Speed and defense? What are the Mets if not pitching and offense? Not the Mets. While the team still has the best starting pitching in baseball, it isn't as good as it was a year ago. Lefthander Sid Fernandez has allowed fewer hits per nine innings (6.64) than any pitcher in major league history save Nolan Ryan. But the 240-pound Fernandez will be out until at least June with a broken left forearm suffered in spring training. "We have a lot of guys who can fill Sid's shoes," says Jefferies. Perhaps. But this much is certain: 185-pound Wally Whitehurst, who has made one major league start and will replace Fernandez in the rotation, cannot fill the rest of El Gigante's uniform.
As for offense, the Mets have done the impossible. The team had the majors' highest batting average against righthanded pitchers last season and the majors' lowest average against lefties. Yet New York's primary acquisitions over the winter—Coleman and rightfielder Hubie Brooks—hit southpaws fairly and poorly, respectively.
The Mets need more hitters like Dave Magadan, who batted .328 last year, if they're to manufacture runs, as they hope to do. They can no longer rely on the ninth-inning shot over the billboard in rightfield at Shea. Subtract Strawberry's 37 home runs and 108 RBIs and what do you have?
4. MONTREAL EXPOS
A brief chronology of the Expos since last season: In December, they traded their alltime greatest player, Tim Raines, to the White Sox for a relief pitcher and Ivan Calderon, who spent the off-season training fighting cocks in Puerto Rico. In February, Calderon arrived at Montreal's spring complex wearing two gold ropes that weighed 10 pounds apiece. Days later, manager Buck Rodgers was hospitalized with what doctors diagnosed as "acute indigestion."
This isn't to say that the Expos made a bad trade. "Sometimes when you haven't won and you've been close, you just make changes," says G.M. Dave Dombrowski. "It can be good for everybody."
Remarkably, Montreal was indeed close last season. And leftfielder Calderon (.273, 74 RBIs and 32 stolen bases last year) isn't likely to be the source of Rodgers's shpilkes this season. Instead, starting pitching will determine whether the Expos plop-plop or fizz-fizz.
The Expos plop-plop if Chris Nabholz, Mark Gardner and Brian Barnes (the latter two started the season on the disabled list), who have 14 major league wins among them, are not ready for prime time. The Expos fizz-fizz if those guys find the groove, and Oil Can Boyd and Dennis Martinez repeat their solid seasons of a summer ago.
Oh, what a relief it is. "We're extremely comfortable with our bullpen," says Rodgers. Last year, closer Tim Burke saved 20 games, rookie Bill Sampen had a team-high 12 wins and lefthander Steve Frey was 8-2 with a 2.10 ERA. Barry Jones, who learned he was the reliever in the Raines-Calderon deal while watching TV on Christmas Eve, was 11-4 with a 2.31 ERA as Bobby Thigpen's table-setter in Chicago last season.