The Mets are difficult to figure out. If they’re healthy, then they will have one of the deepest lineups in the National League. If they suffer injuries, as they are now with Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran’s ongoing knee problems, then the Mets could be part of the bottom feeders in the NL.
Two highly-respected annual baseball previews, however, don’t see the Mets being very good.
“They’re going to be bad,” says Sports Illustrated in their baseball preview that hit stands this week.
“I think they’re going to be dead last and they’re going to be bad,” Lindy’s Sports Baseball preview says. “They can’t pitch.”
And therein lies the problem for the 2011 New York Mets.
The Mets bats may be some of the best in the league, but their thin pitching rotation will be the reason they don’t make the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
Mike Pelfrey goes into the season as the ace only because Johan Santana will start the season on the DL, and is slated to come back July 1, at the earliest.
The rest of the Mets rotation rounds out like this: Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Young, and Chris Capuano.
Is it too early to say, maybe next year, Mets fans?
Last year was another forgettable season for the Mets–just take a look at their home games and check out the stands. Unless Mets fans totally forgot their team was playing, its safe to say they just didn’t want to watch the mess the Mets were putting out there.
The Mets’ attendance went from 7th place in the majors in 2009–their opening season at Citi Field–to 12th place last year. Their average attendance went from 38,941 to 32,401 last season. Mets fans were fed up, and who can blame them?
What made it worse was the ongoing disdain for Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. On top of that, the Mets star closer, Francisco Rodriguez, attacked his girlfriend’s father in the clubhouse, in front of families of other Mets players. That inexcusable incident led to a two-game suspension from the Mets. And to add insult to injury, K-Rod tore a ligament in his right hand, ending his season.
Center fielder Carlos Beltran played in only 64 games due to ongoing knee problems, and is still a concern going into the season.
The Mets gave free agent Jason Bay a four-year, $66 million contract after he put up monster numbers with the Red Sox. The Canadian-born left fielder just couldn’t hit in the Mets’ majestic stadium. He hit six homes runs–30 less than he hit with the Red Sox in 2009. And his season ended early after he suffered a concussion against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What did the Mets get out of Bay’s contract? Six home runs, 47 RBI, and a .259 batting average.
Bernie Madoff. OK, now we can move on. (Let’s stick to actual baseball talk here.) The Mets have a new GM in Sandy Alderson, a former Marine, and intelligent baseball man. And a new manger in Terry Collins, whose tough-guy mantra didn’t work well in his previous managerial stops. At 61 years old, I don’t know how long Collins wants to do this, but maybe he’s just what the Mets need during their transition. He will no doubt, get in a player’s face, and that’s what they lacked under Jerry Manuel.
As for on the field, the Mets come into this season filled with questions. Will Beltran hold up? Can Jason Bay conquer Citi Field? Can Mike Pelfrey put together two strong seasons in a row? And will Jose Reyes be on the team when the season is over?
This is what one rival scout said about Beltran in SI’s preview: “I don’t know what they can do with Carlos Beltran. It’s tough to say what type of player he still is because every time he gets on the field, one of his knees starts to bother him.”
Beltran made the move to right field in the beginning of spring training, which will help him defensively, because Angel Pagan is a much better center fielder at this point in their careers. If Beltran can stay healthy, he should be able to produce for the Mets. It is a positive sign for the Mets that Beltran will start the season on the field instead of the DL. If Beltran can come close to his 2008 numbers (27 home runs and 112 RBI) the Mets will be ecstatic.
Jason Bay can’t catch a break, he will start the season on the DL because of a rib injury, but it’s not as serious as the concussion he suffered last season. With Citi’s Field huge dimensions, Bay won’t be the 30-home run guy he was with the Red Sox, but he should have a comeback season this year. With the Red Sox in 2009 he was a RBI machine, and a legitimate MVP candidate early that season. He has the ability to turn it around.
Mike Pelfrey had a nice season last year and it looks like he’s finally gained confidence. What Mets fans fear the most with Pelfrey, like the Yankees do with A.J. Burnett, is his mental state when he’s on the mound. Pelfrey isn’t a true ace, but he’s the best the Mets have right now, and he should have another strong season. I’m expecting the Mets’ speedy shortstop to have a productive season.
Jose Reyes is in a contract year and he’s going to want a huge upgrade from his team-friendly contract that he signed earlier in his career. Reyes says he wants to be a Met, and he loves New York, but he won’t be able to resist a huge contract offer. Alderson has said he’s not the type of guy to give out huge contracts. He comes from the Moneyball system with the Oakland Athletics, and will look for cheaper players who can produce just as well.
My guess? Reyes will be gone by the trade deadline. Reyes is in a tough spot–he wants to play well, of course. But the Mets will realize he will become to expensive in free agency and they might dump him. Everybody talks about the Yankees making a move during the season, but don’t be surprised if the Red Sox, who haven’t had a steady player at shortstop since Nomar Garciappara, make a move for Reyes.
A couple of places to go watch the games:
REST OF THE ROTATION
R.A. Dickey was a revelation for the Mets last season. His 2.84 ERA was the best on the team, as he used his knuckle ball to aggravate batters. With a knuckle baller you never know, especially in that stadium. He won’t have a season like he had last year, but Dickey will be a solid No. 2 for the Mets.
The rest of the rotation is a crapshoot. Jonathon Niese was 9-10 last year and doesn’t really scare anybody as a No. 3 guy. Chris Young appeared in only four games for the San Diego Padres last year, pitching 20 innings. And Chris Capuano started nine games for the Milwaukee Brewers, and pitched 66 innings.
The Mets pitching will be their downfall this season, no matter how well Pelfrey and Dickey pitch. But the pressure is on those two to carry the Mets, and stop losing streaks.
WHAT TO BE EXCITED FOR
The Mets infield will be productive this season. With the Reyes at shortstop, David Wright at third base, and Ike Davis at first, the Mets will have one of the best infields in baseball. That should be enough to offset the lack of production they might get from rookie second baseman Brad Emaus.
Ike Davis will quickly turn into a fan favorite. He adds some pop in that lineup (19 home runs last season as a rookie) and he will grown even more this season.
David Wright was the only Met last season to knock in over 100 runs and they’re going to need that again, if they want to compete in the NL East. Wright will put together another good season, and if Beltran can stay healthy and add protection for him, Wright could have one of his biggest seasons in a long time.
And no I didn’t forget about the catcher position, but what is there to say? Josh Tole is a nice contact hitter, but time will tell if he’s a legit everyday catcher. I think Mike Piazza can come back from retirement and have a better slugging percentage than Tole.
The Mets will be in the race in the NL East. In the race not to finish last, that is.
Lindy’s has the Mets finishing 4th. Sports Illustrated has them 5th. I’m going with Lindy’s on this one. I don’t think the Washington Nationals lineup can match up with the Mets, and both starting rotations aren’t going to scare anyone. It’s not much Mets fans, but at least your beloved “Amazins” won’t be in last place.
Here’s what the rival scout said in SI to end his scouting report:
“Their motto should be Trade Anybody–no one on the roster should be off-limits. The system is thin at the minor league level. I don’t see an impact there, and they have to do something to change the climate. If they’re smart, they would blow the club up and start over.”