BY JOHN OTANO
As the New York metro area recovers from the third major snow storm of February, The New York Metropolitans are readying for a 2010 season with one thing in mind: redemption. For Mets fans, it’s been an avalanche of agony since Carlos Beltran waved at Adam Wainwright’s 3-2 curveball in the 2006 NLCS. Each year thereafter, the Mets managed to collapse harder than trees that fell in Central Park this weekend. After an injury plagued season tanked the 2009 campaign, the Mets look to erase some painful memories of years past going into the 2010 season. The spring is a time for rebirth and optimism and for the Mets, the spring must, over all other things, must stand for rehabilitation. The Mets need to revitalize an organization that’s expectations have far exceeded their performances.
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Going into the 2009 season, the Mets, after adding relievers J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, were a team many were picking to win the National League East. This year, the Mets success largely depends on the ability of returning injured players to make an impact. Carlos Beltran is expected to miss a month after undergoing knee surgery in January. The star centerfielder’s relationship with management is one to watch as newly added Gary Matthews Jr. and Angel Pagan will battle to see who will patrol the spacious grounds of Citi Field in Beltran’s absence.
Much of the struggles of David Wright’s can be attributed to the absence of Beltran, Carlos Delgado and the Mets main catalyst, Jose Reyes. The keys to the kingdom lie in the hands of ultra talented shortstop, Jose Reyes. Reyes was hampered by a hamstring injury that limited him to only 36 games of action before ending his season in May and recent reports indicate Reyes is being tested for a thyroid imbalance and is going to be sidelined until the results of the test are known. When healthy, Reyes is one of the most electrifying baseball players on the diamond. Over his career, Reyes has stolen over 50 bases when he plays over 150 games and you can expect the same if the hamstring or the thyroid imbalance isn’t a problem. One of the most exciting plays in baseball is a Jose Reyes triple and early reports show Reyes is running at full speed early on in camp. The Mets can only hope to keep him on the field long enough to make an impact.
Sticking with the theme of returning injured players, one that was failed to be mention in the previous question is ace Johan Santana. Santana’s season ended on August 20th after having bone chips removed on his pitching elbow and is on slate to be the Mets opening day starter. After Santana, questions marks follow. The Mets did very little to bolster the staff, failing to land any free agent pitchers to put behind their lefty ace. Early on in camp, the Mets will feature two of the best pitching prospects in Jenrry Mejia and Jon Niese. Niese is figured to be competing for the Mets final rotation spot with John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and the topsy-turvy adventure that is Oliver Perez filling out the 2-3-4 spots. Mejia is the one to watch during the spring if any of the before mentioned pitchers should under perform in camp. The young prospect is only 20 years old but has impressed those in camp with his electric stuff. Although the Mets are likely to keep Mejia in the minors at the start of the season, the flamethrower is drawing comparisons to an elder Doctor that once donned the blue and orange, Dwight Gooden.
The NL East is astronomically tougher than it appears to be on paper. The Nationals, mixed with seasoned veterans and high ceiling prospects, are expected put out a much more competitive product in 2010. The Braves and Marlins are constant contenders in the East as they both look to build off of seasons where both clubs surpassed 85 wins last year. After adding Roy Halladay to the staff, the Phillies are favorites to represent the National League for the third straight year in the World Series. If the Mets are to make a splash in this tough division, the core players not only need to return, they need to exceed the expectations that’s been following this team since that knee buckling curveball in 2006.