Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mets Begin 2014 Season with More Questions than Answers

The 2014 baseball season is upon on us, and once again the Mets are limping to the starting gate.

A year ago the Mets front office talked up 2014 as the year that would be the turning point for the franchise. Gone would be the albatross contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana, or better known as the latest scapegoats by Mets management to not spend money on the baseball team. With payroll flexibility the Mets would flex their muscles in free agency. 

That's what we were led to believe, and if you the biggest kool-aid drinker of Wilpon rhetoric, then you probably think that the Mets had an amazing off-season and are ready to make a push. Hey, even Sandy Alderson said this year's Mets should "win 90 games." 

The Mets payroll is now $89 million for this season. A lot of money by some standards, but for a New York team, it feels like this team is better fit for Kansas City or Tampa Bay. Sure they spent $60 million on Curtis Granderson, but that was it. Unless you consider signing aging, overweight pitcher Bartolo Colon, and consistent .200 hitter Chris Young big time moves. 

Surely the Mets Opening Day roster bares little excitement and confidence. The team went into training camp with a two-way battle for first base between Lucas Duda and Ike Davis. Six weeks later, the Mets still don't know who will be their regular first baseman. In 10 games this Spring, Duda hit .185 with two homers and three RBI. Davis, meanwhile, hit only .241 with two homers and seven RBI in 10 games.

At shortstop the Mets did everything they could to get rid of Ruben Tejada, but, Tejada is still here, and will start at short for New York. The Mets were unable to convince free agent Stephen Drew to lower his asking price, and New York, for now, is stuck with Tejada.

Add questions about the durability of catcher Travis d'Arnaud, and questions about the competency of Juan Lagares in center field and Young in right field, and one has the 2014 New York Mets.

To fair, the Mets plans would have likely been different had Matt Harvey not injured his elbow last fall, and had Tommy John's Surgery. Lost for the year, the dream that the Mets would have a monster rotation in 2014 went by the wayside the moment Harvey went M.I.A. The only headlines Harvey has made this year is his persistence to rehab from the injury in New York instead of Port St. Luice.

The story created a lot of headlines a couple weeks ago, with the media painting a war between the Mets front office and Harvery. Harvey eventually got his way, and will train in New York. Hint, hint to a future battle between these two when Harvey becomes a free agent in four years.

But, the Mets will miss Harvey. They will miss his bulldog presence on the pitching mound every fifth day. He brought life to a typically lifeless ballpark last season. In his stead, Zack Wheeler, while he is not the opening day starter, is the ace of the team. Wheeler came up last year and pitched well, with a 3.42 ERA and a 7-5 record. The Mets should not restrict his innings the way they did Harvey. Terry Collins and company have to let Wheeler grow into the role as Ace 1A, and let him clock in over 200 innings this season.

Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee round out the rotation. While Colon pitched well in Oakland last year, he is a year older and heavier. To expect big things from Colon in 2014 is asking a lot, and I'm afraid it was too much of a gamble for $10 million a year. Niese and Gee, meanwhile are average. They won't scare people, but they will win their fair share of games.

The only excitement that might come out of the Mets rotation this year is the eventual promotion of Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard is touted as the next big time pitcher coming out of the Mets system. He didn't make the team out of Spring Training, but if he has success at Triple-A Las Vegas, expect a call up come late May.

The Mets need Syndergaard, especially if he is as good as advertised. The Mets' fan needs to see Syndergaard and Wheeler together, eating up innings, strikeouts and hopefully W's. They need to see hope and light at the end of the tunnel. Because, right now, things are still pretty dark in Flushing, NY.

While Mets fans hate hearing the same excuses over and over again, it is not about winning in 2014. It's about getting the young pitchers lined up for the "turn around" in 2015. Or, at least that's what the Mets want us to believe.

Prediction: The Mets will battle Philadelphia for third place all season. Some say the Mets are so bad they might win as little as 63 games. I will beg to differ. While this team is bad, there is potential with the pitching, but the offense still is one of the worst in baseball. Record: 75-87, 4th place.

Likely Opening Day lineup:
Eric Young Jr. - LF 
Daniel Murphy - 2B 
David Wright - 3B 
Curtis Granderson - RF 
Chris Young - CF 
Ike Davis - 1B 
Travis d'Arnout - C
Ruben Tejada - SS 

Rotation
Dillon Gee 
Bartolo Colon
Zack Wheeler
Jon Niese 
Jenrry Mejia  

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