10 games in and the Mets are 7-3 only a 1/2 game back of the…1st place Nationals? While I’m not ready to declare that the Mets will win the World Series in 2012 like one of my colleagues did, there might be more to this season than just hope. Here are 10 things we’ve learned through the first 10 games.
1. The Phillies and Braves have just about zero offense
The Mets opened the season by sweeping the Braves in almost comical fashion. If it weren’t for the paranoia of Mets fans and all the pre-season talk about how bad the team would be, would you have been at all worried about the Braves offense scoring runs? Sure, Chipper Jones was hurt and not in the lineup but he’s not single handedly turning the Braves anemic offense into the Tigers or Rangers lineup.
As for the Phillies, well their offense was built almost entirely around 3 guys: Jimmy Rollins who, pardon me sir, your age is showing; we can pretty much put in the book that Chase Utley’s career is/will be cut short by injuries; and Ryan Howard needs to have guys, like Rollins and Utley, on base in front of him to limit a pitcher’s options given his high strikeout rate. Yes, the Phillies did get Hunter Pence and he’s a good player but just like Chipper, he’s not turning a lineup into something amazing on his own.
2. The Nationals lack names but will be a challenge
You’ve heard of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Well Harper isn’t even in the major leagues, so you’ve basically only heard of 1 guy on their team (other than Jayson Werth and that’s only because he used to play for the Phillies). While not something that’s going to give you nightmares on first glance, the Nationals feature a dynamic lineup capable of speed and power. They took 2 of 3 from the Mets and the bad news is, possibly their best hitter, Michael Morse has been on the DL all year so far. With some solid starting pitching and Tyler Clippard in the bullpen the strategy may have to be wait for Brad Lidge to implode.
3. All I know about the Miami Marlins is…
That they wear ugly jerseys, they lured our golden child Jose Reyes, and their manager loves Fidel Castro. Although apparently Ozzie Guillen has had a change of heart based on his public apology. It’s not the smartest move to say something pro-Castro in Miami. Anyway, I know that they have tons of speed (Bonafacio, Hanley and grr it actually hurts to put Reyes’ name here), I also know that Hanley Ramirez was off to a slow start to open the season (because I have him on one of my fantasy teams) and their starting pitching hasn’t been very good. We’ll learn more about them in the coming days.
4. Is Andres Torres even necessary?
He was brought in to play centerfield and bat leadoff because there was (presumably) no one to play the position and to insulate Rubeun Tejada from the direct comparisons to Jose Reyes. Well, Tejada has done a great job at the top of the order working the count and getting on base (.357obp). As for centerfield, rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis hasn’t made an error and is doing more with the bat than you’d expect to get from Torres. So we’ll see what transpires after Torres heals, will he get his job back, come off the bench, or get sent down/released to make room for someone else.
5. Jason Bay gets a raw deal
Both Bay and Davis got off to horrible, strike that, horrendous starts to the season. The difference – Bay was immediately booed whereas Ike received “I Like Ike” chants from the crowd hoping that their positive energy would be enough to will his bat to actually make contact. I get it, the Bay contract was bad but can you blame Jason for signing it? I’ll tell you this, if anyone ever offers me a contract to do this (or my day job) or an exorbitant amount more than I’m probably actually worth I’m signing that mofo so fast you’d think that my signature had been printed on it. So don’t blame him for being overpaid, bad contracts happen, but he hasn’t sulked about it, complained to the media that he’s being treated unfairly or done anything to deserve the fans wrath.
You want to be mad, blame Omar for the deal. Jason Bay hustles on every play and tries to contribute in whatever way he is physically able to. So why not give him some of that positive encouragement reserved for Ike? There no rule against cheering for every guy in the starting lineup. And who knows, maybe he just needs a nice big metaphorical fan hug to get back to the way he used to be in Pittsburgh.
6. Jon Niese is going to be pretty good
No real analysis, just look at his 2 starts and his upside potential.
