[Full Disclosure: Some of you may be thinking, 'Wait, isn't Dave a Yankee fan?' I am. That has not changed. That said, I am a pro-Mets Yankee fan. I watch a lot of Mets games every year - their broadcast package is excellent - and generally wish the Metropolitan Baseball Club the best. Unless they're playing the Yankees.]
You know things are going poorly for a sports franchise when its ownership is being sued for a billion dollars, and its fans desperately want those owners to lose the lawsuit. Such was the case for the Mets, the Wilpons, and the recently settled lawsuit with the Madoff Trustee. With a week until Opening Day, there is a dearth of optimism in Flushing. Jose Reyes is no longer a Met. Jason Bay still is. Team doctors diagnosed one of the team’s young stars with an affliction that may or may not even exist. The team hasn’t posted at least 80 wins since George W. Bush was still President. As a Yankee fan, I’m able to step back and look at the situation objectively. Things may not be all sunshine and puppy dogs in Mets-Land, but the situation might not be as dire as Mets fans are inclined to think.
If You Can Pitch, You Can Win
And the Mets might be able to pitch a little bit, shaky bullpen notwithstanding. The Mets initial starting rotation last season was Pelfrey, Niese, Dickey, Young, and Capuano. Compare that to this year: Johan Santana is back, and has looked pretty good in Port St. Lucie. Niese was inconsistent last year, but has shown some signs of improvement. You know, more or less, what you’re going to get from R.A. Dickey and Dillon Gee. Pelfrey is going to be pitching against the back end of other teams’ rotations, instead of their aces. Yes, their bullpen still has a bunch of guys who might be in Witness Protection. Still, even the prohibitive favorite to win the NL East (Philly, -225) can’t hit. Especially in the Senior Circuit, I feel like the Mets have good enough starting pitching to keep them in games.
You Can’t Move the Goalposts, But You Can Move the Fences
Mistakes were made in the construction of Citi Field. The Wilpons were so hung up on owning the Brooklyn Dodgers that one of the Mets’ greatest players ever autographing a wall was viewed as Lexington and Concord-style revolutionary. Architects conveniently forgot the kerfuffle that culminated in the Detroit Tigers moving the cavernous Comerica Park fences in to more “reasonable” depths.
If you’ve watched any Mets Spring Training, you’ve likely heard somebody mention “Field 7” – the practice field with fence depths that mimic the new-look Citi Field. Fences in both gaps have been moved in, and hopes are this will throw a bone to players – most notably David Wright – who struggled within the confines of the more pitcher-friendly dimensions.
Plus, the Mets might end up having some good, young hitting. Despite egregious mishandling by the Mets training staff, Ike Davis looks like he’s going to be a very good player, on both sides of the ball. Lucas Duda has shown the potential to hit BOMBS. (Side note / prediction: If the Mets are completely out of contention at the trade deadline, Duda will end up going to an AL team in need of a left-handed bat. His defense is suspect, at best, and he has greater value to a team that can use him as a DH.) A middle of a line-up with some combination of Wright, Davis, Duda, and Daniel Murphy has a chance to produce some runs.
Depth is going to be a problem for the Mets. Justin Turner is solid, with added value because he plays about as many positions as the Kama Sutra, but the Mets bench is fairly weak. Even worse, a bunch of the young guys who came up from the minors, played decent ball, and helped the team weather last season’s injury problems (i.e. Duda) are now with the Big League club – the guys on the roster now are, pretty much, it. If Mets start dropping in any meaningful number, look for Citi Field peanut vendors to get ushered out of the stands and into the bullpen. This is a very serious concern for a team whose medical staff thinks ‘Valley Fever’ is a real thing.
At Least They’re Not the Pirates
Listen, I get it. Mets’ fans haven’t fully recovered from 2007. Or 2008. Or this. The only way team ownership could have displayed more ineptitude would have been to hire Isiah Thomas. Things have been rough, and, as the Gin Blossoms said, “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” Still, from where I stand over in the Bronx, the Mets have legitimate Major League talent. Their Vegas-projected season win total (71.5) seems excessively pessimistic. I’m not saying the Mets are going to win the pennant, but they could be fun to watch. They do still have Ron, Keith (if it isn’t a day game), and Gary.
And, hey, only 24 more years of paying Bobby Bonilla.