2011 has given Met fans plenty of reasons to be pissed off. There’s been the 5-13 start, the injuries, the Wilpon lawsuit, the Wilpon comments, the talks of a fire sale, and another year of mediocre baseball. I’d be the first person to admit that the Mets are in trouble. And yet, amid all the negativity, a surprising amount has gone right for the Mets. It may seem hard to believe, but things could be much worse. It’s the morning after Round One of the First-Year Player Draft, and what better time is there to be optimistic about the future? (Nimmo = Future Hall of Famer) Let’s look at 10 people who have given Met fans something to be happy about.
1. Sandy Alderson (& Co.)
The Mets have the right man in place to handle one of the toughest, most important times in this franchise’s history, and that man has the right guys around him. Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi and John Ricco are all intelligent, highly qualified baseball minds, and if anyone is capable of steering the Mets back in the right direction, it’s them.
2. Terry Collins
So he calls for a few too many bunts and lets K-Rod finish a few too many games. But Terry is the right man for the job. He makes no excuses and demands the very best from the players he has on the field. The Mets may not make the playoffs this year due to injuries and overall shortcomings, but they will not lay down and die under TC’s watch.
It’s a small sample size, but right now J-Turn looks like the real deal. He recently became the first Met to win NL Rookie of the Month; he’s hitting .308 with 24 RBIs in just 125 plate appearances; and he looks like a serviceable fielder at both second and third. He’s also hitting .406 with men in scoring position and takes a good approach in RBI spots, looking to go up the middle and to right field.
Murph is on fire. He believes he’s discovered the secret to his swing, Andy McCullogh wrote in the Star-Ledger yesterday, and it’s shown. On May 19, Daniel was hitting .233. In 16 games since then, he’s been absolutely scorching, with a line of .466/.500/.569. He’s had at least one hit in 15 of those 16 games and is riding an eight-game hit streak during which he’s gone 17-for-30. On top of that, he’s played solidly at first base in Ike’s absence.
5. Ruben Tejada
Last year, Tejada simply wasn’t ready to handle big league pitching. Now, at just 21 years old, he looks like he’s starting to come into his own. He’s still just a singles hitter, but Tejada is hitting .304 in 62 plate appearances and has been all the Mets could have hoped for out of the 8-hole. Ruben also continues to prove he’s an excellent second baseman, and he’s yet to make an error in 14 games there.
Turner, Murphy and Tejada have played so well that Collins is actually going to have some tough decisions to make when Wright and Davis return, and that’s a very good thing.
6. Dillon Gee
Mike Pelfrey may be the ace of the staff in name, but Gee is the ace in numbers. He’s 6-0 with a 3.33 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 1.95 K/BB. The Mets are 8-0 in games he’s started this year. Basically, he’s the 2011 version of R.A. Dickey — except Gee is just 25.
Izzy had three consecutive rough outings in late May, but overall he has been a very, very pleasant surprise. He has a 2.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 24 appearances, and he’s stranded nine of 10 inherited runners. For Izzy to make the team was a great story in itself; for him to be a reliable setup man is mind-boggling. While I’d like to see him continue as a Met, he may make a nice trade chip for Alderson as the deadline approaches.
8. Pedro Beato
Beato was taken by the Mets in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft, 19 years after the Mets took Izzy in the 44th round of the 1991 amateur draft. Incredibly, both have been excellent out of the same ‘pen in 2011. Pedro went 18.2 innings before allowing his first earned run, and while he’s struggled of late (every Met relief pitcher has) he’s shown he has the stuff and the control to be a force in the bullpen for years to come.
9. Jose Reyes
The most exciting player in baseball is now one of the best players in baseball, too. What’s bad about that? The Mets can probably only keep him if he’s willing to sign for less than what he’s worth. The good? He’s helping the Mets win games, he’s an absolute blast to watch, and he’s receiving an outpouring of support from the fans. We want him to take a hometown discount, and only Jose knows if he’s willing to do that. For now, though, just watching him play ball should make us happy. (Each time Reyes triples I’m reminded of why I love baseball.)
For what it’s worth, numbers 4-9 were all originally drafted and/or signed by the Mets (they signed Reyes and Tejada as amateur free agents, and they drafted Beato in 2005 but he didn’t sign). Also, the Mets have all homegrown infielders besides Paulino and Turner — Wright, Reyes, Murphy, Tejada, Thole, and Davis. In my mind, these are things to feel good about.
10. David Einhorn
He may not seem like a knight in shining armor, and it’s probably in his best interest for the Mets to keep on failing. But one thing’s for sure: Einhorn knows how to play his cards (pun intended). And if there’s one thing to really feel good about regarding the Mets, it’s that the Wilpons may not own them much longer.
On the bubble: Carlos Beltran (let’s see what day-to-day really means), Josh Thole (he’s rediscovered his line-drive swing), Jon Niese (two runs or less and 5+ K’s in each of his past four starts), and minor leaguers Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and Kirk Niewenhuis (the bright spots in a farm system with many question marks).
And of course, Brandon Nimmo.