The battle for who is less worse begins today as the Astros travel to New York to take on the Mets in a three game set. Both teams currently sit at 5-11 and will be looking to string some wins together and use this series to get on a little bit of a roll. I got a chance to talk with Ben Berkon, who is the lead writer over at the Rising Apple, and find out his perspective about the state of the Mets.
Brandon: How would you rate the job Terry Collins has done to this point?
Ben: I think he was dealt a tough hand–especially with Jason Bay being out–but I don’t particularly like his managerial style. To me, he’s “hard-nosed to a fault,” which usually lends itself to be the “gasoline” (as opposed to the water) in any “fire”-related analogy.
Brandon: Do you think Carlos Beltran can hold up physically for a whole season?
Ben: No, there is no way he stays healthy. As long as the Mets continue to use the “treat him like a catcher” approach, he might hold up–but then again, the Mets offense will suffer when he’s not in the lineup.
Brandon: What do Mets’ fans expect from Johan Santana when he returns?
Ben: It’s hard to expect much from a pitcher recovering from shoulder surgery. I’m personally pretending he doesn’t exist, and will be pleasantly surprised when he’s somehow appears on the mound in Citi Field.
Brandon: The past few seasons the Mets have given out some pretty big contracts to players like Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, K-Rod etc. If you could take back one of those contracts who would it be?
Ben: I think one can make convincing argument for all of those guys except Jason Bay. Bay was pretty terrible last season–his only season as a Mets to-date–so unless he comes back in 2011 and hitting like old, then he will by far be the worst big-signing of the above group. However, the worst big-signing not mentioned above was definitely Oliver Perez.
Brandon: Why do you think Mike Pelfrey has struggled so much in the early going?
Ben: I think he’s struggling because he’s not very good. He’s always been hit hard, and he doesn’t have particularly special “stuff.” If not for his “first round draft pick” status, I don’t think there would be too many sets of eyes analyzing him.
Brandon: Ike Davis had a pretty decent rookie year, what type of player do you foresee for his career (MVP-caliber, All-Star, good starter, etc.)?
Ben: I don’t think Ike will ever be a MVP-caliber player, but I’m fine with that. I think he’s currently a good hitter who could become a very good hitter. Davis’ real asset is his glove. He won over Mets fans by jumping over walls on about 400 plays last year, but aside from the flash, he does everything well defensively. Combining his stellar glove with a good stick–and the fact that he’s half-Jewish–makes him a favorite of mine.
These were the questions that Ben asked me about the Astros:
Ben: How confident are you with Brandon Lyon closing games?
Brandon: I am still pretty confident in Lyon as he did convert 20 of 22 save opportunities last year. Unless your name is Mariano Rivera, every closer has a bad game or two, the problem was Lyon had his in the very first game. I think Lyon will be able to get the job done this year as closer for the Astros.
Ben: Before the Wilton Lopez injury, did you see him eventually stealing the 9th inning duties from Lyon?
Brandon: I never really did. I think Lopez is a great talent but I always pictured him as a very good set up man. I don’t really have any other reasons for my conclusion, it has just been a personal opinion of mine.
Ben: Are you worried about Wandy Rodriguez’s bad start to the season?
Brandon: No because Wandy does it every year. He is a very talented pitcher but he for some reason is a very slow starter and has not been able to put together a full season of good pitching. I will be worried if after the All-Star break Wandy is still continually having these games.
Ben: Will J.R. Towles ever become a viable starting catcher in the majors?
Brandon: In 2008, Towles hit 8 RBI in one game and I don’t think he has had 8 total since that game. He has struggled a lot at the plate since that game and I don’t want to jinx him but he seems to be playing better to start 2011. I think Towles realizes that this was his last chance to prove he can be a starter in the majors and is taking advantage of it. I still believe Towles has the talent to be a starting catcher it is just up to him to get the results.
Ben: Who do you think will become a bigger star–Brett Wallace or Chris Johnson?
Brandon: Brett Wallace. I think he has more potential at the plate than Johnson and everybody’s criticism of him has been his lack of defense at the field. However, he has worked very hard at that and has become a pretty good defensive first baseman. I think if the Astros want any chance of competing in the future they will need both to be stars but Wallace gets the slight edge.
Ben: The Lance Berkman deal looked pretty one-sided at the time, but Mark Melancon has looked like a real gem so far in 2011. What are your sentiments about the trade now?
Brandon: When the Lance Berkman trade happened, I wasn’t mad that he was traded as I knew the Astros needed to do it to move the organization forward. I did feel we could of got more but was a fan of Mark Melancon coming because I pictured him as our future closer and too this point he has not changed that opinion. If Lyon does struggle, I could see Melancon getting the ball over Lopez and excelling in that role.