New Year's Resolutions for the New York Mets in 2013
The New York Mets had a rough 2012.
Following a promising start to the season, Terry Collins' team slid head first into mediocrity then face-planted into utter futility and irrelevance.
Everything that the Mets did right through the first 80 or so games of the year turned into points of weakness after the All-Star break.
Fortunately for Collins and Co., a new year is on the horizon, meaning the organization can send the "old" Mets out and bring the "new" Mets in.
In the spirit of the holiday season, here are some New Year's resolutions for the Mets in 2013.
Reconnect with the Fanbase
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New York Mets fans haven't had much to cheer about over the last half-decade, and attendance at Citi Field has fallen because of the sub-par production on the field.
The Mets drew the second-most fans in the league in 2008, but attendance has been on a steady decline since then. In the years following, the team finished seventh, 12th, 14th and 17th in attendance.
This isn't a small-market team that would have trouble drawing fans even if their team was near the top of the standings. As shown by the playoff run in 2006 and the pre-collapse times of 2007, Mets fans will flock to the ballpark if they know there is something worth watching.
Fred and Jeff Wilpon have done an impeccable job at alienating the fanbase that has stuck by the team for 50 seasons, but they'll have a chance to redeem themselves in 2013.
What better time is there to build a long-lasting relationship with the fans than now? The impressive crop of young players should be used as a bridge to fill in the gap between management and the fans.
If the franchise can do a good job at selling the fanbase on what has become a very young team, there won't be an attendance problem in Flushing Meadows for the next decade.
Avoid a Second-Half Swoon
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Much to the chagrin of all New York Mets fans, the team has exhibited an ugly tendency to exceed expectations in the first half of the season only to come crashing down to earth in the second half.
Last season, the Mets coasted into the All-Star break at a respectable 46-40, but won just 28 games in the second half to finish 74-88. In Terry Collins' first season (2011), the team went 46-45 before the All-Star break, only to cross the finish line at 77-85. Prior to Collins' arrival, the team entered the break at 48-40, but went 31-43 over its next 74 games.
The Mets have become great at luring in unsuspecting fans then crushing their hopes and dreams before the calendar hits August (and, in two recent occurrences, in late September). Mets fans continue to come back for more, but there is only so much a fanbase can take.
It's exciting for a team to get out to a hot start, but the only win-loss record that matters is the one after 162 games. Next year's Mets need to feed off the early-season energy and keep the fans interested all season long.
Work on the Little Things
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If the New York Mets are going to remain relevant for the duration of the 2013 season, manager Terry Collins needs to drill the concept of doing the little things right into his players' heads. Without proper discipline and without a little small ball, the Mets won't be able to compete with the better teams in the National League.
Next year's roster won't be laden with players who can hit for power, so playing fundamentally sound and intelligent baseball will be of the utmost importance in 2013.
Last season the Mets finished 19th in batting average and 20th in on-base percentage, which unsurprisingly led to the team finishing 25th in runs scored.
The ineptitude at the dish can be semi-neutralized by employing one of the most basic components of small ball: stealing bases. Only three teams stole less bases than the Mets last season and only four had a lower stolen base percentage.
With the exception of David Wright and Ike Davis, nobody on the roster has shown the ability to consistently hit the ball out of the park. Collins must mask this deficiency by letting his players run more often.
Let the Kids Loose
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There is great young talent in the New York Mets organization that is waiting to be displayed for all of the league to see, but general consensus is that the MLB will have to wait.
Matt Harvey will start the season with the club, but it remains to be seen whether Zack Wheeler or the newly acquired Travis D'Arnaud will see action before summer arrives.
According to ESPN's Adam Rubin, the Mets would control Wheeler for an extra year before he hits free agency if he is left in the minor leagues for the first three weeks of the season. Keeping a player in the minors for future contractual purposes makes sense, but the Mets would be wise to bring Wheeler to the bigs shortly thereafter.
Wheeler will be 23 on May 30 — the same age Matt Harvey was when he made his debut. The time has come to integrate another young arm into the rotation.
In D'Arnaud's case, the Mets may have to look to the 23-year-old catcher out of sheer necessity. By the time next season rolls around, D'Arnaud will be 24 years old, and the Mets still won't have a viable backstop option.
We've seen the Mets leave prospects in the farm system in the past. More often than not, this technique has resulted in a colossal disappointment.
There are many reasons to follow a different course of action this time. Instead of waiting until the end of the season to bring up the youthful talent like Sandy Alderson and the rest of the front office did with Matt Harvey, it would make sense to have Wheeler and D'Arnaud join the roster sooner rather than later.