Mets pitchers and catchers report for spring training on February 19th, just a few short days from now. The sense I get from fellow fans is that both expectations and angst are high. Many feel that there’s reason for optimism, primarily because of the solid young pitching the Mets are bringing to Port Saint Lucie. Others feel that the team did not do enough to bolster the roster this off-season, and that 2015 may be a year of “what could have been”.
Sep 24, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets manager Terry Collins (10) stands at the top of the dugout before the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
On the optimistic side, the Mets are adding Matt Harvey to an already deep rotation. Jacob deGrom is coming off his Rookie-of-the-Year season, and there’s reason to believe that Zack Wheeler will continue to progress. Then, the back of the rotation is as good as any in baseball, with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, and Dillon Gee competing for two spots. Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz provide on-call reinforcements. On offense, the Mets needed a right-handed bat, and added Michael Cuddyer. If Cuddyer provides the power expected of him, and Lucas Duda, David Wright, and Curtis Granderson perform to their career averages, the Mets should be able to score some runs in 2015. Juan Lagares will likely bat first, and it will be critical that he and Daniel Murphy (both not traditionally high OBP players) get on base in front of the power in the middle of the order.
The angst in 2015 comes from several questions that have either not been addressed, or have been addressed with what many feel to be inadequate answers. First and foremost, there’s shortstop. Yesterday on WFAN, Marty Noble suggested that it’s hard to accept Wilmer Flores as a shortstop, when many Mets executives would praise Flores’ bat in past years, but add that Flores was not a shortstop. This isn’t criticism from the media, fans, or other teams. This is criticism by the same organization that has now anointed Flores as its starting shortstop.
A second point of angst centers on the team’s projected defense. The Mets are building around pitching, and the natural complement to pitching is defense. Up the middle, with Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores, the defense is at best questionable. Add to that the aging Curtis Granderson in right field, the sub-par Michael Cuddyer in left field, and not-so-nimble Lucas Duda and first base, and the word “porous” comes to mind. Yes, Juan Lagares is gifted, but he cannot compensate for several areas of defensive concern.
Third on the angst parade is the Mets’ relative inactivity this off-season. Sunday on WFAN, Ken Rosenthal noted that many teams were able to make significant overhauls this winter, and pointed to the Padres as a case-in-point. Rosenthal suggested something many have been thinking. The Mets say that the deals available would have cost prize prospects, or not upgraded the roster. It’s hard to accept that on face value, when other clubs seemed able to wheel and deal to enhance their rosters. The Mets can no longer use the rationale that they’re not yet ready to make “the big move”, when many within the organization tout 2015 as the year when the Citi Field lights will be on in October.
A final point worth noting is the dichotomy within the fan base over the work of Sandy Alderson. Alderson has his supporters, and with good reason. As a founding father of the statistical revolution, Alderson has had a knack for finding undervalued players to keep his teams competitive. Some trust Alderson implicitly, and that certainly seems warranted. However, some are starting to question the GM. Alderson has 24 seasons under his belt as a major league GM. His record shows 6 division titles, 3 pennants, and one World Series win. With the Mets, it’s clear Alderson is operating with his hands financially tied. Should Alderson have found a way to do more with his team, that’s on the precipice of contending? Only time will tell.
This brings me back to my original question. As fans, we have a choice. We can approach 2015 with normal (or even enhanced) optimism, and there’s plenty of validation for that. Or, we can look at the coming season as one that may bring the dreaded unfulfilled expectations.
Which camp are you in?
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