Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The 2010 Mets and the 2011 Mets: Not the Same

Before I get into the meat of this post, I'd like everyone to take 10 seconds and try to remember who was in the Mets' Opening Day lineup last year. Now, please see below for the answer:

  1. Alex Cora SS

  2. Luis Castillo 2B

  3. David Wright 3B

  4. Mike Jacobs 1B

  5. Jason Bay LF

  6. Gary Matthews Jr CF

  7. Jeff Francoeur RF

  8. Rod Barajas C

Take a few moments to wipe the vomit from your mouth. Now realize this: The Las Vegas over/under win total for the 2010 Mets - the one that trotted out that deformity of an Opening Day lineup, was 81. EIGHTY ONE. The Las Vegas over/under win total for the 2011 Mets - the one that will trot out an Opening Day lineup that includes Jose Reyes, Brad Emaus, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, Josh Thole, and potentially Jason Bay - who should be back sooner than later if he does miss any time? That over/under is 74.5...In the words of Lloyd Christmas when he thought that Mary Swanson's last name was actually Samsonite, something seems "way off."

There are those out there (fans, bloggers, media) who do believe the 2011 Mets will be improved and may surprise. But the majority is of the belief that they won't even compete. That they'll finish dead last. Below the Nationals. The Nationals, whose Opening Day starter is Livan Hernandez. While everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, it seems to me that the Mets are being treated quite unfairly. That the media has found what they believe to be a punching bag, a team that has shots taken at it nearly every day. Frank Robinson came out of nowhere today to say that the 2011 Mets are in worse shape than the 2002 Montreal Expos - The team that was about to be contracted, and was eventually moved to Washington, DC. I'm not even going to get into a debate regarding that, because Robinson's idiotic assertion doesn't merit one. Sports Illustrated has picked the Mets to finish last, with 74 wins. Adam Rubin, by far the most respected beat writer out there, has lowered his expected 2011 Mets win total to 76.

What have the Mets done between 2010 and 2011 to result in the expectations being this low, to cause my UPS delivery man to ask me quizically "really bro, the Mets" when he delivered my ticket package? Their expected 2010 win total was 81, and they won 79 games. Not far off. Then, this happened: They fired their incompetent Manager and replaced him with someone who has a reputation for being way above average tactically, and who has a reputation for having so called "fire." They did not go the Bob Melvin milquetoast route. They fired their maligned General Manager, and replaced him with one of the most well respected men in Major League Baseball. They released the two players who were dreadful on the field, and hurt the team from a PR standpoint off the field. They didn't make any bad trades or bad signings. The Bernard Madoff situation is out there, but I simply don't think the players give a damn. And I certainly don't think it will negatively impact performance. It almost seems as though the columnists and prognosticators want it to, just so they can smile at the end of the year in the event that their predictions come true.

The Mets enter the 2011 season with a lineup that should be vastly superior than the 2010 edition, a bullpen that has been rebuilt with mainly high upside arms, and a rotation that is stronger top to bottom than the one that opened the 2010 campaign. Yes, Johan Santana not being available until June at the earliest is a blow. However, the rotation for 2011 projects to be Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Young, and Chris Capuano. There are concerns, no doubt. But that rotation from top to bottom is better than the one that opened the 2010 season - Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Jon Niese (then an unproven rookie). In addition, the Mets have much better insurance at AAA in the form of Dillon Gee, Boof Bonser, and Jenrry Mejia.

No one knows what 2011 will bring, but it's clear to me (and most Mets fans who aren't blinded by negativity), that the team is headed in the right direction - not backwards, as so many are predicting. For those of you who want to question why I'm a Mets fan, save it. The better question is why aren't you? I've lived in New York City since I was born, and from what I've seen and the people I've encountered, Mets fans are a whole different breed. We don't give up, we don't waver, we don't lower our passion level because someone asks us to. Root for your team, and I'll do the same. We'll see how everything shakes out come October.

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