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February Fears

So the other day ESPN.com invited readers to rank the major-league teams from #1 to #30, using one of their whizzy mechanisms where you drag numbers onto pictures. (Which is very cool until you work from worst to first, get to about #6 and realize you forgot the Reds.)

So here’s how I ranked them, with voters’ consensus rank in parentheses. (Caveats: I did this quickly, and I don’t know jack about most of the American League. Because, honestly, who gives a shit.)

30. Royals (26)
29. Orioles (27)
28. Devil Rays (29)
27. Pirates (28)
26. Nationals (30)
25. Rockies (25)
24. Reds (23)
23. Rangers (19)
22. Diamondbacks (22)
21. Mariners (24)
20. Astros (16)
19. Giants (18)
18. Marlins (20)
17. Brewers (21)
16. Cubs (9)
15. Braves (17)
14. Padres (15)
13. Blue Jays (13)
12. Indians (14)
11. Cardinals (5)
10. Dodgers (7)
9. Phillies (10)
8. Mets (4)
7. Angels (11)
6. Red Sox (2)
5. Yankees (1)
4. White Sox (6)
3. A’s (12)
2. Twins (8)
1. Tigers (3)


I don’t apologize for thinking the Yankees and Cubs won’t be that good. (The Cubs won a division on paper, so what — ask Steve Phillips, Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar how that turns out. Besides, they’re the Cubs.) I don’t think the Cardinals deserve an asterisk or anything, but 5th best in baseball? C’mon. I admit I’m probably too high on the A’s because of a lingering Moneyball crush and it’s just too hard to keep track of a team that uses a DH 3,000 miles away.

But what you’re really wondering is this: Eighth? Really, Jace? The average ESPN voter has more faith in our team than you do?

Um, I guess so.

Look, I still rated us the best team in the National League. But I admit to being nervous, and it’s not just a longtime Met fans’ innate pessimism.

It’s the pitching.

Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are capable, but they’re awfully old. Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber could become stars, but they’re awfully young. John Maine and Oliver Perez could take a step forward, or a step back. (Given Perez’s career, by now he’s got enough steps for a whole dance routine.) Dave Williams and Jason Vargas and Aaron Sele are the pitching equivalent of spaghetti hurled at a wall. And Pedro? His projected date of return ranges from August to never.

I’m not sure what percentage of that glass is full and what percentage is empty, but it makes me anxious. I wouldn’t be shocked if Glavine got to 300 wins and a few more for lagniappe, El Duque was serviceable, either Pelfrey or Humber had a breakout, star-making year, either Maine or Perez or both took steps forward, the spaghetti starters weren’t needed beyond spot starts, and Pedro arrived like a conquering hero come summer. In that case, print my playoff tickets and hold my October calls, please.

But I also wouldn’t be astonished if Glavine was merely serviceable, El Duque spent a long time on the shelf, Pelfrey and Humber scuffled while learning their craft in New Orleans, Maine and Perez took steps backwards, the spaghetti starters channeled Lima and Gonzalez, and Pedro never arrived at all. In that case, we could lose a lot of 7-6 affairs, and October might be spent listening to Tommy Lasorda tell us to get out of the tree.

Maybe the sight of pitchers running along the warning track and reading the 35th story about Moises Alou just fitting in will make me perk up a little. Maybe. For now, though, it’s freezing and I look at our pitching staff and I think, We could be second or third and we could be 15th, so yep, that averages out to around eighth.

Change my mind, please.