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Series Seventeen: Mets at Marlins

The current ten game homestand wraps up this weekend with a four game set against the Mets. So far, the Marlins are 5-1; although that gaudy record was built with wins against the lowly Rays and Phillies.

Really, there's no shame in that. Half the battle is winning the games you're supposed to win. It's encouraging to see the Marlins doing those games.

The Mets, however, are no slouches, despite what their 4th place and one-game-below-.500 standing might indicate. Fortunately for the Fish, they might be catching the Mets at the right time.

Carlos Beltran is dinged up. He hasn't played since leaving last Saturday's game against the Yankees. He may not play at all this weekend.

Pedro Martinez is still a guy you don't want to face, but he's been battling some hip problems. He's still scheduled to start against the Marlins on Friday night though.

Despite that, the Mets have had a pretty good month of May. Well, they were until they visited Atlanta at least. Before suffering a sweep at the hands of the Braves, the Mets were 12 - 8 in May (or 11 - 6 if you discount the Yankees games). You can't do any of that though, so the Mets are just 12 - 11 this month, which is fine, but certainly not great.

Now that we've rambled more than enough, let's bring in Mr. Met to try to get some insight.

: Welcome back, Mr. Met!

: Thanks for having me, Grover. Are you guys excited about the 4th of July trip?

: Absolutely. Well, most of us are. I'm not sure that I'll be able to make it. Someone has to stay back here at Mission Control, to make sure that everything operates smoothly while Mike is out of town. Plus, I'm completely against flying as cargo (that's just insulting) and Mike refuses to pay for a regular plane ticket for me.

: That's a shame. There's a new play on Broadway that I was hoping we could go see.

: Let's talk about something else. This is depressing me. Tell us about Mike Cameron. While the Marlins and Mets have tusseled twice already this year, we haven't seen Cameron yet.

: Mike was nearly on the outside looking in after Carlos Beltran was signed this offseason. You've probably heard him attached to nearly every trade rumor. Making the situation even more difficult for Mike was that he started the regular season off with a wrist injury, which sidelined him until early May.

Since he's been back, though, he's been excellent. Originally many folks thought that Mike's value would be lost with Beltran on the club. The theory was that most of Cameron's value was in his defense. Mike is an excellent defender who gets great jumps on fly balls and takes excellent routes. That's a great skill in center field, but it's harder to capitalize on in either of the corners.

Fortunately for the Mets, Cameron has proved to be very valuable for the Mets offensively so far this year. Here's his line: .354/.475/.692.

No, that's not a typo. Yes, that adds up to an OPS of 1.167. Yes, those are All-Star type numbers if he's able to maintain them. The reality is that he won't though. Those are Bonds like tallies.

: You mentioned trade rumors involving Cameron. As a result of his play, I suppose those have died down considerably. What about other trades?

: Well, rumors abound, but much of that is just because this is New York. One recent rumor is that the Mets are pursuing Latroy Hawkins, who is currently with the Cubs. The Mets, like most everyone, are in search of bullpen help. By reputation, Hawkins doesn't seem to provide that, but if you take a close look at the numbers, the reality is that Hawkins has been placed in a significant number of high leverage situations. When you look at his performance relative to the situation (number of men on base, score of the game, etc.) his numbers are very much in line with an average-to-good reliever. His failures have just been in high profile situations.

For the Mets, at least at this point, that's neither here, nor there - at least not yet - as he's still a Cub.

: You mentioned the bullpen, but the Mets rotation is also pretty interesting. At the front end of the rotation you have guys who are locked in to roles: Pedro, Tom Glavine, and probably Kris Benson. At the back end though, there are a number of guys who have cases for those last two spots. Those guys are Aaron Heilman, Jae Seo, Victor Zambrano, and Kaz Ishii. How do you see all of that shaking out?

: Well, it likely won't be pretty. Ideally, assuming everyone is healthy, you'd use one or two of those guys in a trade to fill a need somewhere else.

The media would like to see Zambrano moved, but that's mostly an overreaction to parting with uber-prospect Scott Kazmir to get him last year. Zambrano is talented and should become a solid major league pitcher.

Ishii is proven - not great, but proven. Heilman has shown flashes of brilliance this year - mostly against the MArlins. Seo hasn't really had a chance at this level.

At this point, the Mets may have 7 major league quality starters, but as many as five of them might only be as good as 4th or 5th starters.

If you dropped anyone other than Pedro or Glavine onto the Marlins roster, would they be part of the starting rotation? Maybe, but probably not.

: Alex Gonzalez has really been on a tear for the Marlins lately. So have Damion Easley and even Mike Lowell. Who's been strong for the Mets of late?

: David Wright has an OPS of 1.422 over the last week. Mike Cameron, of course, has been hitting well too. One guy who hasn't gotten much playing time, but who has played well when given the opportunity, is Chris Woodward. He's something of a jack-of-all-trades too; so far this year, he's done everything except pitch and catch.

: Thanks, Mr. Met. Hopefully I'll see you in the Big Apple during the first weekend in July.