Thoughts on the Mets’ Supposed “Brutal” Spring


Over the past few days, there’s been a growing chorus of those who are terming the Mets’ spring training some sort of  disaster.  Often cited are the litany of injuries the team is currently dealing with (which is overblown).  Earlier today on Twitter, Andy Martino of the Daily News posted the following as part of a link to a story:

This article isn’t a rebuttal of just Martino’s quote.  He was simply the last person to write something about the topic.  Instead, it’s an effort to debunk the notion that the Mets have had a “brutal” spring.  It shouldn’t take fancy wordplay in order to be convincing –  just facts.

Presently, there are three Mets who deserve to be on the Opening Day roster who are dealing with injuries that may prevent them from being at Citi Field on April 1st.  Those players are Johan Santana, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright.  If you throw Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ name in there, you’re doing it for effect.  He was playing himself off the team before his injury, and the fact that he got hurt opened up a path for Jordany Valdespin to make the roster.

Mar 18, 2013; Jupiter, FL, USA; New York Mets catcher Travis d

Additionally, anyone who cites the absence of Frank Francisco as a negative is either doing it to make the Mets’ situation appear worse than it is, and/or is simply not tuned in to the psyche of both management and the fans.  Even before Francisco went down, Sandy Alderson was refusing to name him the closer.  To most Mets fans and likely to Alderson, Francisco’s absence is addition by subtraction.  Anyone who portrays Francisco’s absence as a negative needs to re-examine their thought process.

Of the three key Mets who are in danger of missing Opening Day, Santana is the only one whose situation is murky.  It’s unknown when Santana will be able to contribute, but his unavailability isn’t a surprise.  It’s something that should’ve been expected after the way his 2012 campaign ended.

Anything Santana gives the Mets in 2013 year is gravy.  He’s the Ace in name only, having been eclipsed by both Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey.  Is it good that Santana won’t be breaking camp in the rotation?  Of course not.  Still, it’s not something that’s come as a surprise, and it’s not an absence that will cripple the team.  The Mets have four very solid arms in the rotation, and  Jeremy Hefner will fill Santana’s vacated slot for the time being.  In the unlikely event that Santana is unable to return, that spot in the rotation will likely be filled by top prospect Zack Wheeler in June or July.

The statuses of both Daniel Murphy and David Wright are easier to handicap than Santana’s.  Murphy strained his intercostal muscle early in camp, and got back into a minor league game for the first time last week.  He was stiff the next day and hasn’t appeared in a game since.  Still, he’s remained active (swinging a bat, etc).  If Murphy is able to return to a game by this weekend, he should still be able to break camp with the team.  If not, he’d likely return shortly after Opening Day.

Wright suffered a “moderately strained” intercostal muscle while playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.  His strain is viewed as less severe than Murphy’s (he was told to rest for half the time Murphy was).  When he met with reporters Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Wright wouldn’t commit to whether he’d be ready for Opening Day.  It was reported yesterday, though, that he told manager Terry Collins that he’d be ready when the Mets head north.

So, the worst case scenario is that the Mets break camp with 22 of 25 deserving players on the roster.  The best case scenario (which isn’t unlikely), is that they arrive in Queens for Opening Day with 24 of 25 deserving players on the roster.  That doesn’t seem like a “brutal” spring to me.  There must be something else that’s rendered their spring “brutal,” right?

Even though spring training records are meaningless, people like to spin awful records into coming doom and gloom.  The Mets’ spring training record is 8-10-3.  Pretty average.  Again, meaningless, but average.

Hmmmm.  If it’s not the Mets’ health that’s made their spring “brutal” and it’s not their (meaningless) record, what is it?  The Mets have played fundamentally sound baseball, so that can’t be it.  I got it!  It must be the fact that the top prospects the team is relying on to contribute later this season and beyond have performed terribly and/or been received poorly in the clubhouse.  That has to be it.  Let’s examine:

Future catcher Travis d’Arnaud is hitting .345, playing great defense behind the plate, and receiving compliments from the pitchers in camp.  Pitcher Zack Wheeler dazzled in his spring debut and got rave reviews for his professionalism before mildly straining his oblique.  He’s already back pitching in games and “feels great,” so he can’t be the potential future cornerstone who’s rendered this spring “brutal.”  Perhaps it’s the struggles of Jeurys Familia, the 23 year old reliever who’s said to have the potential to be a back end of the bullpen arm?  What’s that?  Familia hasn’t struggled?  He’s actually pitching so well that he may break camp with the team?  Glad we cleared that up.

I’m confused.  Why is it being stated over and over that the Mets are injury riddled and have had a “brutal” spring when neither of those claims are factual?  It’s because it fits the narrative that the Mets are a mess.  Reporting that a team in a likely transition year is having a relatively normal spring training doesn’t generate fan angst or page views.  Therefore, nonsense continues to be perpetuated.

In 13 days, the Mets will be at Citi Field for Opening Day.  Aside from Johan Santana, there’s a solid chance that every other player who’s deserving of a spot on the 25 man roster will be in uniform.  In the event that Daniel Murphy and/or David Wright aren’t there, they’ll likely be just a few days away from re-joining the team.  I don’t see a team that’s coming off a “brutal” spring or one that’s in any type of disarray.  I see a team in transition that’s at nearly full strength.  Odd, I know.

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