Can you imagine what it must be like to be a Mets fan these past few years? Seriously, most of us get so used to despising the team and its fans that we haven’t actually taken a second to put ourselves in their shoes.
We all know the history, so there is no need to go any further than: brutal collapse in 2007, slightly less brutal collapse in 2008, ninety-two losses in 2009.
Entering 2010, there are question marks galore for a team attempting to put three nightmare seasons behind it.
- When he eventually returns, will we see the same Jose Reyes?
- When will Carlos Beltran be ready?
- Can David Wright slug higher than .109?
- Do Jeff Francoeur and Gary Matthews Jr. remember how to play baseball?
- Can Johan Santana go back to being superman?
- Is Oliver Perez capable of throwing a strike every once in a while?
- How long before the Jason Bay signing becomes completely regrettable for the Mets new GM after Omar Minaya gets fired in mid-June?
Several more questions could be posed, but let’s start with these.
1) Reyes has been sidelined with an overactive thyroid for much of the Spring and will begin the season on the Disabled List. It has been reported that he could return as soon as the fifth game of the season, but for a player who has seen setback-after-setback since early 2009, one has to wonder when he will actually return to the field.
It makes little sense to expect Reyes to return to his old self immediately upon returning; after all, he hasn’t seen a live pitch in a meaningful major league game since last May. Reyes has been the Mets igniter since arriving in New York, but if he struggles to get going we could see a situation similar to when Jimmy Rollins struggled so mightily last season.
Sure, they are different players, but the point is that unless an offense is as powerful as the Phillies’, it is very hard to sit around and wait for your table-setter to get going.
2) Carlos Beltran has not even began running since his knee surgery in January, and the Mets have made it clear that he will not be able to return before May 8. When asked about the time-table for his star centerfielder, Omar Minaya responded that it could be anywhere from mid-May to mid-June. Then he accused the reporter of lobbying for a job.
Replacing Beltran in centerfield until this time will be some combination of Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. Pagan appears to have won the starting job, as the Mets have been shopping Matthews recently.
3) An intriguing study on David Wright was recently conducted by Eric Seidman of Baseball Prospectus, who found that no other player in major league history as young as Wright, with four comparable home-run seasons, had experienced an equivalent drop-off in power.
Simply put, 2009 was a fluke season for Wright. Citi Field probably played a role in his power outage, as did the lack of lineup protection and the Mets pitiful season as a unit, but even extreme factors like those don’t fully explain how a guy can go from averaging 26 homers and a .533 slugging percentage over five and 1/2 seasons to hitting ten home runs and slugging .447.
Wright will bounce back.
4) Jeff Francouer hit relatively well with the Mets last year, but it’s time to face the facts – he is not and will never be the player everybody thought he would be. His career on-base percentage of .311 is dreadful and he doesn’t make up for it with exceptional power. Excluding his best and worst home-run years, Francoeur averages 13-14 per year.
He is still a feared fielder to run on, but his range and speed are middling. He’s pretty much a slight tick above being a league-average corner outfielder.
5) Johan Santana was in the midst of a very good season last year when he was forced to shut it down due to bone chips in his throwing elbow. It was a typical “great-player-on-a-bad-team” season for Santana, as he compiled his usual impressive peripherals. As is often the case, though, a 13-9 record turned people off and led the average baseball fan to believe Santana was just an average pitcher in 2009. Not at all the case.
Like Wright, Santana will bounce back. Unfortunately for the Mets, he is the staff’s only proven commodity.
6) Oliver Perez was given one of the worst contracts of the last ten years and the Mets will regret it every minute from now until the end of the 2011 season. He had one good season as a major leaguer (2004) before coming to the Mets in 2007. He was good in ’07 and average in 2008, leading the league with 105 walks.
After the 2008 season, when no other team was even in the running for Perez, Omar Minaya took ecstacy and signed him to a 3-year/$36M contract.
Anytime you can sign an erratic, enigmatic, consistently inconsistent headcase to a huge contract that no other team is willing to come close to, you gotta do it.
Perez walked 7.9 batters per nine innings last year, ended the season on the DL, and just completed an awful Spring. How does Minaya still have a job?
7) Baseball observers and Mets fans alike spoke ill of the Jason Bay signing when it happened, but just in case nobody remembers the argument, it was that he’s an aging (31, with pure “old-man skills,”) slow, power-hitting corner outfielder with absolutely no range.
Don’t misinterpret the intent of this criticism, Bay is a threat at the plate and will certainly add power to a lineup that needs it, but 4-years/$66 million (with a full no-trade clause) is a hefty investment to give a player with his skillset that will be 36 by the end of the pact.
In addition to the seven issues above, the Mets will now have to find a suitable replacement for first baseman Daniel Murphy, who is out two-to-six weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee. Mike Jacobs appears to be the beneficiary of Murphy’s injury.
I sat down and tried to write an unbiased team preview of the New York Mets, but after proofreading this article, I can see how it will appear that I’m just “hating.” But, truthfully, it has nothing to do with them being the Phillies rival. It has everything to do with the fact that they are a poorly-assembled team that has thrown money around like a drunk cripple at a strip club.
Bad decisions and bad luck have led to several years of torture for the Mets. 2010 doesn’t appear to offer any consolation.
Prediction: 80-82, fourth-place in the NL East