Monday, June 06, 2005

And On The Seventh Day, They Rested

First, some cleanup. Vinny Castilla wins the Majority Whip for Saturday's performance. They don't get much more exciting than a bases-clearing double. That is, until Ryan Church wins a Whip for his Sunday performance: a three-run, tie-breaking, eighth-inning homer.

So, on June 6, we're sitting in first place -- a tenuous grip, but a grip nonetheless.

I'm torn between the fanboy side and the realist side.

The fanboy side pumped his fist upon hearing the result of yesterday's game while sitting in a Taco Bell parking lot in Warrenton at 9:15 last night after a long day of hiking.

The realist sticks to the drumbeat of the adage that he repeats ad nauseum: "You're never as bad as you look when you're losing; you're never as good as you look when you're winning."

Still, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

Back in the spring, as I was trying to figure out where I thought this team was headed (77 wins was my ultimate prediction), one thing came back to me. Despite a horrid season last year, the team was coming off two previous 83-win seasons. While 83 wins isn't going to get you in the playoffs (unless you're the 1973 NY Mets), it is a good stepping stone, and with some luck and some roster improvements, you can be on the cusp of contention pretty easily.

That team had Vlad Guerrero. There's simply no replacing that kind of bat with one player. But, subsequent teams had to deal with the ordeal of playing in substandard conditions in Puerto Rico, as well as the thousands of extra miles that that added up to. Even when they were playing at home in Montreal, the politics of destruction that had played out over the previous ten years understandably left very few fans willing to shell out the few loonies for tickets; they had no home field advantage.

So, is last year's dreadful season the true baseline of talent we should be using as a comparison? It's looking increasingly likely that the answer is no, and that we should build off the previous two 83-win seasons instead.

The team lacks any true superstars -- no one in the class of Vlad Guerrero, who's probably worth 6-10 wins above a regular player -- but, there really aren't any weak links on the team either. While Schneider isn't hitting, his defense is certainly a valuable contribution, and Guzman is well.... Guzman. But, he has been coming around a bit. He's hitting well this month, and he's starting to hit line drives, even if they're frequently being caught.

Atlanta's not as good as many thought. The Mets are still flawed. The Phillies are trying to overcome a rough first two months. The Marlins are still probably the best team in the division; they're also in last place. It's certainly up for grabs.

I just don't know what to know anymore. And that's exactly why this season is turning out so great.


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