Team Previews

Nl East

April 01, 2001

New York Mets

Record: 94-68, 2nd place, 1 back, beat Giants in Division Series, Cardinals in NLCS, lost to Yankees in World Series Runs scored: 807 (7th in NL) Runs allowed: 738 (3rd in NL) Manager: Bobby Valentine Home: Shea Stadium That was then: New York did nothing to fix its troubles against the Braves, who have won 18 of the past 24 meetings, but it made the postseason for a club-record second straight year and reached the World Series - in part because the Cardinals took out Atlanta. This is now: The honeymoon could be over quickly. The Mets lost the Subway Series to the hated Yankees, couldn't keep Mike Hampton, couldn't trade for David Wells, couldn't lure Alex Rodriguez and now must play six of their first nine games against the Braves. Upside: This is a team built to win now - and willing to deal for missing pieces (i.e., lefty power). ... The rotation this spring: 9-1, ERA under 2.00. ... No team has a deeper bullpen. Downside: The Mets committed 118 errors, compared with their major-league-record 68 in 1999. ... Robin Ventura hit just .232. ... Mike Piazza threw out just 13 percent of base stealers. Don't miss ... : ... the World Series rematch June 15-17 at Shea Stadium. If Roger Clemens pitches, he'll have to bat. Check where Mike Piazza sets up for the inside fastball. Don't be surprised ... : ... if newly acquired Steve Trachsel wins some big games. Last May, he took consecutive 1-0 decisions against Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez. Don't expect ... : ... Edgardo Alfonzo to remain in Piazza's shadows. Despite injuries, he raised his on-base and slugging averages by 40 points each and hit .377 after the sixth inning. He's an MVP candidate. Book it: "Tabloid Dreams"

New York at a glance 2001 LINEUP CARD AND SKINNY (*-new; i-injured) RF Timo Perez ... Tsuyoshi Shinjo gets time, too 1B Todd Zeile ... Eventually Piazza will play here 3B Robin Ventura ... Team's only lefty power C Mike Piazza ... NL MVP until September fade 2B Edgardo Alfonzo ... .425 on-base avg; slugged .542 LF Benny Agbayani ... Leads off against some pitchers CF Jay Payton ... Led NL rookies in hits with 142 SS Rey Ordonez ... Hit .188 last year, .171 this spring 2001 ROTATION, CLOSER AND SKINNY (*-new; i-injured) LHP Al Leiter ... Ace had 0.00 spring ERA in 19 2/3 innings RHP Kevin Appier* ... 15 wins but AL-high 102 walks RHP Rick Reed ... 7-3, 3.47 ERA second half LHP Glendon Rusch ... 11 wins; NL's worst support RHP Steve Trachsel* ... 8-15; eats up innings RHP Armando Benitez ... Held batters to .148 average

Atlanta Braves

Record: 95-67, 1st place, lost Division Series to Cardinals Runs scored: 810 (6th in NL) Runs allowed: 714 (1st in NL) Manager: Bobby Cox Home: Turner Field That was then: The Braves became the third major-league team to post 90-plus wins in nine straight full seasons, but they were swept in the playoffs for the first time since 1982. This is now: Aside from the fabled rotation, this isn't an old team. Only nine players in camp have been to a World Series with the Braves, and several youngsters are just entering their prime. Upside: A healthier Quilvio Veras, Brian Jordan, B. J. Surhoff and Javier Lopez should help an offense that was only 16th in the majors in runs. ... The bullpen, once a weak spot, saved 53 games, most in the majors. Downside: John Smoltz will start the year on the DL after missing 2000 for elbow surgery; no pitcher to sit out a full season with an injury in the past 25 years has come back to win 15 games the next year. ... Despite a rich farm, there's little immediate help: Triple-A Richmond lost 92 games last season, the most of any minor-league team in any organization. Don't miss ... : ... the first inning. Veras and Rafael Furcal both reach base nearly 40 percent of the time and should steal 50 bases apiece. No. 3 hitter Andruw Jones runs, too. Don't be surprised ... : ... if new first baseman Rico Brogna has a big year. Injuries shattered his 2000 season, but he had 100 RBIs in each of the previous two years. Don't expect ... : ... Tom Glavine to keep getting the outside strike 4 inches off the plate. The umpires have taken that gift away from pitchers in return for the high strike, which Glavine rarely throws. Book it: "Brave New World Revisited"

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