The New York Mets enter the 2012 season facing both serious financial issues and improved competition in the National League East. At first glance, it is very easy to write them off and move on with your day. However, Terry Collins, in his second year as manager, has his team believing that they can shock the so called “experts” and make some noise in an extremely talented division. It does take more than believing in your chances to be successful, but it’s not a bad place to start. We’ll let you know what we loved and hated about the Mets’ offseason and Spring Training, and also give a prediction as to how the Mets will do in the upcoming campaign, their 50th season as a franchise.
Offseason: With the financial troubles that the Wilpons are in, the Mets were not in play for any big name free agents as they have been in years past. The biggest example of that lack of money to freely spend was their inability to even offer a contract to free agent shortstop Jose Reyes. Reyes, age 28, made the All-Star team 4 times as a member of the Mets. Unfortunately for the Mets and their fans, Jose’s free agency came at an inopportune time. They didn’t have the money, and he moved south to join Hanley Ramirez and the new-look Miami Marlins, leaving shortstop at Citi Field occupied by Ruben Tejada . This hurts for multiple reasons, including the sheer fact that Mets fans will be reminded of their former beloved shortstop 18 times a year when the Mets and Marlins square off. Reyes being with another NL East Club is also a big reason as to why many people feel the Mets will be buried by midseason.
Now, the Mets did make some additions this offseason. Their biggest free agent acquisition happens to be my least favorite offseason move. Former Blue Jay and Ranger Frank Francisco was signed to be their closer; signing for 2 years and $12 million. Francisco has certainly had his share of Major League success, but he also has a history of being injury prone, in addition to his apparent inability to keep runners held on base. His Spring Training was less than impressive, with a 5.54 ERA and a .333 opponent’s Batting Average. I know this sounds like a bitter Mets fan’s rant, (not entirely false) but I truly do believe the Mets would have been better served had they promoted someone in house (i.e: Bobby Parnell, Pedro Beato) to closer and spending their limited money elsewhere. Hopefully, for the Mets’ sake, I am wrong.
There were some good moves made by the Mets this offseason, such as the signing of Jon Rauch. Rauch, the 6’11” reliever who spent last year with Toronto has had a solid Major League career, and was signed for relatively cheap, with a one year $3.5 million contract. This addition should help the bullpen.
One of the biggest offseason shake-ups came via trade. Early in the offseason, Angel Pagan was shipped to San Francisco for centerfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez. Pagan, one year removed from his breakout 2010 campaign, fell flat in 2011. He seemed to regress in terms of both performance and maturity. Mets fans were pretty fed up with him (myself included) by the end of the season, and ownership sent him packing. In return, they acquired a quality defensive centerfielder and speedy leadoff hitter to try and replace the speed lost with Reyes’ departure. In addition to Torres, Ramon Ramirez is another welcome addition to the bullpen. Many fans, including myself, were confident that the duo received will be more than worth Pagan.
Spring Training: The Mets finished with a lackluster 9-20-2 record in Grapefruit League play this season. However, we know that Spring Training records don’t necessarily reflect what a team’s regular season record will be. The Mets certainly hope not anyway.
One of the biggest problems Spring Training presented (more like reminded us of) was Jason Bay’s continued struggles. For all the offseason talk about Bay’s improvement, the results certainly were not there in spring. Bay finished Spring Training with the same amount of RBI’s that I did. That’s right folks –zero. He may get a pass for a tough spring, but a 30 game regular season stretch without a RBI will surely not sit well with the New York fans.
Another problem the Mets saw in Spring Training was injuries. Luckily for them, the three players that lost time due to injury will be active on the Opening Day roster. Andres Torres had a quad injury that cost him a few weeks, Tim Byrdak had meniscus surgery, causing him to miss the latter half of spring and David Wright missed the majority of the Spring season with a strained ribcage. However, these players are in New York for Opening Day, so the Mets did luck out in that respect.
One major positive from Spring Training was the production from this year’s starting Right Fielder: Lucas Duda. “The Big Lebowski” went yard four times, and finished spring with a .300 average. His fellow lefty in the lineup, first baseman Ike Davis, also hit four homers in spring. The Mets would love to see that type of production all season long.
With all due respect to Duda and Davis, the story out of Port St. Lucie was the success, and health, of Johan Santana. He finished the exhibition season with 18.1 innings pitched and a 3.44 ERA. He is healthy going into the season, and will start the season opener versus Atlanta. This start will mark his first Major League start since September of 2010, and the Mets are hoping he can recapture some of what made him a two-time Cy Young Award winner in Minnesota. Santana’s presence alone should bolster the rest of the rotation, to include RA Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee. Mets fans are hoping Santana can stay healthy and give them something to cheer about this season.
Prediction: Well, folks, many people have predicted the Mets to finish last in the NL East this season. I personally do not see that happening. I think, if they can stay healthy and play up to their potential, the Metropolitans can manage a .500 record (81-81). I believe they will finish 4th place in the NL East, with the Nationals disappointing a lot of people and finishing in last. In their 50th season, I wouldn’t expect the Mets to make any 1969-esque miracle runs, but this team has potential to be competitive. If they were in a weaker division, perhaps they could make a playoff push. However, the NL East will be deadly and I see .500 as a best case scenario. So Mets fans, try and enjoy this season and look at it is a building block towards a brighter future.
The Mets open their season Thursday April 5th, with a 1:10 pm game against their division rival Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. The pitching matchup is sure to be a good one, with Tommy Hanson squaring off against Johan Santana.
The Mets will honor the memory of 1986 World Champion Gary Carter, who died of brain cancer this offseason, with a pre-game ceremony on Opening Day.