Good riddance to bad rubbish. Jenrry Mejia threw it all away and for some strange reason, I just don’t care anymore. And neither should you. We’ve got much nicer things to talk about today!
On Wednesday morning, the National League Champion New York Mets – my Mets, our Mets – will begin the defense of their NL East Division Title as pitcher and catchers report to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie. How great does that sound when the temperature here in NY is in the single digits?
In case anyone has forgotten, General Manager Sandy Alderson has been a busy little beaver since the end of the World Series and for the first time in recent memories, the Mets are reporting to Spring Training with not a lot of holes to fill. Usually Tradition Field is the site of many question marks. Who’s going to be the shortstop? Can this veteran return to form? Can this pitcher return from surgery? Who is going to be the bridge to the closer?
The offseason saw both sadness and joy for Mets fans. Trying to reconcile the loss in the World Series to the KC Royals when we had the lead in every game was a tough nut to crack. Then, Mike Piazza finally gets elected to the Hall of Fame and a few weeks later, Cespedes is back in the Blue and Orange.
The 2016 season has a completely different line of questioning. The question is no longer CAN the Mets get to the playoffs, now it’s WILL the Mets get to the playoffs. It’s just a slight difference, but it means everything. For the first time in a long time, it’s the Mets that have a target on their back.
Of course, Mets history always haunts us the year after making the post season. Did you know that the only time the Mets went to the post season in consecutive years was 1999-2000? Remember the “Dynasty” of the 1986 team? Just one other playoff appearances before it all fell apart, a 1988 loss to the Dodgers. How about the strength of that 2006 team that came within one strike of the World Series? I’m not even going to get into that disaster.
Although the 2015 Mets went all the way to the World Series, the club reporting to Spring Training is significantly better in a lot of ways. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors as we start dreaming of wearing T-Shirts and shorts outside again…
The Daniel Murphy Factor – Of course this was a difficult decision. Murphy was one of our best, if not the best hitter we had, hands down. He was an emotional player and in most cases the heart of the team. I was (and still am) a big Daniel Murphy fan. But I had learned to come to grips with his limitations. Can we all be honest here? He was a liability without a bat in his hands. He makes poor decisions in the field with his glove, with his arm and with his legs. I know, he hit 50 home runs in the post season, but let’s be realistic, shall we? I don’t know what Daniel Murphy that was and I don’t ever expect to see that Daniel Murphy again. But I am quite sure the Washington Nationals are expecting to see THAT Daniel Murphy. And when they don’t, he is going to be one very unhappy muchacho until 2019. He should have taken the Mets offer.
My article: WHY DANIEL MURPHY SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE DEAL
The Jonathan Niese Factor – Have you ever seen a pitcher with such mediocre talent that didn’t know which side of his bread was buttered? Niese was a malcontent that saw the writing on the wall with all of these young guns, and instead of embracing the future of this team and learning to become part of it, he whined and cried like a little baby. He complained every time someone made an error. If he got into trouble on the mound, he didn’t have the ability to get out of it. Then, when he was traded to Pittsburgh, the first thing he said was he was happy to go to a team that played good defense. Guess he didn’t know the Pirates led the National League in errors last year. Good luck with that, Jonathan. This was addition by subtraction for Alderson and the Mets.
The Remaking of the Middle Infield – Part of the Niese trade was bringing in second baseman Neil Walker from the Pirates. Walker is certainly an upgrade defensively over Murphy (who isn’t?) and is a pretty good hitter himself. At the very least, this is a slight upgrade. But Alderson went one better and signed shortstop Asrubal Cabrera for two years ($18.5m) a few hours later. Now Wilmer Flores can become the super utility player the Mets have lacked for a long time. And with David Wright’s back still a part of the great unknown, we are going to need a couple of guys that can play third. This also gives Terry Collins a middle infield combination that he can pencil in almost every day. This is a huge upgrade for the Mets.
The Bartolo Colon Show Returns – Was there any other Met that made you smile every time you saw him on the field? When he was standing on the mound, flipping the ball up and down, when he was strolling to the plate with a bat in his hand? Bartolo Colon is like Bruce Springsteen on stage – he is thoroughly enjoying himself and getting the job done. For $7 Million, Colon will easily be able to bridge the gap while Zack Wheeler rehabs from Tommy John surgery.
