A Realistic Rebuttal of Negative Hyperbole
I’m not a huge fan of taking on another writer in public, much less doing it twice in a short time span. However, after reading Howard Megdal’s recent piece, I couldn’t resist. Megdal, as most in the Mets blogosphere are aware, had his press credentials taken away by the Mets after penning a book centered around the Bernard Madoff situation called “Wilpon’s Folly.” Aside from clearly having an axe to grind with the Mets organization, Megdal’s articles of late have been fatalistic and largely devoid of fair analysis. He’s been basically re-framing and regurgitating worst case scenarios that have little basis in reality.
June 18, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson (left) and owner Fred Wilpon before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Megdal’s latest piece is titled “The Optimist’s Case for the 2013 Takes Another Hit.” Aside from the title not making sense, its contents reek of someone who’s begging for things to go wrong. The following will not be a 2013 prediction piece, nor will it paint next season as a sure to be rosy ride to 90 wins. What it will do, is attempt to cut through the at times suffocating negativity that has engulfed this franchise (and is reflected in Mr. Megdal’s article), while pointing out inaccuracies.
"I’ve pointed out that both Dillon Gee and Johan Santana are coming back from season-ending injuries, and in both cases, those injuries stand a good chance of impacting their abilities to pitch full seasons in 2013. Santana is more an increasing collection of physical problems, while Gee’s blood clot likely came from repetitive motion, which is, after all, what pitching is."
I agree regarding Santana. I’d go as far as to say that the Mets should operate as if Santana has thrown his last pitch as a Met. Gee, however, is a much different story. Megdal claims that there’s a “good chance” Gee’s injury will impact his ability to pitch a full season in 2013″. According to Adam Rubin, that simply isn’t the case. As Rubin’s article states: “No longer-lasting ramifications for Gee in terms of his health or his career after the procedure is performed are expected, since it should fix the issue and prevent future clotting in the shoulder.” Well, the surgery was successful and Gee has already resumed throwing. What Dillon Gee had was a blood clot. It’s been fixed. Putting him in the same category as Johan Santana (a man who had major shoulder surgery and had his season cut short due to a litany of other injuries) is reckless journalism.
Megdal basically writes off Gee for the entire 2013 season, opining that the Mets will need two starters aside from R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, and Matt Harvey to step up. Writing off Gee is absurd, so let’s assume the Mets will need one new starter to step up (if Johan Santana is in fact unable to contribute). Megdal goes on to say the following:
"If we take R.A. Dickey/Jon Niese/Matt Harvey as givens, which is not the case since pitchers are inherently susceptible to injuries, Dickey will be 38, and Harvey has eight career starts, the Mets still need either Gee/Santana to stay healthy, or need to find quality starts from a group of Collin McHugh/Jenrry Mejia/Jeurys Familia/Zack Wheeler."
Megdal contradicts his own point (that the Mets have a rotation filled with question marks), by stating that pitchers are “inherently susceptible to injuries.” That statement holds true for any pitcher on any team in any level of baseball. It’s not something that’s exclusive to the Mets. He then goes on to cite R.A. Dickey’s age as a concern, even though not one scout is expecting a man who relies on the knuckle ball to have a precipitous decline once he turns 38. While being too old is a problem for R.A. Dickey, being too young is apparently a problem for Matt Harvey. Forget the results from Harvey so far, he’s too young. Right. Megdal then goes on to worry about finding quality starts from McHugh, Mejia, Familia, and Wheeler. I don’t think there’s one scout, Met fan, or casual observer who wouldn’t take the aforementioned quartet over Miguel Batista, Chris Schwinden, and Jeremy Hefner. To Megdal, though, the results from next year’s fill ins should be comparable to the results from 2012.
Megdal continues by pointing out that the bullpen was terrible in 2012. I don’t think anyone is debating that fact. However, without knowing which pitchers will even be in the Mets’ 2013 bullpen, Megdal ascertains that they can’t possibly be much better than the 2012 version. Onto the offense:
"So really, the 2013 case revolves around the offense not merely being at the same level as 2012, but better. And who among the returning everyday players is likely to be much better than they were in 2012? Is David Wright a great bet to even match his 2012, given that he’s outperformed his career OPS+?"
