Drama at Citi Field: 5 Storylines That Will Impact the Mets' 2013 Season
The departure of ace pitcher and 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey leaves some big cleats to fill on the mound at Citi Field.
For a franchise that constantly supplies rabid fans and media with something to bark about, five storylines will emerge as key factors deciding the team's overall results in 2013.
Emergence of Jonathon Niese as a Feel-Good Pitching Story
The absence of Dickey will pose a challenge for the Mets but, at the same time could be an opportunity for some young talent to step up and shine.
In each of his four seasons in the big leagues, Niese has improved. Last year was a career-best for the lefty with a record of 13-9, ERA of 3.40 and 155 strikeouts.
He’s had time to learn the league and settle into the organization, so it’s not totally wild to think that with the right breaks, he could reach the 20-win mark and perhaps even contend for a Cy Young.
Niese, 26, got welcome news recently when doctors determined that heart surgery won’t be necessary to treat the rapid heartbeat he was experiencing.
Ike Davis Motivated by Current and Future Payoffs
If you've bought a house or car, you know the negotiation game. You ask for X, they counter with Y, and you settle for Z somewhere in the middle.
That's essentially what happened with Davis' 2013 contract, as both sides settled on a salary of $3.125 million to avoid arbitration. The 25-year-old first baseman, who had 32 home runs and 90 RBI in 2012, will want to prove he was worth the considerable bump in pay (he made $506,960 last year).
It won't be too hard to better his batting average, as he hit a dismal .227 in 2012. Regardless of the team's fortunes, he'll want to keep performing at a full tilt from April to October. If he makes a big name for himself, the payoff could be substantial after the 2016 season, when he's eligible for free agency.
Lack of Success on Field to Worsen Financial Woes
Niese and Davis will give Mets fans something to cheer about, but they can't carry the team. Last year, the Mets finished 74-88, a full 24 games behind the Washington Nationals, who won the Eastern Division championship.
With basically the same crew as last year, the Mets should be at or near last year's mark of incompetency. That won't inspire fans to flock to Citi Field and spend their hard-earned money.
This franchise, having already been swindled by Bernie Madoff, suffered another blow when Standard & Poor's again downgraded the bonds used to finance Citi Field. Without the revenue that results from a winning (or at least contending) team, the Mets will be severely hampered in making deals that could bring some much-needed talent to Queens.
Terry Collins’ Contract to Be a Black Cloud
The uncertain fate of manager Terry Collins, whose contract expires after this season, is already becoming a distraction. So far, the Mets haven’t stood firmly behind Collins with respect to plans beyond this season, and it would make little sense to do so given the bleak outlook for 2013.
General manager Sandy Alderson's recent comments to ESPN New York probably didn't help:
“Look, it would be disingenuous to say, ‘No, it won’t be an issue.' Sometimes it becomes an issue. I think it’s a function of whether Terry makes it an issue, or the club makes it an issue, or the media makes it an issue…I don’t think the club or Terry will make it an issue. If it does become an issue, we’ll manage the issue. I understand the possibility it could become something. I hope it doesn’t,” Alderson told ESPN New York.
It would have been better to say, “Yes, it's an issue, but we need to get into this season and see how things go before we can be more decisive.”
Sandy Alderson Will Alienate Players and Fans
Nobody ever said the Mets had the best talent in the National League, let alone the Eastern Division. Even so, it’s gratuitous for Alderson to make statements that point out the obvious.
In a recent appearance on New York sports radio station WFAN, Alderson said he’s “not happy” with the current shape of his club’s roster.
“I’m not happy where we are in preparation for 2013,” he told WFAN. “…I can assure you that where we are now is not where we want to be opening spring training. I mean, it’s conceivable we could be in the same position, but it’s not where we want to be.”
In other words, “We don’t have the horses to contend in this race.”
Player morale isn't boosted by negativity from the front office. If the Mets fade out early, there will be backlash against Alderson for not trying hard enough to secure helping hands. Fans will certainly be clamoring for both Alderson and Collins to be sent packing.
Honorable Mention: David Wright's Big News and the Bullpen Drama
File it under "The rich get richer."
Third baseman David Wright scored the largest deal in Mets history with an eight-year, $138 million contract extension. As if that wasn't sweet enough, he's engaged to model Molly Beers. Conventional wisdom says that players relax after signing big contracts, and a beautiful brunette could be a big distraction.
The bullpen continues to be a source of irritation. With Frank Francisco hurt, the Mets have been looking at former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson as a replacement. It probably doesn't matter who the closer is; there may not be that many victories to close out this season.