The 2011 New York Mets: Sowing the Seeds of Optimism

Todd SingerContributor IJanuary 31, 2011

Sandy Alderson has been tapped to turn around the Mets franchise
Sandy Alderson has been tapped to turn around the Mets franchiseAndrew Burton/Getty Images

For many long-suffering Met fans, this was the winter of their discontent. Name-brand signings were replaced with bottom of the barrel gambles; the blockbuster deal took a back seat to the low-profile ones.

Having lived through the torment of the last four seasons, much of the fanbase had either had enough or was resorting to praying for divine intervention.

However, what many fail to see is that although the tree has not yet grown, the seeds have most certainly been planted.

By handing the day-to-day baseball operations over to Sandy Alderson, the Mets have already begun the slow climb up from mediocrity.

Alderson has surrounded himself with very astute baseball men in former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi and former Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta, both of whom will help to shape the Mets' new organizational culture.

No area will go untouched, from the clubhouse staff through the entry draft all the way up to the major league field.

Already that has been apparent on the coaching staff, as veteran Terry Collins replaces erstwhile manager Jerry Manuel and Dave Hudgens takes over at hitting coach for Howard Johnson.

Manuel's constant mishaps cost the Mets countless games over the last few seasons, and simply by removing him, the Mets stand to have a better chance to win on a day-to-day basis.

It's difficult to quantify what a hitting coach means to a team, but bringing in a fresh point of view certainly couldn't hurt an offense that, too many times, has looked lethargic.

For the Mets organization, this offseason represented an uncharacteristic shift in philosophy; instead of giving out oversized, long-term deals, Alderson and co. were on the outside looking in as player after player reeled in deals that made jaws drop.

Instead of being disappointed that the organization didn't bring in a shiny new toy, Met fans should count their blessings that the front office didn't do anything drastic to try to put a temporary Band-Aid on things (see: Jason Bay 2010).

The moves that they did make won't inspire any awe from the average fan, but look a little further and the Mets might be able to catch lightning in a bottle with some of their moves.

D.J. Carrasco was brought in at a fraction of the cost of similar relievers like Matt Guerrier and Bobby Jenks. He's been very effective the last three seasons and gets a ton of ground balls.

Chris Young, Chris Capuano and Taylor Buchholz are three pitchers who are now more than a year removed from coming off surgery and have been successful in the past. Each pitched fairly well in late-season appearances last year and, if fully healthy, could surprise some folks.

Tim Byrdak has been one of the better left-handed specialists in the National League, the last few seasons, although he shouldn't see many righties to remain effective.

None of these men so much as make a dent on the back pages of New York, but they could all play a role in keeping the Mets competitive.

No one truly believes this team can actually compete for the division title, what with Philadelphia's embarrassment of riches in its starting rotation.

However, if everything breaks right, this team could stay in the wild card hunt until late in the season. Of course, with the Mets, when does everything ever break right?

With a healthier Carlos Beltran back in the fold, as well as the hope for bounce-back seasons from Jose Reyes and Jason Bay, the Mets offense could very feasibly be in the upper part of the National League.

As usual, it's going to come down to pitching, pitching and pitching. The Mets staff, on paper, doesn't scare many people, but the bullpen should be better, and if R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese can replicate their early season success, this team could hang around.

In any event, the team has a good chunk of money coming off the books next offseason, with Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Francisco Rodriguez (assuming they don't let him finish 55 games, which will vest his ridiculous $17.5 million option) and Carlos Beltran coming off the books.

With a renewed focus on the draft and some money to play around with, next year will be the year in which the Mets and their fans can look forward to seeing the sprouts of those seeds.

People are jaded, and they have every right to be, but given time to work his magic, Alderson and the rest of the front office will have things looking up sooner rather than later.

For the franchise that coined "Ya Gotta Believe!", that shouldn't be too much to ask.