Monday, February 1, 2010

An Injection of Sanity

Let me preface this by explaining a few things: I'm not affected by how the Mets are perceived in the papers/on the airwaves. I have no intention of getting into a debate regarding the Mets' medical staff/injury diagnoses. And when I look at the Mets' 2009 final record, I don't take it seriously. Why? Because those weren't the Mets. Those were imposters, filling in for the afflicted members of the team, trying in vain to stay respectable.

Today is February 1st. The most hellish month in the baseball offseason has come to a close. In 17 days, pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Port St. Lucie for Spring Training. It's so close, you can almost smell the grass and the leather, almost hear the snap of David Wright's glove as he has a catch with Jose Reyes. This should be a time of joy, but most Mets fans are instead miserable. Some of them are miserable for the sake of it, some are miserable because the media has told them they should be, and some are miserable because they honestly feel they've been sold a false bill of goods by the soon to be 2010 Mets.

They're wondering where all their shiny new toys are. They're angry that the team that lost 92 games hasn't completely re-made itself...furious that ticket prices were only lowered by a few percent. These fans are like dogs that have been infected with rabies, foaming at the mouth, running around looking for someone to bite. They refuse to back down, refuse to let common sense get in the way of their misery - or their pointless diatribe.

In 2004 (and 2002 and 2003), the Mets were bad. They were often unwatchable. They trotted out lineups that included Danny Garcia, Vance Wilson, Jason Phillips, Mike Glavine, and Jeff Duncan. The team was an abomination. During the offseason of 2004, things began to fall into place for the Mets. Over the course of the 2004 offseason, and the four offseason's that followed, the Mets continued to add star quality players to the team - but never added more than two at a time. Here's a rundown of the BIG moves (at the time, not moves that were seen as being big in hindsight, like the Duaner Sanchez trade).....

Offseason of 2004 - Signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran.

Offseason of 2005 - Traded for Carlos Delgado and signed Billy Wagner.

Offseason of 2006 - Re-signed Tom Glavine and signed Moises Alou.

Offseason of 2007 - Traded for Johan Santana.

Offseason of 2008 - Signed Francisco Rodriguez and traded for JJ Putz.

In 2005, the Mets were contenders for the Wild Card, but faded in September. In 2006, they dominated the National League and ran away with the Division Title. They would've most likely made it to the World Series and won it, but they lost their setup man (Sanchez) in late July, and then lost their #1 starter (Pedro) and #2 starter (Orlando Hernandez) the week before the Playoffs began. In 2007, they choked - but still won 88 games. In 2008, they lost their closer (Billy Wagner) in August, and missed the Playoffs by a game. Going into the 2009 season, the Mets were expected to contend for a World Series Title. And then...the roof came crashing in.

The 2009 season wasn't the most disappointing season in Mets history - since the players who were left by the time August rolled around had no shot of competing. Instead, it was the most numbing. The injuries started in March, and kept piling until they reached the point of being almost unfathomable. The Mets not only lost tons of players...they lost pretty much every one of their impact players - and lost them for months at a time. On the offensive side, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado went down in May, then Carlos Beltran started to limp - and eventually went down. Ryan Church (before the trade) was hurt. Then, David Wright got drilled in the head. Around them, the Mets lost backups (Angel Pagan, Alex Cora) and then the backups to the backups (Fernando Martinez, Wilson Valdez). It was absurd. The pitchers went down too. Oliver Perez missed most of the year with knee problems, John Maine missed 3 months, Jon Niese tore his hamstring, Fernando Nieve almost did the same thing as Niese...and then they lost Johan.

There isn't a team in Major League Baseball that could've overcome the amount of injuries that the Mets had in 2009. No shot. The result of all those injuries? 4th place, 70-92.
During the 2009 offseason, much like from 2004-2008, the Mets made one huge move - signing Jason Bay. The rest of the moves were minor. However, coming off of all the injuries, the fans were thirsty for more.
Fans began screaming for major changes. Ownership apologized on WFAN. Writers piled on the Mets every chance they got. Fans failed to renew their season tickets. People criticized Citi Field. Babies cried. There were dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria.

Some of that hysteria can be understood - SOME of it. It's understandable for the fan base to be worried going into 2010, considering what happened in 2009. However, it wasn't the core that failed last year. It was the replacements. Nevertheless, instead of counting on the Mets' players bouncing back, most fans are counting on everyone else's players having career years while each of the Mets sinks deeper into irrelevance. I don't know why, but that's the feeling.

From 2006-2009, the Mets had four all star caliber hitters in their prime who held together their lineup (Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran). In 2010, the Mets will have four all star caliber hitters in their prime who hold together the lineup (Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay). In 2008, the year the Mets won 89 games and missed the playoffs by one game, their rotation included Johan Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey. The 2010 rotation will include those four pitchers, along with one more yet to be determined name. Instead of overspending on volatile relievers, the Mets spent wisely on two high potential relievers who were rather inexpensive (Ryota Igarashi and Kelvim Escobar). The 2010 team, which has question marks, like every other team in baseball, will be fun to watch. It should be competitive, just like the 2005-2008 versions of the Mets were.

Yet, the fans still froth at the mouth. Instead of being satisfied that Jason Bay signed, they're angry that the Mets didn't get that fifth big hitter for their lineup to play first base. If they relaxed, they'd realize that the Mets haven't HAD that fifth big hitter in their lineup in quite some time...they'd realize that the Mets' top power hitting prospect plays first base. His name is Ike Davis. I wanted the Mets to trade Luis Castillo, but they couldn't. It sucks, you move on.

The bullpen has been solidified.
The Mets didn't hand out any outlandish contracts.

The one thing the Mets didn't do, that I (and most every other fan hoped they would) was acquire a #2 starter. The free agent market outside of John Lackey was extremely underwhelming, and a trade never materialized. Do the Mets have less of a chance of making the Playoffs since their rotation hasn't been bolstered with the acquisition of that #2 starter? Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead of focusing on what the Mets don't have, let's focus on what they do have:

Four of the best offensive players in baseball, in David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay.

A bullpen that's anchored by one of the best closers in the game.

A rotation that's anchored by one of the best pitchers in the game.

That's the core.

People wanted to break that core up. They wanted wholesale changes because of one fluky, insanely injury ravaged, hellish season. They didn't get their wish.

The Mets fans (some who seem like Yankee fans), well they wanted some shiny new toys - even if they weren't very shiny. They didn't get their wish.

What we have, is an immensely talented that should contend as long as it stays relatively healthy - which isn't a far-fetched idea.

17 days until Spring Training. Mets Baseball is almost here. Don't miss out because you've been brainwashed into believing your team isn't good enough, or because you think you've been duped. This team IS good enough.

Just sit back and watch.

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