It was a beautiful spring day: the sun was shining, fans were happy and it generally felt like a day tailor made for a baseball game. Decked out in blue and orange, my family and I celebrated Mother’s Day by taking a trip out to Queens and watching our favorite team compete with baseball’s other beleaguered franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I had only been to Citi Field once before and I have to say the building definitely did not suffer from a sophomore slump. I walked into the “Jackie Robinson Rotunda,” and was captivated by the grand entrance’s stunning architecture and old-world feel. The Mets Hall of Fame also didn’t disappoint as it showcased some of my favorite Mets memories and allowed me to see artifacts and accounts of different parts of the team’s history.
Greeting me at the entrance was an eccentric man shouting for fans to purchase a 2011 Mets Yearbook (for only 12 bucks!) and programs in which to score the game in. Of course, I immediately bought both of them and was excited to score a game for the first time this year – I find it quite sad that the art of scoring a game seems to have been yet another casualty in the war against the Internet – I have scored every Mets game I have ever been to. I am proud to say that each one was scored accurately and precisely, giving me a detailed account of each inning I have ever watched. It’s just not the same as looking up the box score or play-by-play online.
While all of these amenities were comfortable and enjoyable, nothing compared to emerging from the cavernous, yet stylized, concourse and seeing the golden infield dirt contrasting with the green grass and blue sky – in every sense, this day was a day for baseball.
However, all of these feelings of joy and elation came crashing down when the final inning reared its ugly head. After starting off with a first inning lead, the Mets had buried themselves into a 4-1 hole and another loss seemed to be on the horizon.
The Mets put together a 9th inning rally, highlighted by an exciting Jose Reyes-patented RBI triple that cut the Dodgers lead to 4-2, but both Carlos Beltran and David Wright could not drive Reyes home or continue the rally, and the Mets lost the Mother’s Day contest in heartbreaking fashion.
Then, to add to the downpour of bad news, the Mets recently announced starting pitcher Chris Young, who has pitched very well so far this season with a 1.88 ERA, was diagnosed with a torn anterior capsule in his right shoulder – the same injury Johan Santana is currently recovering from. This effectively ends the Chris Young experiment Sandy Alderson had concocted and it’s unfortunate such a talent like Young continues to be derailed by injuries.
And to put a sour cherry on top, the Mets also announced that top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia will soon have Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, the Mets’ already thin starting pitching options have dissipated and the team will be forced to rely on the likes of Dillon Gee and Pat Misch for the forseeable future.
Like a pin to a balloon, all of the good feelings of baseball and its glory were popped before my very eyes as the Mets spiraled back into an abyss of bad news that seemingly never stays too far away from the team.
This deflation brought my 2011 expectations back down to an earthly level, and it became increasingly clear to me that a change is coming in this organization. This team is fundamentally flawed and requires a full gut and cleanse. When that change will begin is not entirely certain – it could be this July if the team decides to begin trading players such as Reyes, Beltran or someone else, or it could be this offseason when the team has more time to decide how to spend the millions of committed dollars that will be shed from the payroll.
There are many problems the Mets face, all of which cannot be fixed overnight or with a Band-Aid. The team lacks depth, the necessary prospects to rebuild or the payroll flexibility to do so, and until Alderson has a chance to really re-tool this franchise, the Mets will be in a state of mediocrity.
As for the short-term, I am not sure how the Mets will respond. The coming months will be critical for the future of this franchise and the decisions made over that time will shape how this team performs over the next few years.
If I had to take a guess and peer into a crystal ball, I would assume the Mets will be out of contention by July 31 and ESPN will be riddled with rumors of possible destinations for Jose Reyes. I expect Reyes to be dealt for a blue-chip pitching prospect who anchors the deal, a mid-level prospect with a lot of upside and another flexible middle-of-the-rotation-type arm that helps alleviate the pitching depth woes the team currently faces.
No doubt this move will be met with an outpour of fan disgust and horror, but Alderson’s explanation for moving Reyes will undoubtedly be one that makes the most sense from a baseball perspective and should help the Mets chances of competing in the future.
Beltran is likely to be shipped to an American League team in search of a big bat for their designated hitter role, and the Mets will likely receive a mid-level prospect in return for the expensive outfielder. If the Mets are willing to chip in some of the $18.5 million owed to him this season, the value of the prospect received in return could rise considerably.
Moves such as this will relieve the salary constraints that have suffocated the team’s creativity and ability to keep the roster in flux, and will signal the beginning of a new-era for the Mets. The players received will no longer be stay-overs from Omar Minaya’s reign as General Manager, but will be players Alderson has scouted and believes will offer the best fit for the vision he is trying to construct.
For Mets fans, this summer will be marked with uncertainty and will garner many scratched heads – but I have hope. Maybe this hope derives from that same emotion I felt when I looked at Citi Field for the first time this season or maybe it’s just misplaced loyalty – but I am optimistic for the Mets long-term future…it’s just a matter of time before things get better.