More Help For The Bullpen – Tyler Clippard is gone (thank goodness), but Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed will be back. Then for good measure, Alderson inked Antonio Bastardo, the lefty specialist the Mets were looking for all year. Lefties hit just .178 against him last year while he was with the Pirates. That is a pretty good three-man bridge to Familia. With this starting pitching staff, the Mets are going to have a lot of 6 and 7 inning games from their starters. That’s where these guys are going to earn their money. With no more innings limits to worry about, the guys won’t have to start warming up in the 4th inning anymore. Mets long relievers should already have a new nickname, “The Maytag Men”. (You kiddies won’t get that one, sorry. Google it)
The Big Bat We All Know We Wanted – The Mets and Yoenis Cespedes danced the entire off season, causing the fan base to lose their mind. Of course we needed Cespedes, but it turns out he needed us too. Some teams offered him more money, others more security. But when you get right down to it, the other teams couldn’t offer him what the Mets had – a stud pitching staff ready to take them to the next level. The Mets fans showed him the love he needed to see after four teams in five years, but I think it really came down to NOT wanting to face these pitchers 18 times a year – especially if he signed with Washington. Cespedes was able to see firsthand what NY was like in the postseason. Not a lot of free agents get that on the tour, you know.
Now for some outstanding questions – Shall the nitpicking begin, then?
- Is Lucas Duda an everyday first baseman? If not, is the answer really Wilmer Flores? This guy hits a lot of home runs, but they always seem to come in bunches. He may not be as big a mental case as Ike Davis was, but it’s all in his head. Maybe he can finally relax now that Cespedes will be hitting in front of him. Let’s hope so. Not a lot of talent in the minors to play 1B. Why do you think they asked Plawecki and d’Arnaud to invest in first baseman gloves?
- Will the Mets have the lowest stolen base total in baseball history? Not going to be a lot of RBI doubles with a man on first this season, my friends.
- Can our catchers throw anyone out? To answer this I just say, oh yeah? YOU try throwing down to second after five innings of catching 98 MPH heaters all the time, every day.
- Is there any doubt that one or more of our stud pitchers is going to come down with what will initially be diagnosed as “arm fatigue” that turns into full blown Tommy John reconstructive surgery? I really hope not, but these are MY Mets, after all…
- Are Steven Matz and Michael Conforto ready for everyday duty at the Major League level? Matz needs to show he can stay on the field and Conforto needs to show he can play against left-handed pitching. This smells of “sophomore Jinx: all over the place.
- What will Zack Wheeler be able to deliver when (if) he returns in July? When Matt Harvey returned to Spring Training last season, he had almost 18 months without having to face a batter. He left in August of 2013 and rehabbed the entire 2014 season making him very ready to return in 2015. If you are going to have TJ surgery, looks like August is the best time. But Wheeler is just a year out of surgery and even though he will not be pitching competitively until May or June, let’s just hope the Mets don’t “need” him in July because of an injury or something else. We kind of got spoiled with Harvey’s return, you know.
- Will both Wild-Cards come out of the Central again? That’s a tough division to start with and the Cubs have gotten better. Looks like the Mets will need to win the East again.
- There’s another baseball team in this town? Talk about role reversal! The Yankees were very quiet in the Free-Agent market, but they seem to be building a great bullpen. Did you know they led the league in runs scored last year until September? But without that run production this year and suspect starting pitching, that bullpen is going to lead the league in “holds” while the Yankees scramble to score runs. And I bet they wished Tanaka had that TJ surgery when he had the chance, don’t they? And good for CC Sabathia in getting his life back together. Not gonna matter, baseball fans. This will be another banner-less year in the Bronx as their aging lineup has to start acting their age without the benefits of steroids.
Now that the Super Bowl closed out the NFL Season, it’s time to dust off that Mets cap and get ready for what is going to be one of the most anticipated springs in Mets history. After each one of our previous World Series appearances, there were lots of question marks and concerns. Not this year. We are coming back as Defending National League Champions and for the first time, we are even better.
I can’t wait, and I am sure you, my faithful readers, can’t wait either!