This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it seems that whenever it’s time to predict what will happen during the coming season, fans and writers alike downplay the Mets’ potential while assuming that their competitors’ question marks will all become positive exclamation points. They favor established or sexy names who may be exiting their prime, over-hyped, or both, while refusing to give the Mets their due. For a perfect illustration of this, see Mike Puma’s recent article in the New York Post.
In the article, Puma makes the following assertion:
The Nationals, Braves and Phillies all are better than the Mets on paper. How much better? If you built a roster using players from just the four teams, David Wright likely would be the Mets’ lone representative.
Puma made the above claim for shock value…to keep alive the notion that the Mets are hopeless and talentless. I’ll play his game for a second, though. If I’m picking a first baseman from all of the teams in the National League East to assemble a roster, I’m going with Ike Davis. If I’m picking a bullpen, Bobby Parnell is one of the seven best relievers in the division, so he’d be on the team as well. It gets trickier with the starting rotation, especially if you’re going with name recognition over production and/or potential (which is what Puma is doing here and throughout the rest of his article). Yes, there are more experienced names in the expected starting rotations of the Nationals and Phillies especially, but the potential of the Mets’ starting five shouldn’t be overlooked.
Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Kris Medlen, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are among the marquee names in the division who have the potential to torment the Mets in 2013.
Here’s my question: Why is Puma only talking about the possibility of the above players tormenting the Mets? Why can’t numerous players on the Mets also torment the teams those guys play for? Why is Puma valuing “marquee names,” while failing to take into account the question marks that surround most of them? Let’s look specifically at five of the “marquee names” Puma cites…
B.J. Upton – A career .255 hitter with a .336 OBP. Upton certainly has tons of talent, but as he approaches his 29th birthday, he’s yet to put it all together. His OBP last year was .298. You can’t be a “marquee” player with a sub .300 OBP.
Justin Upton – Like his brother, Justin is more potential than he is substance. I wanted the Mets to acquire him because he’s still young enough to reach that potential and be an asset for a long time. Still, there’s no telling if he will. Arizona was determined to get rid of him because they didn’t think he fit in with what they were trying to do (they felt he didn’t play hard enough). That should raise eyebrows. It also should be noted that I haven’t seen it written anywhere that while the Braves added both Upton’s, they lost Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. Seems like a potential break-even to me.
Freddie Freeman – Here are Freeman’s career 162 game averages: A triple slash of .269/.340/.449, to go along with 23 home runs and 86 RBI’s. Here are the career 162 game averages for Ike Davis: A triple slash of .252/.336/.461, to go along with 28 home runs and 89 RBI’s. If Freeman is a “marquee name,” so is Davis. Next.
Ryan Howard – Even when he was an imposing presence, Howard was one dimensional. He averages 193 strikeouts per year, and is easily neutralized by decent left handed pitching. Presently, Howard is an albatross in waiting. His WAR last year was -1.2. That’s not a dash, it’s a negative. Howard doesn’t belong on Puma’s list.
The Mets don’t have Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in their starting rotation, but they do have the makings of a damn good starting five – especially if/when Zack Wheeler joins the fold. Their bullpen, like most, is an unknown. The offensive production from the infield should be a net positive. I suppose Ike Davis’ name isn’t as cool as Freddie Freeman’s, but his production should be similar or better. The outfield is a different story.
Regardless of the picture that’s being painted, the Mets won’t get eliminated from contention on February 10th because they would only have a few players on a hypothetical National League East dream team.
It seems that every other player in the division is given the benefit of the doubt and is expected to excel, while every Met who isn’t a fully known commodity and/or is deemed a question mark is predicted to disappoint. If Ryan Howard was on the Mets, he’d be viewed as a strikeout machine who’s past his prime. On the Phillies, he’s seen as an asset. Freddie Freeman is touted as a “marquee name,” while Ike Davis (whose career numbers are almost identical to Freeman’s) is labeled a question mark. On and on it goes. A little objectivity doesn’t hurt. I’d love some more of it.