Is there really any reason to believe that the New York Mets are any better than they were last year when they finished with 70 wins, fewer than teams like San Diego, Houston, Toronto and Oakland? I say “no.”
However, oddsmakers are BetUS are certainly a little more optimistic. They have the Mets’ total for wins this season at 82.5. I just don’t see that. New York is also “only” +600 to win the NL East, a division it finished fourth in last year behind Philly, Florida and Atlanta.
In 2009, injuries ravaged this team, but that’s still no excuse for the Mets hitting just 95 homers – the only team in MLB last season with less than triple digits (the Giants were second-to-last and still had 122). The Mets are trying one cosmetic idea to improve their power, as they have sliced eight feet off the center-field wall at Citi Field, lowering it from 16 to eight. That should certainly help someone like David Wright, who entered 2009 as an MVP candidate and hit only five homers all season at home (10 total, down from 33 in 2008).
But you can’t just blame Citi Field, as the Mets ranked last in the fewest road homers in 2009 with 46. Daniel Murphy, by the way, led the Mets with 12 total homers last year, which is embarrassing -- 27 of the 30 other MLB teams had at least four players with 12 or more homers. The Mets thus need Wright to get his power stroke back in a big way.
New York was forced to overpay for Red Sox free agent outfielder Jason Bay this winter, giving him a four-year, $66 million contract. He hit at least 30 dingers in each of the past two years, so that should help and he plugs a big hole in left. But was his career 2009 season the result of a contract drive? And Fenway Park is a bit easier to hit in.
In addition, injuries already have taken their toll on the Mets again. Center fielder Carlos Beltran is out until at least early May after having surgery on his knee – a surgery that the Mets might not have actually approved of depending on whom you talk to. He played in only 81 games last year and seems to be breaking down at this stage of his career. Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. will man the position while Beltran is out.
Shortstop Jose Reyes, who played in only 36 games last year is the catalyst of the offense, was looking like he might miss the start of the season with some thyroid condition. He was cleared to resume normal baseball activities and will rejoin the team Wednesday. That is great news for a guy who hit .279 with two homers, 15 RBIs and 11 steals last year due to hamstring issues that eventually led to surgery. Reyes will move down from leadoff to third this season.
The pitching staff hasn’t been immune to the injury issue this spring. Ace Johan Santana started a little late but seems fine now – he better be. But the Mets have serious potential issues in rotation spots 3-5 (John Maine, "Mr. Inconsistency" Oliver Perez and Fernando Nieve/Jon Niese) and don’t know who their setup man will be yet for Francisco Rodriguez. The team signed Kelvim Escobar to hopefully handle the eighth inning despite the fact that he had barely pitched in two years, so is it really a shock he is hurting this spring?
If New York gets off to a slow start, look for management to pull the plug right away on manager Jerry Manuel and for ownership to possibly show GM Omar Minaya the door as well. If everything went right is it possible the Mets win the NL East and exceed that 82.5-win total? I suppose, but I won’t be betting on either possibility.