MLB: Why the New York Mets Can Contend This Season

Nick Carlo@@carlo2612Analyst IIFebruary 20, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24:  David Wright #5 of the New York Mets looks on prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on July 24, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The 2011 baseball season is right around the corner, and people are beginning to make their predictions.  Predictions are fun to do, but they mean very little.  The San Francisco Giants won the World Series last season, and very little people had the Giants winning it all.

Every baseball season has its share of surprise teams.  This year should be no different.  Not much is expected from the New York Mets this season.  The team has failed to make the playoffs the past four years, and things aren't looking up for them.

The Mets had a quiet offseason, and that makes a lot of people believe that the team won't contend this season.  The Mets won 79 games last season.  That doesn't look like a very good record, but given the Mets slew of problems that they had last year, it is quite impressive. 

That's not an excuse for the team's poor season, but it goes to show that this team can do a whole lot better.  Many Mets players suffered from injuries last season.  The Mets have had injury problems the last two seasons, and that is why they haven't been performing well.  Simple as that.

When your best players aren't on the field, it's hard to win a lot of ball games.  The Mets were one of the healthiest teams in the league from 2006-2008, and they won 97, 88, and 89 games respectively in those three seasons.  That is not a coincidence.

Every team suffers injuries through the long baseball season, but the best teams limit their injuries.  Injuries are a huge part of the game, and sometimes, it decides teams' fates. 

The 2011 New York Mets are different from the Mets teams of 2006-2008, but I believe that this team can be equally as successful as those teams.

The same core is intact, and there are plenty of fantastic new players on this team.  If the Mets stay healthy this season, then they will compete.  When this team is healthy, it can compete with the best teams day in, day out.

The Mets will be without their ace Johan Santana for the first half of the season, but that won't keep them from being great.  Santana is a huge contributor to the Mets, but he only pitches once every five days.  I'm not taking anything away from Johan, but I'd rather have him out for the first half of the season than one of the Mets' best position players.  It sounds harsh, but I think that most Mets fan will agree with that.

One of Johan Santana's best things about him is his work ethic and mindset.  He is a bulldog on a mound and a great teammate.  His presence on the mound will be missed, but he will still be there to talk to his teammates and share his bulldog mentality with the rest of the team.

With that said, the Mets are pretty healthy going into this season.  Going into last season, the Mets had two of their best position players out to begin the season.  Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran were both not ready for Opening Day, but as of now, they both are 100 percent.

The Mets surprisingly had great pitching last season.  It was their offense that kept them from winning many games.  Pitchers like R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, and Mike Pelfrey all stepped up for the Mets last season.  Those three players will be key to the Mets' success this season, if they can repeat their great performances of last season, then the Mets playoff chances will dramatically improve.

The Mets 2011 rotation should look something like this.

1. Mike Pelfrey RHP

2. R.A. Dickey RHP

3. Jon Niese LHP

4. Chris Young RHP

5. Chris Capuano LHP or Dillon Gee RHP

That rotation is not scary, but it is formidable.  New Mets general manager Sandy Alderson had a lot of great low-risk, high-reward signing this offseason.  Chris Young and Chris Capuano headlined Alderson's low-risk, high-reward signings.

If one of those players pan out, and Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese pitch like they did last year, then the Mets will have themselves a solid rotation.  They will also have reinforcements later in the season when Johan Santana returns.  The Mets should not play a waiting game with Santana, though; they should go throughout the season without even thinking that he will return.

The Mets new general manager Sandy Alderson is a great baseball mind, and he knows how to run a team.  The Mets also have a new manager this season in Terry Collins.  Collins wasn't a fan favorite, but he looks like he fits the team well so far this spring.  The Mets management and front office is a whole lot better then it was last year without a doubt.

The Mets offense was one of their weaknesses last season, but it has a strong chance to be great this season.  The Mets' offense is 100 percent healthy going into Spring training.  As of now, the Mets' lineup looks something like this.

1. Jose Reyes SS

2. Angel Pagan RF

3. David Wright 3B

4. Carlos Beltran CF

5. Jason Bay LF

6. Ike Davis 1B

7. Daniel Murphy or Brad Emaus 2B

8. Josh Thole C

That lineup has the potential to be one of the strongest in the MLB.  The first through sixth spots in the lineup are very talented.  A healthy Reyes and Beltran will push this lineup over the edge.  Jason Bay can also add a lot of pop to this lineup.  He had a horrible season last year, but he is too talented to not have a bounce back season.  Ike Davis has to avoid his sophomore slump, and David Wright should build on his bounce back season that he had last year.  If those things happen, then the Mets will have an amazing offense.

What it all comes down to is that the Mets have loads of potential going into this season.  There are plenty of "ifs" for the Mets this season.  Every single team has its "ifs" going into the season, but the Mets' "ifs" are different from many other teams. 

The Mets are extremely talented, but they just haven't been able to put everything together.  If the Mets' "ifs" come true, and another team's "ifs" come true, then they will have two totally different results.  A team that is not as talented as the Mets has their "ifs", but the reward is not as high as it is for the Mets.  They might play .500 baseball, and the Mets might make the playoffs.

This season will be crucial for the Mets and their future.  There are plenty of questions heading into the season, but "if" some of their questions have positive answers, then they will compete.  A lot of people are sleeping on the Mets, and the Mets are poised for a comeback season that will surprise many.  Mets fans should be excited for 2011, and they should also be counting down the days until Opening Day. 

If there was ever a time to believe in the Mets, it is now.