Taking Small Pleasures in a Challenging Season
Taking Small Pleasures in a Challenging Season
If you listen to the mainstream media, there appears to be no reason to watch the 2012 New York Mets. Some pundits (Michael Kay- ESPN) have the team winning 55 games. I would imagine that most publications will have them a lock for last place when they post their predictions later this month.
Even the most optimistic fan probably sees a team that will win 77-81 games if everything goes well. That rarely happens in baseball, so the financial restraints by ownership has dealt Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins an average team with little to no margin of error, depending on the position.
Even if the Mets lose 90+ games I think an objective observer will point out they are heading in a better direction than just a couple of years ago. Let’s face it, the Omar Minaya years will go down as the ultimate “fools gold” in baseball history. They won in 2006 with a “strings and mirrors” pitching staff. Their core offensive players were Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Delgado. One (Beltran) was in the prime of his career. Another, Carlos Delgado, was in his late prime with a deteriorating hip. And the two “future stars” turned out to be a tad bit overrated since they are very good, not great players.
The false expectations led to anger and disappointment in the fan base. At least now it appears there’s logic being applied to a true rebuilding process. Alderson and company are basing their foundation on young starting pitching. By 2014, it’s possible that at least 4 starters in the rotation will be homegrown, with more options down in the minors.
That is still a risky proposition. You can’t bank on every prospect turning out positive. In the interim, however, you can take joy in some of the small wins that are part of a team rebuilding.
In the “best case scenario,” you will have two legitimate 30-homer left handed power threats, a steady shortstop that can provide above average defense and get on base, and an offensive-minded second baseman that is an average fielder, but one of the better hitters at his position.
The real excitement will be on the pitching side when certain players make starts for Buffalo and Binghamton. Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Collin McHugh and Darin Gorski are all arms that fans can focus on throughout the summer. Harvey and Familia are the two that appear the closest, but Wheeler very well might have the most upside. When you hear reports (as you did yesterday) of a pitcher throwing in the high-90s with a slider and changeup, you can’t hide the giddiness.
Although the future is the primary focus, there are some current stories that might brighten a dark summer. Adam Loewen- a former first round pick as a pitcher -is writing a comeback story as an outfielder. I think it gets understated how difficult a journey it is to get to the big leagues, much less do it twice at diametrically opposite positions. I am looking forward to following his progress.
R.A. Dickey continues to be a great story on and off the field. I fear he will go down as a popular player during terrible times, but he certainly deserves to be a key component on a championship team. Perhaps all this work he’s done for a second division club will pay off since knuckleballers are ageless. It’s possible he is the wise, innings-eating sage that will anchor a young rotation in 2014.
Finally, there is the ace that is attempting to comeback from shoulder surgery, which has never been done before. Johan Santana won’t go down as this generations Tommy John, but he could become an inspiration for hurlers down the road that suffer from a similar ailment. He probably won’t be the ace with precision control that we saw pre-2010. However, if he competes, stays on the mound, and provides middle-of-the-rotation performance, it’s as an inspiring baseball story as we have seen in a long time.
Of course, the cloud hanging over the team is ownership. That won’t go away anytime soon. Even in a scenario which the Wilpons are forced to sell the team – something that will make most happy- it’s probably a two-year process. The good news is that receivership hasn’t stopped other teams (Texas, Los Angeles) from improving and competing. Bankruptcy would be a better financial scenario than the current “in limbo” position.
No one is suggesting this is an ideal situation. Every Mets fan wishes their team was the darlings of the National League ala 2006. They wish they were faced with the kind of problems (too much starting pitching) that afflicts the team across town.
You can mope and make yourself miserable watching this group. You could also tune them out completely, but I bet you will have trouble following through on that request.
The best scenario is to have a realistic approach to the season, enjoy the development of the kids and fun baseball stories that every team, win or lose, experiences throughout a season.
By Mike Silva