It's 2009, and the New York Mets are trying to forget the ghosts of the past. Hey, there's even a new stadium to distract the bloodhounds from coming after manager Jerry Manuel and his star players with the same old questions from one year ago, concerning how the Mets couldn't quite make it to the finish line.
Speaking of that new stadium, did you know that their exhibition games against the Boston Red Sox on April 3 and 4 sold out in 45 minutes? Did you also know that the college baseball game on March 29 between St. John's and Georgetown also sold out in 45 minutes? So, the curiosity is high—at least about the ballpark.
I'm not so sure about the team. After all, I have been a Mets fan for 25 years now. To tell you the blatant truth, I am still upset and bitter over the last two years of incompetence towards the end.
I am in the minority that did not want Jerry Manuel to return as manager. By the way, I am African-American, so this is definitely not a color thing. It's a winning thing, or lack thereof.
When you look at this New York Mets team for 2009, Omar Minaya—who doesn't deserve to be fired, but doesn't deserve a three-year extension, either—took care of the painfully obvious.
Francisco Rodriguez is now a Met. J.J. Putz is also a Met. In those cases, Omar looks like the man, and rightfully so.
I think the question is will the rest of this team that Omar decided to bring back ultimately cost him his job? Will it cost Manuel? Probably not this year, but it certainly won't score points with the fan base, if the exact same nucleus of this team cannot get the job done in key situations.
There needed to be some changes. There needed to be some blood and guts players who can do the necessary things to get the job done, and for the last two seasons, this team has not exhibited those traits. There's been too many mouths flapping, and not enough bats swinging over the last two years.
It's time to forget about talking smack to the world champion Philadelphia Phillies, until you see them on the schedule—May 1-3, by the way. Just shut up, and produce. That will produce wonders in a town like New York.
We as New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, such as myself, have heard the guarantees too many times, from Patrick Ewing, all the way through. Some of those guarantors have delivered, i.e. Joe namath, Mark Messier, while the Mets have not.
Just looking at the starting pitchers, assuming that Yohan Santana makes all of his starts, if John Maine, Oliver Perez, or Mike Pelfrey miss any amount of time, it will be a hit to this team. Not as big as Santans, but a hit, nonetheless.
At this point in the spring, it looks like Livan Hernandez has the inside track on being the fifth starter in the rotation. Where the problem comes in there is that when June and July roll around, will Jon Niese be ready to take over the reigns? I have my doubts.
Getting back to this firecracker lineup that I have been screaming about for the better part of 3 years, it's past time to step up, period. The so-called core of this team probably should have been broken up.
However, Minaya and the Wilpons—real estate people who happen to own a baseballl team—decided otherwise. I'm not going to go nuts about not getting Manny Ramirez, although he would have certainly been the kind of change required to put this team over the top.
By not making that move, all parties involved have further put their necks on the line. At what point does the guillotine come out?
There is a lot of addition by subtraction. Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, and Endy Chavez are gone. Well, at least Chavez will be missed. I wouldn't count on a ton of contributions from the bench.
Ramon Tatis and Daniel Murphy should at least make a nice platoon, until Ryan Church either makes or breaks. Luis Castillo will be back in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, come Opening Day, as the leadoff experiment will be short-lived.
Hopefully, the Castillo Revival has begun. As much as I defended Carlos Delgado last year, I don't know what to expect from him in '09. Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran are the givens—at least they should be. As long as the catcher gives you good defense, you can live with Brian Schnieder/Ramon Castro at the bottom of the order.
New stadium or not, the time is now. New stadium or not, just get it done. New stadium or not, don't justify the higher ticket prices when you can't get to the next level. New stadium or not, the love affair with Citi Field won't last forever. Get it done, or there could be financial hell to pay, new stadium or not.