7. David Wright is the most important piece in the lineup.
I’ve been to 1 game so far this season, David Wright wasn’t playing, the Mets looked horrible and lost their first game of the season. Without David in there the whole complexion of the offense changes. A pitcher can pick his spots, and work around guys with very little fear. As soon as Ike regains his form from last season it may be a different story but with his current early season slump in effect the lineup needs Wright to make everything go. If Tejada gets on and Wright is batting third, Daniel Murphy gets pitches to hit. Ike, Bay and Duda have someone who will usually get on base in front of them, giving pitchers a big inning to worry about. And while he hasn’t done it yet this season, Wright can steal a base, adding yet another weapon to his arsenal.
8. Mike Pelfrey will be good this year or he’ll be the next John Maine.
Patience has pretty much run out on Pelf, both from the fans and from the organization. I’ve personally never been too high on him because of his lack of a consistent “out” pitch. He has a decent sinker but sometimes his command of it resembles me throwing darts at a bar after 3 pitchers – not great. He’s not a strikeout guy, which has always bothered me because of his size (maybe it’s an unfair request that all tall pitchers strike guys out like Randy Johnson used to), so he needs to demonstrate good command in order to get hitters out on pitcher’s pitches. His last start against the Phillies was encouraging, but time’s up on just showing glimpses of promise given that Niese and even Gee have risen above Pelfrey in terms of consistency.
9. There will be a trade market for Johan Santana.
Unless the Mets are in first at the All-Star break, Johan might be going bye-bye. I don’t mean to spoil the surprise for anyone, but that’s what’s likely going to happen. That said, so far in this early season Santana has shown that he’s recovered from surgery and is capable of being effective pitching in the major leagues. Is he the same guy he was on the Twins? Not even close. The same guy the Mets got when they traded for him? Not really, but he’s a solid arm for any starting rotation looking to win a championship.
But don’t get sad or nostalgic, this is all good news for the Mets. It means that Johan can bring back some pieces in a trade. Now we’re not getting 3 young AAA prospects and I doubt that any team will offer up their organization’s “don’t trade under any circumstances” minor league gem, but with a little help from Sandy, Johan Santana may be able to help the Mets win the division for the next few years.
10. Trading David Wright will undo all of the progress and dissolve the good feelings around the city.
I consider it the “Doomsday” scenario. People tell you that Wright can fetch a lot of good prospects and help build the team for the future (similar to the Johan scenario above), they’ll bring up his injury history, his salary, and a bunch of other things which only amount to a smokescreen. Here’s where the argument falls apart – David Wright is hitting .542 in his first 7 games (he missed 3 with a broken pinkie) with 5 runs, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs and 5 walks. Plus he only has 2 strikeouts.
It’s not hard to see that Wright=Offense. Okay but what about the future? What about his injuries? Simple: He’s still young enough to be young but old enough to be a mature presence in the clubhouse. Injuries happen, stop thinking of baseball as some special case and treat it more like football. People get beat-up and bruised and when David does he plays. He got his bell rung by a Matt Cain fastball that would have caused me to retire if I was sitting in the dugout and saw it.
He broke his back, and like Batman came back from it. His pinkie is broken, so after a couple of days of rest he hits a home run on the first pitch he sees. Every team needs a hero and David Wright is the Mets with all he’s faced with criticism, injuries and just some bad seasons. He’s the uniting factor for the fans and for the city because he’s where the conversation starts with this team. Losing David Wright would take more than a really good player out of the lineup and the clubhouse, it would take the air out of the Mets.
Look, realistically the Mets aren’t winning 70% of their games. It’s also realistic that they won’t lose 95 either. But if the team can come together, Davis and Bay can pick it up, the pitching stays strong (*cough* *cough* Pelfrey) this team has a chance to make some noise in a division that I think is pretty much up for grabs. There’s still going to be some bad times, but there might be some great times that no one thought could happen (well, no one except us). So buckle, there’s a 152 more chances ahead.