Spring Training, Day 13: Taco. In. A. Helmet.

Today brought me to Port St. Lucie, home of the Mets and of the best concession item in the Grapefruit League: Taco in a Helmet. If you get to Port St. Lucie, just go get one. Thank me later. Crushed chips, cheese, spicy ground beef, lettuce, salsa, jalapenos and sour cream in a nice-sized helmet (bigger than your usual ice cream helmet, smaller than an actual helmet).

Anyway, to the baseball.

Today was another episode in the ongoing strange saga of Johan Santana, and I’d be lying if I said to you that I understand what exactly is going on. He’s going to pitch in a game, at some point. But when? Not clear. Whether that will be enough for him to be ready for the first turn through the rotation? Not clear. This is a situation that is best left to the beat writers,and the Mets have some good ones. 

No, rather than actually looking at what’s going on with Santana, the situation instead just causes me to think about what the Mets really are this year. And it may seem silly, but Santana’s health question is really kind of a tipping point for me.

With him, you can look at the rotation and see it being pretty good. I like Jon Niese a lot. Dillon Gee has been effective despite an unusual profile, Shaun Marcum is a nice lottery ticket, and the kids (Wheeler and Harvey) are really exciting.

But it all works so much better with the guy at the front. Santana doesn’t need to be a Cy Young winner, but he needs to be a guy they can count on to be effective. If he’s not there, it really changes the whole look of the Mets starting five, from a unit that has some real potential to one that has more reasons for concern than optimism.

I still wouldn’t completely rule out a surprise. The rotation could still be very good. The lineup is, IMO, better than it looks. But it’s a much tougher row to hoe with Santana a question.

Today’s game in a nutshell: Jeremy Hefner was very good and the Mets hit the ball awfully hard in a 9-6 win against the Astros. New York smacked five doubles among 12 base hits. 

Player of the day: Perhaps the most pivotal Met, Lucas Duda. He hit hte ball hard all over the field, including a double to the opposite field, in going 3-for-3. If Duda lives up to the promise that a lot of people (myself included) thought he had going into last year, it changes the look of this Mets lineup a lot.

Quote of the day: “The same guy that throws really well in the seventh is the guy that should pitch in the ninth.” – Dan Warthen, Mets pitching coach

Miles driven: 36 so far today, 1127 for the trip

Miles run: 6 today, 28 1/2 for the trip

Starbucks visits: 1 so far today (though with another couple hours to drive, maybe one more in the offing), 13 for the trip

Up next: I’ll make camp in Orlando for the next few days, bopping around the camps in Central Florida. Tomorrow it’s Dan Haren against Rick Porcello as the Nats play the Tigers in Lakeland. It will be my first time seeing Washington this spring, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

And, finally, the playlist:

Let’s shuffle the iPod today, shall we?

Kanye West, “All Falls Down”
EMF, “Children”
U2, “Party Girl”
Cake, “Carbon Monoxide”
Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Women”

-M.

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