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NL East reality check

Can the Mets truly end Atlanta's streak of dominance?

Posted: Monday April 24, 2006 1:17PM; Updated: Monday April 24, 2006 1:32PM
Pedro Martinez (left) and Xavier Nady (right) have been integral pieces for the Mets in the young 2006 campaign.
Pedro Martinez (left) and Xavier Nady (right) have been integral pieces for the Mets in the young 2006 campaign.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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HOTEL CALIFORNIA, CALIF. -- I can't tell you where I am, because I'm not supposed to be here. Wifey is on the West Coast, on a panel at a convention, and I'm tagging along to hang out and play a lot of golf, though I haven't been assigned clearance to disclose exactly where we're at. Wherever we are, I can admit that I was able to drive to San Diego on Saturday to watch Pedro Martinez pitch, as the Mets thrashed the Padres. Through a strange twist of fate, I've been to Pedro's last two starts, including his win over my Braves last Monday night at Shea.

I've always watched the Mets with a divided sense of wonder and fear. Wonder because for years they've fielded teams of above-average players but somehow haven't been able to win a division since 1988. Fear because I'm constantly worried they're going to put it all together and catch the Braves.

I was all set to sit down this week and explain why the Braves, despite being three games behind the Mets as of Sunday, were still hanging in there, but Bill Syken did a good job summarizing that last Thursday. Even though times are tough, the Braves aren't going away.

So instead, I figured we should talk about why the Mets are going to win the East this year. Pedro is still Pedro -- although I didn't see him throw anything faster than 91 on Saturday -- and Tom Glavine looks like he spent the winter caring more about his pitching form than he did about his usual pet project, the MLB Players Association. (Actually, look who are 1-2 in the National League in ERA right now: Chicago's Greg Maddux and Glavine. I wouldn't mind seeing either of them back with the Braves right about now.) Carlos Delgado is hotter than a pistol, and Xavier Nady (.344, 5 HRs, 10 RBIs) has left field locked down.

The Mets seem to be doing two things really well so far: hitting and pitching. Sounds simple, but they get hits, move guys along -- sending runners to get them in scoring position -- and efficiently knock them in. They even hit to the correct sides to advance base runners. Fundamentals have landed in Flushing. Pitching, though, has been their most impressive aspect. The Mets' pitching staff leads the majors in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP, and they're second in ERA when pitching with runners in scoring position. Their starting pitching (with the exception of Victor Zambrano) has been strong, and the two-headed bullpen monster of Billy Wagner and Duaner Sanchez has allowed a combined one earned run.

The Mets are scary. They've got all the tools -- the leadership, the experience and a nice mix of youth and veteran savvy. They even went out and signed one of my favorite Braves, Julio Franco, who hit a big homer Friday night in San Diego.