Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It Will Be Dismal For The New York Mets with Some Promise

By Rich Mancuso

New York – There have not been many good moments for the New York Mets and their fans since the move to Citi Field in Flushing New York three years ago. The, ballpark will usher in the 2012 season Thursday afternoon as the Mets host the Braves , and once again there are not expected to be any bright moments for this New York Mets team.

New field dimensions, moving in the fences are expected to increase home run production for a team that has been next to last in that category the past two years. Question marks are many about the health of some key position players. Second year manager Terry Collins will try and keep his team competitive in the National League East a vastly improved division with the Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and once again the Philadelphia Phillies who are favored to take their sixth straight divisional title.

A wild card berth for New York, even with the addition of another team in the revamped playoff system, probably won’t come. Simply put the Mets are in for another dismal campaign, and if they don’t get out of the gate quick Citi Field will be desolate this summer.

And there is no Jose Reyes in the lineup. He opted to take the big contract and go to Miami. Reyes, who won the NL batting title, in his last game as a New York Met in September, will be missed. When healthy, he is the catalyst leading off and there will be a definite amount of interest when he returns to Citi Field for the first time as a Marlin later this month.

In place of Reyes, 22-year old Ruben Tejada will get the start at shortstop. He has potential but does not have the range on the field, or the ability to spark a rally at the plate. With more playing time last season, Tejada had over 300 at bats and hit .284. He has always been a favorite of Collins, and got more playing time showing potential. He came into spring training stronger and last season was more patient at the plate, making a sparkling play or two in between time at second base and shortstop.

So what should be expected from a team that is beset with financial issues, a projected payroll of $91 million, and maybe looking to shed more of the money to make ends meet? Team owners settled a lawsuit by the trustees for victims of Bernie Madoff, are still in debt and lost $70 million last year after a fourth place finish.

“Almost everybody has room for improvement,” says team General Manager Sandy Alderson in his second year. He was brought in to shed payroll, so there was no room to offer Reyes that long term multi-million deal. The lone franchise player, David Wright is coming off another dismal and injury ridden season of 14 home runs and 84 RBI. He could be out the door by the trading deadine of July 31st.

In the walk year of his contract, and with the Mets not expected to contend, Wright could be expendable and in return worth some prospects and a quality player or two. If the Mets could not afford a contract for Reyes, there is no way they can spend on a huge contract for Wright.

If Wright, Jason Bay, Lucas Duda and Jason Bay hit the home run, and they could with the drawn in outfield fences in left and right fields, there could be an increase in home runs. Bay has not been anything of suburb since coming to New York with the huge contract. Some say it was the big wall out in left that have seen a major decline in his production and he has been plagued with injuries.

But now, Bay is healthy and rejuvenated. The dimensions at Citi Field have changed and there should be no room for excuses. “He will have every reason to prove what he is capable to do,” says Collins about Bay who will bat fifth in the order after Davis. Duda, Davis, and Daniel Murphy, all left handed hitters will bat in the middle of Collins’ batting order. Murphy will get the start at second base and get some help from Justin Turner off the bench.

They will get the opportunity to test the new renovated right field walls at Citi Field. A 39.5 percentage of home runs were allowed by Mets pitchers at Citi Field last year, the lowest home rate in the majors. The attempt has been made to increase that production as the fences were moved by as much as 17-feet in some places.

However, a suspect starting pitching staff going with a revamped bullpen will have to keep the opposition from using those new fences to their advantage. The good news is Johan Santana, the high profiled starter returns from shoulder surgery. He last pitched in September of 2010 and the fastball, changeup and command seem to be back to form. If not, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about a pitching staff that was second in the league when giving up runs.

After Santana, R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball are interesting. He goes deep into games, and the 36-year old right hander was 8-13 last season. But the record does reflect more wins, over 200 innings, and a 3.28 earned run average. But the bullpen gave the games away and Dickey was victimized with a no-decision or a loss.

Mike Pelfrey proved he could not be an ace last year, more known with the absence of Santana and last week there were reports the Mets were considering a trade for the right hander. He finished with seven wins and an ERA over four. There is no consistency with Pelfrey and he could be traded before September.

The rookie Dillon Gee has good stuff and time will tell what he can offer. After that the Mets could use the 40-year old veteran Miguel Batista who was picked up late last season and got a couple of wins. And expect the youngsters Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and Zach Wheeler to be seen at some point.

Ramon Ramirez and Frank Francisco are a part of the new bullpen, inexpensive acquisitions that offer experience. And Jon Rauch, another veteran with a good right arm could get a shot at closing games as Collins intends to go with a pen by committee. Bobby Parnell, who was tested as a closer last season, his ability to throw a fastball over 95, may eventually be groomed to close games. But his inability to close games, attributed to control problems may leave him as a setup man or a long man.

By no means is this version of the 2012 New York Mets a playoff team. They could finish last in the division however in the course of a long campaign anything is possible.

Regardless, Collins and his new coaching staff will be tested. So will Mets fans. Because being a Mets fan has become a routine of knowing that winning ballgames is not easy to find.

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This post is sponsored in part by Bayside Coops & Forest Hills Real Estate

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