Tonight begins the Marlins first road series of the year. The team flew up to New York yesterday and will start a three game set against the Mets tonight at Shea Stadium.
Here's what the series should look like:
Game One (tonight): Beckett (2 - 0, 0.00) vs. Heilman (0 - 1, 9.00)
Game Two (Saturday, 1:10 PM): Leiter (0 - 1, 3.38) vs. Martinez (1 - 0, 2.40)
Game Three (Sunday, 1:10 PM: Burnett (1 - 1, 2.40) vs. Glavine (0 - 1, 5.59)
As we've done all year so far, we'll preview this series with an interview with someone affiliated with the opponent - in this case, the famous Mr. Met. Unfortunately though - and for a variety of reasons which are too distasteful to discuss - Grover was not able to conduct this interview, so you're stuck with me. Let's get it started...
Fish Stripes: Meet the Mets... Beat the Mets... It's so great to beat the Mets...
: Yeah, yeah - great to see you too. Let's get this thing going - I've got to get back on the field to help the grounds crew with the grass design.
FS: Speaking of, I noticed the fancy outfield grass during one of the Mets - Astros games earlier this week. You guys have certainly outdone yourselves to start the year.
: We felt like it was a good way to kick off the year. Cutting the New York skyline into the outfield grass was just our way of raising the bar for grounds keepers around the league.
FS: Whatever. Let's talk about Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran a little bit. Everyone knows that the Mets had a great offseason in that they signed arguably the two best free agents that were on the market. Tell us something that most folks might not realize about these two.
: Well, I think that one of the biggest impacts that Martinez and Beltran will have this season is in taking some of the headlines and media attention away from some of our younger and developing players. Our middle infiedlers - Kaz Matsui and Jose Reyes - are poised for greatness, but without Pedro and Beltran around, every mis-step they made would have generated huge headlines. Having the new, big-name, big-contract guys around will allow them to develop in relative anonymity - or at least as much anonymity as you can find in New York City. It should also help to shield David Wright some too.
FS: Speaking of new pieces of the Mets clubhouse, the Mets have a new manager this year. What can you tell us about Willie Randolph?
: Willie is a guy who not only played the game, but played it well for a long time. For a long stretch of his career he was arguably the best second baseman in the game. He was always a quiet leader and understood the game well.
While we don't like to admit to it, the time he spent in the Yankees dugout will also be very valuable. Starting this year - and in many years to come, we hope - Willie's experience in championship dugouts should be something we'll be able to draw on.
He's still getting used to the National League game though. In our second game of the year against the Reds he messed up an intended double switch by not notifying the umpire in time. He'll start to get that stuff down though.
FS: What type of a manager do you think he will be? A hit-and-run guy, or a wait for a three-run homer guy?
: It's too early to tell, but if I had to pick one of your options, I think Willie will be more of a hit-and-run guy. He was a speedy guy when he played.
But I also think he'll be cerebral and once he gains confidence making pitching changes and with his staff - although he will have Rick Peterson to lean on - he'll emerge as one of the best in the game.
FS: Right - we're all used to the Mets hyperbole. I can't wait to see Gregg Jeffries at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer.
: Nice. Got any more questions or can I get back to my life again?
FS: Sure - last one: Most Marlins fans know enough about two of the Mets starters we'll be seeing this weekend as Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine have been around a long time. We don't know a lot about Aaron Heilman. Can you tell us a little bit about him?
: Sure. He's pretty inexperienced at the major league level, but he's not that young - he's 26 - at least as far as prospects go. Last year in the short amount of time he was with the Mets - he spent most of the year in AAA Norfolk - he struggled with his command. Aaron walked too many guys last year.
You'll be able to tell how well Heilman is going to do tonight by how good of a job he does keeping the ball down and by how few people he walks. Aaron needs to keep the ball low in the strike zone.
FS: Despite the obvious hostility, this has been a very enjoyable conversation Mr. Met. Thanks! I hope we can do this again - and get into things in more depth - the next time the Marlins and Mets get together.
: Absolutely - it was as pleasant as talking to one of you "luckier-than-you-realize" South Florida baseball fans can be.
FS: Umm, thanks!