After the New York Mets made headlines for all of the wrong reasons this winter, Mets fans have been unusually pessimistic about opening day. Could you blame them?
After five straight seasons of disappointment, the biggest moves the organization made this offseason were cutting the payroll down to $91 million dollars and letting arguably the most beloved player on the team sign with a division rival. The Mets payroll is now lower than it has been since 2002, and as we all know, that was not the best year to be a fan.
So where do they go from here?
The Mets could start by staying healthy. Unfortunately, even this seems like an unreachable goal. Just a shortlist of key injuries this spring already includes David Wright, Ruben Tejada, Tim Byrdak, D.J. Carrasco, Andres Torres, Scott Hairston, and now the prized young righty Zack Wheeler. Manager Terry Collins already expressed his frustration at the rash of injuries. However, the blame cannot be put on anybody in particular.
So despite the negativity surrounding the team, is there a glimmer of hope for this young and battered ball club? What can fans really expect from this 2012 season?
For one, the underrated power of this team may take people by surprise. Add in the fact that the fences were moved in pretty drastically, and the Mets could become a team recognized for their power. Last year, the Mets ranked in the bottom half of the MLB in both home runs and slugging percentage.
The middle of the lineup for the Mets features three left-handed hitters: Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and Daniel Murphy. All of who can easily exploit the renovated right field walls.
A rejuvenated Jason Bay will be a key part of the lineup. The man who worked tirelessly with Dave Hudgens to reconstruct his swing can truly make Citi Field look like a hitters’ ballpark. After clearing his mind during the offseason, Bay hopes that he will be able to return to old form.
Coming off an injury and surrounded by trade rumors, David Wright enters this season with the most interesting storyline. Last season was by far David’s worst year in the majors, hitting a measly .254 with just 14 home runs. Although there has not been any word from the Mets, the rumor that he will be traded mid-season has been circulating since mid-season last year.
Nevertheless, in 2012, Wright looks to get back on track and will serve as an intricate part of this Mets lineup.
Mets fans can also expect to see a solid year from Ruben Tejada. Replacing last year’s batting champ is setting the bar just a bit too high. However, on defense, Tejada will fill Reyes’ shoes and then some. On top of that, Tejada hit .284 in over 300 at-bats last season. It’s also pretty easy to over look the fact that the kid is only 22 years old.
Overall, the Mets do have some underrated offensive bright spots in their lineup. On the pitching side, however, it is hard to say the same.
Johan Santana looks to make his first start on April 5, opening day, nearly 19 months since his last regular season action. Expecting Johan to be healthy for this whole season and, on top of that, return to his old form may be asking a little much.
Behind Santana, there remain more unanswered questions. Other than R.A. Dickey, who has proven to be the most consistent starter of the bunch, there is nobody who the Mets can rely on.
Jon Niese has shown that he has lived up to his potential as a middle to back-end starter. Flashing signs of greatness, he has not been consistent since pitching in the majors.
Dillon Gee showed that he has the stuff to make him successful in the big leagues, but making it through the full season proved to be a challenge for the young right-hander. This year, he will show his true colors and what he can become in the majors.
Finally, we come to Mike Pelfrey. Trade rumors began to swirl around camp as Big Pelf continues to struggle this spring. It seems as though his career with the Mets has run its course. Do not expect to see him on the team come September.
Pitching wins championships. Unfortunately for the Mets, they’re lined up to have similar pitching results as last year.
Do not expect to see any of the top three prospects this year until September, at the earliest. It was a rough spring for both Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia. They will most likely be spending their 2012 campaign in Buffalo. As for Zach Wheeler, he will probably start in Binghamton and make his way up to Buffalo at some point during the season.
The Mets bullpen is actually one aspect of the team that improved this offseason. Adding Ramon Ramirez and Frank Francisco were solid front office moves to fill last year's lackluster bullpen. The acquisition on Jon Rauch adds another right-handed arm as well.
Unfortunately for the Mets, they play in a division stacked with teams who were willing to spend money this offseason.
Entering this season, the Mets are not a playoff team by any means. They are now the underdog of the division. However, if all goes right, then the growth of their young talent may blossom before our eyes, setting the stage for years to come. It may not be an exciting year to be a Mets fan, but it is the growing pains that will make it all worthwhile in the end.