The New York Mets are back in New York, but this time in a brand new home. But that doesn't mean that all of the fans, media, and even the players, have forgotten what happened last year. Why is it so easy to remember? Because its the same exact thing that happened two years ago to the Mets. This year the Mets need a very good start, not only for themselves, but for the fans. The fans will come to see the new ballpark, but they will only come back if the team on the field is winning again.
The Mets team has many strengths, first off they have two of the youngest, brightest stars in the game. David Wright and Jose Reyes keep getting better and better, and will continue to put up MVP type numbers. This is their year to shine though, this is the year they take the baton and lead the Mets to the World Series. This is the year they let Delgado and Beltran sit back and be the role model players and become the main stars themselves. This is easier said than done as established veterans can be a bit territorial at times, but Wright and Reyes have been around long enough to not be a menacing threat to Beltran and Delgado.
Another strength is definitely their starting pitching if everyone stays healthy. First, they have the best pitcher in baseball in Johan Santana. He knows what to expect and should be more fired up and comfortable in his second year. Next, you have Pelfrey who continues to mature and is on his way to being the pitcher the Mets projected. It is only his second year, so look for some minor bumps in the road, but the overall numbers should be impressive.
With Perez and Maine, you have potential for some headaches and horrible days, but you also have in them a good potential for two very key 15 game winners. Any Met fan would take those results from those guys. The fifth starter is not a strength with Livian Hernandez in that role, and he will probably be a short time solution until Redding or Niese are ready to take the job from him.
And for the first time in a while, the bullpen has to be considered a strength. You have a dominant closer in K-Rod with an even more dominant set up man with JJ Putz. Add a young flamethrower in Bobby Parnell and a steady lefty in Pedro Feliciano, and the Mets will have a decent to possibly great bullpen.
The main three weaknesses on this team are simple. The Mets need Luis Castillo to bounce back and put up average numbers and play adequate defense, if not, he will be booed out of town. Also Brian Schneider had better continue to be stellar behind the plate, because his hitting is god awful. Hopefully he will raise the average a little to be a decent number seven hitter.
And lastly, unless some miracles occur, the Mets bench is very mediocre. Marlon Anderson has seen better days, and Alex Cora is just a defensive player, no big pinch hits for him. Jeremy Reed and Fernando Tatis will help out, but unless Tatis continues his comeback ways from last year, he could find his way off this team very fast.
The Mets play 12 home games this month against very weak teams. The only tough team are the Brewers and they are a team without an ace with CC Sabathia going to the Yankees. The Mets have 21 games this month, and with the weak teams they are playing, should aim for a 15 win month. That would be an amazing fast start, and possibly give them momentum they really need this season.
If the Mets are going to get off to a fast start, not only do Wright and Reyes have to continue to grow and produce like I said, but the two Carlos' need to produce. Beltran has to do what he normally does each year, bat .280 and put up 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Delgado had a huge turnaround last year and nobody realistically expects that again. But if he can at least get off to a hot start and give himself the confidence he needs, we could be seeing 30 home runs and 100 RBI again from the slugger. Give him a .270 average with that production and all Met fans will be ecstatic.
Also, Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy need to contribute. Church was having an outstanding year until his concussions took him out of action. He really needs a hot start to gain the confidence back and to give the Mets a bonafide hitter to protect Delgado and Beltran. Murphy was a great callup last year and now finds himself batting second in this star studded line up. If he continues hitting, the Mets will have found themselves a young .300 player who can only get better offensively and hopefully defensively.
I fully expect this team to start off very hot. The pitching might be a little erratic, after Santana and Pelfrey, but that will just be the first start or two. I expect the offense to carry them through that part and the rest of the year. Look for Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Delgado to start off hot, due to starting early at the World Baseball Classic and playing at a highly competitive level during the tournament. If Church and Murphy can just do their parts, and hopefully add on to that effort, this could be an explosive offense, even with Castillo and Schneider in the back part of the lineup
The Mets lost plenty of games last year after the seventh inning, and adding K-Rod and Putz should definitey help resolve that issue for the 2009 season. So with those additions, and the monster offense season expected from the core guys, the Mets are looking forward to not only a hot start, but a great year. As for any September predictions, I think the Mets will overcome the past two seasons and finally finish strong. Because deja vu can't happen for a third year....can it?