the fan culture and a prediction for the upcoming and overall season with the Nats in a casual Q&A format. This season’s first guest prognosticator is Eric McErlain, blogger emeritus best known for Off Wing Opinion. For several years now Eric has been stopping by for these to talk Mets (2011 & 2012) and even the Jets (2011) once since I do these during football season too. I even snuck in a Washington Capitals question.
Some musical accompaniment if you are so included:
WFY: Between R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana’s no hitter and hanging on into July, did the 2012 Mets exceed your expectations?
EMc: Up until the All-Star break, I’d answer with a yes. But once everyone got back together after the break, the team went into a dive it never really recovered from. By September, the only reason left to keep watching was to see if Dickey could win 20 games and Ike Davis could get to 30 homers.
WFY: Was leaving Sanatana in for a no-hitter “sentimental managing” that hurt the Mets and Santana the rest of the way?
EMc: There’s no manager in the majors who would have pulled a pitcher with a chance of throwing a no-no, never mind the chance of throwing the first in the 50-year history of the franchise. As for Santana’s arm, can anyone say definitively that leaving him in that night led directly to the injury that’s now threatening his entire career? What’s done is done. He’s not coming back and his salary comes off the books at the end of the season. It’s best for everyone that we move on.
WFY: How much does the R.A. Dickey trade hurt?
EMc: Emotionally, it hurt quite a bit. I’ve been a Mets fan all my life and I’d never owned a jersey. Then my wife goes out and gets me an R.A. Dickey All-Star Game jersey for my birthday, and a few weeks later he’s gone. That being said, be sure to ask me again once Noah Syndergaard is throwing to Travis D’Arnaud sometime in 2015.
WFY: Okay, on to the present — how are the Mets holding up with so many snowouts?
EMc: Well, they’re 2-2 on this roadtrip, so I guess we can’t complain. What I don’t understand is why Major League Baseball thought it was a good idea to authorize outdoor ballparks in Minneapolis and Denver. And who in their right mind thought pairing those two stops on an April roadtrip was a good idea?
WFY: When the Mets have actually played, they’ve done well it seems. I know it is early, but are the Mets playing over the heads?
EMc: The Mets have been fortunate enough to face some weak competition thus far, and John Buck is playing more like Josh Gibson. So the answer is yes. Still, there’s real progress here. While Jon Niese is slotted as the #1 starter, it looks like Matt Harvey is the real deal. Keep an eye on him, as he’ll be giving the Nats fits for about a decade.
WFY: Are you disturbed or amused that Bobby Bonilla and Jason Bay are making more money from the Mets than any current outfielder (NY Post)?
EMc: Bemused. This sort of thing is a normal state of affairs for a Mets fan, and has been since management decided to trade Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.
WFY: How far away are the Mets from contending? Where do you think they will finish in the division? What about the Nats?
EMc: No way this team finishes .500 this year. Winning as many games as last season would have to be considered a great achievement with such a flawed lineup. A lot will depend on how the team handles the next offseason. By then, Bay and Santana will be off the books, which means they ought to be able to spend some money to fix the outfield situation. Toss in Zack Wheeler, Syndergaard and a couple of free agents and I think the Mets can start causing some real trouble for Atlanta and the Nats in 2015. As for the Nats, they’ll be dueling the Braves all year long, despite that disastrous sweep we saw last weekend. I say they snag a Wild Card berth. Once that happens, who knows?
WFY: How do you feel about the overall direction of the Mets? Will they be competitive before the Jets?
EMc: The Mets are trending up, the Jets are trending down and will likely experience something like a controlled crash in 2013. That means the which end of the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez era in New York.
WFY: The Mets righted the ship last year uniform-wise (UniWatch, ESPN) by getting rid of all the black stuff, so naturally they went out created new alternate stuff (@UniWatch). Do you like the orange-billed, oulined NY cap? What about the blue jerseys? Mr. Mets BP cap?
EMc: The alternate stuff isn’t doing anything for me. If I had my druthers, we’d be back to the uni combo from the 1960s (I especially love the road uniforms). I like the BP cap and will get one for my wife.
WFY: How much do you miss blogging?
EMc: Just because I don’t blog at Off Wing doesn’t mean I don’t blog anymore. I just don’t blog about sports. I sent a note to the crew at Amazin Avenue a few months back in response to a request they sent out for writers and editors, but they didn’t bite. (Editor’s note: seems like this sort of thing is a normal state of affairs for a Mets blog)
I do admit I felt like an idiot when the Bleacher Report crew sold out to Turner. They didn’t know anything anyone else in the business didn’t realize, including Jamie Mottram at Fanhouse. And while a lot of the Bleacher Report content is simply embarassing, I can’t help but give them props for their business model.
WFY: How tempting is it to jump to the Nats?
EMc: Not at all. Sure, I get caught up in everything when the team plays well, and I’m very happy for local baseball fans like yourself who have a team again after missing out for so many years. But the Mets are my first love in sports.
WFY: Who takes this week’s series and what about the season series?
EMc: Nats will take two of three, but Harvey outduels Strasburg on Friday night. That game is going to be epic, and I think Harvey will want to make a statement that he’s an elite pitcher. Overall, I say the Nats take 13 of the 19 games.
WFY: Lastly, what’s your take on the Capitals? I had them left for dead a month ago? How much of this is them being streaky and how much is them figuring out Adam Oates new system?
EMc: I think part of it is getting used to the system and the another part is getting everyone healthy again. And the final part is getting to play a schedule laden with games against the NHL’s weakest division. I think they can get out of the first round, but beyond that is another question. That’ll mean going up against Boston or Pittsburgh, and I still don’t think they match up well against either of those teams. Then again, once you’re in, anything can happen in the NHL playoffs.