It's been said over and over from the moment the 2010 baseball season ended: No one expects anything from the New York Mets in 2011.
Many of the so-called "experts" at ESPN have the Mets finishing behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East, which probably means the Mets will win the World Series next season.
At the conclusion of the 2010 season, which saw the Mets finish 79-83 and fourth in their division, the one thing on every Mets fan's mind was change.
That meant goodbye Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel and hello Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins, bringing with them a new mindset and a new direction.
When Alderson and Collins were brought in, most fans thought to themselves, "OK. Now what?"
While financial restrictions have prevented the Mets from filling any of their weaknesses with the better free agents available this season, they have been able to make several improvements in the form of low risk/high reward players.
In other words, if there is a player looking to come back from injury, the Mets have been calling.
But despite the moves they've made, not many people are expecting much from the team in 2011. Realistically, Alderson needs at least two years to turn this franchise around, and with roughly $55 million coming off the books before the 2012 season, it stands to reason that the Mets will be players in the free agent market next year.
If the Mets don't contend next season, does Alderson get a pass?
For now, though, Alderson has taken over a team full of holes. The Mets won't have their ace and No. 1 starter Johan Santana until possibly the All-Star break. They're still tied to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo for big money. They don't have a clear vision of who their starting second baseman or No. 5 starter will be next season.
It would be difficult for any general manager to steer a team like the Mets into contention without a bit of creativity and a ton of luck. So if the Mets go out next season and don't reach the playoffs, if they don't even finish much better than last season, it's hard to hold it against Sandy Alderson.
The Mets fanbase is in a state of division. On one side are the fans who want big free agent signings and big money spent revising the team. On the other are the fans who recognize that tight financial restrictions (the Mets reportedly only had $5-10 million to spend this offseason) have prevented players like Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford from making an appearance in Queens and that patience is the key word regarding the Mets.
Depending on which side you're on, you may or may not be willing to give Alderson a pass for next season. Of course, should the Mets pull a rabbit out of their blue and orange hats and actually contend next season, it won't matter. But if they don't, as most people expect, there really isn't any way to blame it on Alderson.
Then again, that's easy to say before a bad trade or bad contract, but for now, Sandy Alderson is playing with house money.