The Cardinals begin another homestand tonight, starting with a three-game set versus the New York Mets. We exchanged quick Q&A with Mike Nichols over at MetsBlog.com. Mike had some interesting questions for me that you can read here, and below are his responses to mine:
PH8: The struggles of the Cardinals and Mets bullpens, respectively, have been well-documented. The Mets went out and spent big on the late innings during the past off-season, acquiring JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez. Are these two players enough to get the Mets beyond the barrier they’ve hit in missing the playoffs the prior two seasons?
Mike Nichols, MetsBlog.com: No doubt the bullpen has been a major factor in the Mets failures to make the last couple postseasons and while I do believe the presence of Putz and Rodriguez will help the Mets get to October this season, the team’s inability to hit in the clutch has been the their silent killer since Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS.
PH8: The Mets’ new ballyard, Citi Field, has hosted a couple of home series now. What can fans expect to be the major differences between how Shea played versus Citi?
Mike Nichols, MetsBlog.com: Citi Field and Shea Stadium are incomparable. Shea was a 70’s style multi-use facility with a very traditional symmetrical outfield, while Citi Field has various angles and wall heights throughout, especially in right field.
There are also huge, Coors Field-like gaps at Citi that have already caused a few fielding gaffes. Mets manager Jerry Manuel believes it will take the team at least half the season before they will be able to position and play the outfield correctly, which would allow them to have a home field advantage in the field.
Although the outfield is expansive and may not yield as many homeruns as Shea, the limited foul territory down the lines will be to the hitters advantage, as it will extend at-bats – something John Maine cannot be happy about.
Mike Nichols, MetsBlog.com: Seeing one of the homegrown Mets (Wright & Reyes) win a MVP would be great, but I rather see Carlos Beltran win one before either of them. For some reason Beltran still does not get the credit he deserves from Mets fans, who don’t realize how good he really is.
However, Johan Santana looks primed to win his third Cy Young Award this season. He is currently pitching to a 0.47 ERA and leading the league in strikeouts. After an early season adjustment period to pressure of playing in New York last season, Santana has been phenomenal. No offense to Tim Linceum and Brandon Webb, but Santana was the best pitcher in the National League last season and if it wasn’t for the inept aforementioned bullpen, he would have easily won 20+ games. This season, Santana has also become the de-facto leader in the Mets clubhouse, which is odd, since typically everyday position players are the leaders on teams.
PH8: Thanks Mike for your time and insight, enjoyed this!