As the baseball offseason continues, New York Mets fans become increasingly frustrated. They've watched every other team in the NL East make improvements. The Phillies added Cliff Lee, the Braves traded for Dan Uggla, the Nationals added Jayson Werth and the Marlins added good pieces in trades with Atlanta and Boston.
What have the Mets done so far?
They added a bullpen piece (D.J. Carrasco) and a backup catcher (Ronny Paulino).
To their credit, they picked up two nice players in the Rule 5 draft. Infielder Brad Emaus will compete for the second base job, and reliever Pedro Beato should slide into a weak bullpen next season.
But fans are beyond frustrated after four straight disappointing (to say the least) seasons, big-name players going to other teams and GM Sandy Alderson's refusal to admit next season is a rebuilding season.
If Alderson insists the Mets can compete in 2011, exactly what would he categorize as "compete"?
Can the Mets win the NL East? Considering the addition of Cliff Lee in Philly and big strides by the Braves, a division title in New York seems impossible.
How about a wild-card spot? Well, again the Braves come into play here, as do the NL Central favorite Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and L.A. Dodgers; the Mets don't seem much better, if at all, than any of those potential wild card contenders.
So if they can't win a division title, or reach October via the wild card, what has to happen for Mets fans to call 2011 a "success"?
As it stands now, the Mets' starting rotation consists of Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and (most likely) Dillon Gee, in that order.
The Mets desperately need to add another starting pitcher and are very high on Chris Young.
For 2011 to be a successful season, Pelfrey needs to pitch more like the pre-All Star break Pelfrey than the post-All Star break version. Pelfrey won 15 games last season, and if not for an ugly month of July, he could easily have won 17 or 18 games. He'll need to win that many as the Mets No. 1 starter next season.
R.A. Dickey was probably the best part of the 2010 season for Mets fans. Dickey didn't make his first start until May 19, but he finished the season with 11 wins and a team-leading 2.84 ERA. Certainly worthy of a multi-year deal from the Mets, with a full season ahead of him in 2011, Dickey needs to continue to pitch late into games (6.4 IP per start) and help shoulder the load for Pelfrey until Santana comes back.
There is going to be a ton of pressure on Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and whoever the Mets sign to fill out the rotation for next season. All three need to step up big time. Mets fans already have one foot out the door, and watching three of five starters struggle isn't going to put butts in the seats. If Niese continues to improve, Gee adjusts well to a full season of starts, and the Mets' gamble on a low risk/high reward starter pays off, the 2011 Mets starting rotation will be a success.
The biggest question marks in the Mets lineup are Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay.
Beltran, coming off an injury which kept him out for most of the 2009 season until halfway through 2010, needs to show he's healthy. If that means a move to right field is required, then so be it. Beltran doesn't need to hit 40-50 homers to win back the fan base, but 25-30 homers would be nice, with 100 RBIs, at least. In a contract season, expect Beltran to step up in a big way.
The same goes for Jose Reyes. He missed 29 games last season, hit .282 with 11 home runs, 54 RBI and 30 stolen bases. Reyes has long been the driving force within the Mets offense. An on-base percentage of at least .355 and between 40-55 stolen bases would go a long way towards success next season. Mostly, Mets fans just want to see a healthy Reyes on the field for a change.
Jason Bay was the biggest black eye of 2010 and needs to show fans he was worth the four-year, $66 million contract the Mets gave him. He played in just 95 games before going down for the season in late July with a concussion. Coming off a 36 home run, 116 RBI season with the Boston Red Sox in 2009, Bay hit just six homers for the Mets. He had as many triples as he did homers.
Bay needs to come back healthy (which he says he is) next season and be the big bat in the middle of the lineup that the Mets need him to be. Between 30-40 homers and 100-115 RBI shouldn't be out of the question for Bay next season.
If the Mets get all three of those guys going at once next season, the Mets lineup should be one of the better lineups in the NL.
The Mets took a big hit when Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano left for free agency. Takahashi held opponents to a .206 BAA as a reliever last season, and Feliciano was once again a workhorse, making an MLB-high 92 appearances in 2010.
The Mets need a left-handed specialist in the bullpen next season to handle the big lefty bats of the NL East. D.J. Carrasco and Pedro Beato should fit in nicely, but if the Mets can't keep guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Brian McCann in check next season, they're going to have issues.
Francisco Rodriguez is going to be the most important part of the Mets bullpen next season. His legal issues are finally over, and he needs to show the team he can be a mature pitcher in 2011. In 30 chances last season, K-Rod saved 25. Going into a potential walk year, he needs to show maturity and consistency in 2011.
Many fans were disappointed by the hiring of Terry Collins as manager. Most wanted Wally Backman or someone with more recent experience, like Bob Melvin. But GM Sandy Alderson saw Collins' firery attitude as a big asset to a team seemingly lacking in intensity.
What would qualify as "success" in 2011?
To win fans over, Collins needs to get this team going right from the start. If the Mets open the season 5-9, fans will be quick to turn on him. He doesn't need to win every game, of course, but even without Johan Santana for half the season, the Mets cannot finish the season under .500 again.
Unfortunately, the Mets have a steep hill to climb in 2011. The division isn't getting any easier, and there are plenty of improved teams in the National League as a whole—and the Mets aren't one of them.
The Mets are counting on everything to go right for them next season; Collins and Alderson have practically said so themselves.
If they get the production necessary out of Beltran, Reyes and Bay, and David Wright continues his 2010 rebound, the offense will be there. If the rotation can perform above their ability and the Mets fifth starter, whoever he is, can pitch well, they might be able to match up with all but a few of the teams in the NL. If Collins can find bullpen arms to replace Takahashi and Feliciano and K-Rod straightens up, they just might hold the walk-off losses to a minimum.
That's a ton of "ifs" for the Mets in 2011, but that's what fans have filling their heads right now. Maybe that should be there new team slogan—instead of "Ya gotta believe," we could change it to "If we can."
The 2011 season doesn't have to culminate in a World Series title for the Mets to be able to say the season was a success. If they can win 88-92 games and prove the lineup is good when healthy, fans won't walk away with a bad taste in their mouths again.