Early yesterday afternoon, before Mets fans were subjected to three ignoramuses calling the afternoon tilt against the Nationals on ESPN, and before the Johan Santana news broke, some predictions from both national and local ESPN reporters began to trickle out.
Buster Olney of ESPN picked the Mets to finish last in the division. Adam Rubin, the well respected Mets beat reporter for ESPN, is rumored to be predicting close to 100 losses. Tim Kurkjian, also of ESPN, said the Mets could be in for a “long, long” year. One more “long” and he would’ve been uttering the title of a George Harrison song. I don’t think anyone expects the Mets to compete for a title, but predicting them to finish in last place and/or amass close to 100 losses is outlandish.
The Mets are a team in transition that went 74-88 last year. They’re likely to be somewhere between mediocre and average in 2013, but are being discussed as if they’re an abomination. They’re a team with a solid infield, an average rotation that has the potential to be above average, a bullpen that should be improved, and an outfield that is its main weakness (as it was last season). They’re being covered, though, as if they’re an expansion team. Adam Rubin is with the team every day, so his prediction should be examined separately. Yesterday afternoon’s ESPN broadcast, however, was a prime example of just how out of touch the national media can be.
The absolute gem of the day came from Dave O’Brien, who said the following:
I don’t think anyone is predicting the Mets are going to finish anywhere other than last.
O’Brien said that, let it linger, and didn’t correct himself. Unless he’s living under a rock, he’s aware of the fact that most people with even a shred of baseball knowledge are predicting that the Marlins will finish in last place.
Not to be outdone, Rick Sutcliffe joined in on the fun by saying that the Mets’ starting pitching is good enough to get them into the “fifth or sixth” inning, but intimated that once the bullpen entered the game, it was over for the Mets. Sutcliffe uttered those comments while Jeurys Familia, a likely member of the bullpen, was pitching a dominant frame – shortly after Greg Burke retired all five batters he faced, and after Josh Edgin retired the side in order during his appearance. Sutcliffe made his foolish comment, but failed to discuss any of the relievers who are expected to be in the bullpen and why that bullpen would be so bad. I suppose bashing the bullpen without analyzing its members seemed like something fun for Sutcliffe to do.
Sutcliffe’s comment is a perfect example of the baseless dreck that’s hurled at the Mets. In reality, the Mets’ bullpen is expected to be about average – maybe not something to get excited about, but certainly better than last year’s group. An average bullpen that’s better than last year’s doesn’t fit the “Mets are a joke” narrative, though.
Throughout the final innings of the broadcast, the ESPN announcers (O’Brien, Sutcliffe, and Aaron Boone) continued to spew things about the Mets that were either untrue or bent for effect. They noted that Shaun Marcum was hurt, but didn’t mention that he’s already been announced as in line to pitch the sixth game of the season. They said that David Wright was hurt, while failing to mention that it’s highly likely he’ll be at third base on Opening Day. They harped on the absence of Johan Santana as if he was expected to be the ace of the team. In actuality, Santana (who is likely out for the season) would’ve likely been the fifth best pitcher in the rotation.
Not yet satisfied with himself, Sutcliffe said that since the Mets “let [Jose] Reyes walk” nearly two years ago, it’s “clear” that they aren’t trying to compete. He didn’t mention the fact that Reyes left via free agency at a time when the Mets were mired in financial uncertainty due to the ongoing Bernard Madoff litigation, nor did he note that the team recently signed David Wright to an extension worth nearly $140 million dollars. He also failed to mention the Mets’ extension of Jonathon Niese, their trade for Zack Wheeler, their acquisition of Travis d’Arnaud (whose name wasn’t mentioned at all during the broadcast), or a host of other moves the Mets have made recently. I suppose mentioning any of those things would’ve been an example of the Mets “trying to compete” – something the ESPN announcers couldn’t dare imply.
To repeat, no one expects the Mets to be world beaters in 2013. What should be expected, is fair and accurate commentary from those who are paid to provide it.
The Mets are a team coming off a 74 win season, not a 55 or 60 win season. They’re in transition, but there are lots of reasons for optimism. By midseason, four of the five starters in the rotation will likely be Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Dillon Gee (all between the age of 22 and 26, three of whom have top of the rotation potential). In short order, their starting catcher will be Travis d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in baseball. Their infield (Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, and David Wright) is rock solid. The bullpen should be better than last year’s edition. The outfield is what it is at this point. The minor league system is ranked in the middle of the pack overall, but is viewed as having one of the top crops of pitching prospects in all of baseball. The team also has close to $40 million coming off the payroll after 2013.
The above paragraph, of course, doesn’t fit the “Mets are a disaster” narrative. It fits the “Mets are in transition, but will probably be either mediocre or decent this year and competitive in 2014″ narrative. Most people don’t like to use that narrative because it’s not sensationalistic nonsense.
My advice to Mets fans: ignore the hyperbole. Use your own common sense and judge the team and its direction for yourself. If not, you might lose your mind by mid-April.