It’s spring ahead, fall back tonight at 2 AM, so in honor of the clocks jerking forward three weeks earlier than necessary, I suppose it’s time to take Spring Training a little more seriously.
The Mets have just allowed their pretend record to dip to 3-8 with an irritating-sounding loss to the Nationals. It may have looked bad, too, but it was a WFAN-only affair (which, with Hockey Howie otherwise engaged in Uniondale, only made it sound worse). Once I get past the gee whiz, good golly, Donald Rumsfeld-type exclamations of awe that there is baseball being played somewhere, I’ve noticed that almost every game to date — eight of eleven, to be exact — has involved a shoddy display of Met defense, Met offense, Met fundamentals, Met relief and Met starting in roughly that order.
They don’t sound ready for spring or spring ahead or even Spring Training. Thankfully it matters not a whit in real time, but it gets late early around here, y’know?
Speaking of whom, what the fudge is up with Duaner Sanchez? Last year we discovered Duaner, Duaner discovered Queens and all was good with the world until Cecil Wiggins discovered his car keys. We enter these seasons taking several things for granted based on widely held assumptions. One of them was that Sanchez overcame the car wreck, the surgery, the winter and now he’d be ready for Opening Day. It appears very much that he won’t be. And that’s cool, because who the hell are we to tell a guy who’s been through that kind of trauma to get his body in gear exactly when we want it?
But Duaner, you can get to camp on time  every morning. That’s big with managers and coaches. Even John Madden, the quintessential loosey-goosey head honcho who harbored the hijinks of John Matuszak and all those wacky Raiders, said he had but three rules:
• Be on time
• Pay attention
• Play like hell when I tell you to
The on-time part came first (which means I never would have made it with the Raiders; or the Randolphs). So wake up, Filthy. We need you eventually. And it’s your job.
As for everybody else, whatever percentage of life Woody Allen ascribed to showing up isn’t getting it done. Are we really going to war with the bench we have and not the bench we want? Jesus Alou, this is not encouraging. Castro is Castro. Fine. Franco’s a legacy. Whatever. Endy is awesome. No complaints. I don’t begrudge Easley or Newhan for that matter.
But we could use a guy who could hit one out now and then as a matter of course, not as a total surprise. Ruben Sierra probably won’t limp across the finish line, but he can pop. Ben Johnson has been mighty intriguing. Is there room? Do we have to carry 12 pitchers, thus making it untenable to have more than five role players, all of whom left the yard a grand total of 22 occasions last year?
Yeah, probably. We need to carry those seven relievers. But which seven?
Wagner and Heilman (you’re a reliever, learn to deal). Schoeneweis and Feliciano (yes, we have us some lefties). And? No Mota until at least June. No Sanchez until nobody knows. That leaves…
Ambiorix Burgos? I’d like to think so. The wolves will be out for his first mistake, no matter what cooler heads  advise, yet he’s kind of my cause this spring. But those ninth-inning, Bo Diaz-style  grand slams aren’t going to cut it (he pitched much better today…by the sound of it).
Joe Smith? Now there’s a baseball name  for you. I get the sense, based on my two glimpses thus far, that he’s a novelty that will only go so far. But then again, I don’t wear a jacket  all the time, so what could I possibly know about pitching?
Jason Vargas? We could use a long man.
Jorge Sosa? We could use a long man, but not him (he’s sort of the rule-proving exception for In Omar We Trust, at least until I’m presented compelling and overwhelming evidence to the contrary).
Alay Soler? Not after today. I could dig up the stats, but suffice it to say Tom McCarthy and Eddie Coleman weren’t impressed, and if you can’t impress Eddie Coleman, you’re coming up way short. (And if you want a terrific take on Mets broadcasters, take a gander at a terrific new blog, The Ballclub ; gads, we so have to update our links.)
Jon Adkins? I’m too focused on Ben Johnson among the ex-Padres to have noticed much from him.
Chad Bradford? Crap. He’s not here anymore.
Some years this would be window dressing. This year it’s critical. Even with Maine and Perez in the rotation (I think they’re givens at this point), you know inning-eating is going to be at a premium among these five starters, whoever these five starters are. Almost nobody goes seven anymore. Hardly anybody goes six. Whether rookie Pelfrey or wily Park gets the fifth spot — it’s got to be one of those two, and in a chilly April, I wouldn’t mind it being Park — there will be work for the bullpen. It’s amazing how quickly a seven-man corps can deplete itself after a couple of quickie hooks.
My analytical skills are rusty. If any of this made sense, I’d be surprised as anyone. Either way, it doesn’t count. Clock ahead, clock back…it’s still spring. We may be 3-8, but we’re really still oh and oh.
Seriously, though. Duaner Sanchez, take your wakeup call.