The offense certainly needs to improve. Megdal is ignoring a huge fact though: No one knows which players will make up the offense for the 2013 Mets. Sandy Alderson has cited the need for major roster turnover, which one would assume would be on the offensive side of things and in the bullpen. As far as who is “likely to be better:” Of those who most expect to remain, I’d think Ike Davis is a lock to not be hitting .150 in July. So there’s one. To continue, it’s both unfair and ludicrous to write in a blindly negative manner about the offense of a team that has yet to be constructed. If the offseason concludes and no changes have been made, blast away. Until then, allow the team to be created. Now, to Megdal’s closing argument:
"So the optimist’s case revolves around green pitchers making a large leap forward or a starting staff’s injured pitchers staying healthy all season, a bullpen not only regressing to the norm but also seeing an improved defense behind it or getting significantly better, and a below-average offense and terrible defense improving with a strong likelihood of returning the same players."
I don’t see why Megdal thinks that “green pitchers” need to make a “large leap forward.” R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, and Dillon Gee aren’t “green.” Matt Harvey wouldn’t need to make a large leap forward to be a solid addition to the 2013 rotation. He could regress, and be an improvement over the slop the Mets were throwing out there at times in 2012. If Santana is healthy, great. If not, you’d likely go to McHugh or Mejia before promoting Zack Wheeler around June. Wheeler is the 7th best prospect in all of Major League Baseball, and is seen as the best single pitching prospect behind Dylan Bundy. The starting rotation situation doesn’t seem dire to me.
While the rotation is expected to remain largely in tact, the offensive side of things is expected to be altered. According to Megdal, though, there’s a “strong likelihood of returning the same players.” According to Sandy Alderson and lots of the beat writers, the exact opposite is true. Andres Torres is expected to be non-tendered, Jason Bay is expected to be cut before the season begins, Josh Thole‘s job isn’t safe, nor is Lucas Duda‘s. In addition, with Jason Bay and Johan Santana’s contracts coming off the books after next season, the Mets should be able to take on some contracts in-season if the team’s performance merits it. So again, let’s see how the offense is constructed before limiting its potential in 2013. Megdal wraps up his article by stating the following:
"So if you’re keeping score at home, other than starting pitching, relief pitching, offense and defense, the 2013 Mets are ready to contend."
I don’t think anyone (realistic, optimistic, pessimistic), can say with a straight face that a starting rotation that’s likely to consist of five of R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Johan Santana, Collin McHugh, Zack Wheeler, and Jenrry Mejia is not at worst above average. If that’s your contention, you’re simply not being honest. Either that, or you haven’t watched the above guys pitch. And again, the bullpen and offense (which of course includes the defense) have yet to be constructed. The three guys you’d expect to be back on the offensive/defensive side of things are David Wright (who’s currently having his best fielding season), Ruben Tejada (steady), and Ike Davis (steady). Not one of those players is sub-par defensively. Still, Megdal cites a “terrible” defense that includes those three players and others who’ve yet to be determined.
As Megdal has done, it’s been customary this year for everyone to pile on the Mets – even when it’s completely unwarranted and premature. The 2013 Mets may win 40 games, or 70, or 90, or 110. It can’t be debated that watching the 2012 Mets go from 46-39 to out of contention in the blink of an eye was painful to watch. Frankly, it sucked. However, no one expected the team to contend this year. My “everything works out” prediction was 84 or so wins. Most expected the Mets to finish the year in last place. It remains to be seen how the 2012 Mets will finish, though they’re currently on pace to win around 76 or so games. What hasn’t been revealed (aside from the starting rotation that should largely remain in tact, and the expectation that David Wright, Ruben Tejada, and Ike Davis will be here), are the players who will make up the rest of the roster in 2013. Until that’s known, asserting what the 2013 Mets can or cannot do is pointless.