A new era has dawned for the New York Mets and 2011 is just the beginning. The hiring of new General Manager Sandy Alderson has given the Mets, who have only made the playoffs once in the last decade, a rigid and new regime that should put them on a direction that may lead to consistent winning ways.
The times of wasted payroll opportunities, overpriced veteran pieces and misplaced loyalties to aging stars (all highlights of Omar Minaya’s tenure in charge) will be over and a front office that stresses performance, focus and complete analysis from a team lead by the man who pioneered the “Moneyball” techniques that made Billy Beane famous, will begin.
Now that the season has started, we can already see how undervalued and cheaper options such as Willie Harris, Chris Young and Taylor Buchholz can impact a club better than high-profile free agent splurges such as Jason Bay, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez.
Quite possibly the Mets most high-profile move this offseason was the decision to hire former Astros and Angels manager Terry Collins to be the general in this war on changing culture. On paper, the Collins hiring confused many fans. Some questioned the temper and in-your-face attitude Collins was known for while others questioned if a man, who has not managed a major league club in 12 years, would be able to jump back in and succeed.
However, what fans seemed to overlook was Collins’ passion and respect for the game – which is exactly what seemingly transcends down to the Mets roster.
Under the management of Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel the Mets seemed to be in a perpetual state of apathy and underachievement. Rosters were mismanaged and the fundamentals of the game were not stressed.
All of that has changed with Collins running the show.
Not only has Collins had the opportunity to work with and build relationships with most of the Mets’ young roster, serving as the team’s Minor League Coordinator for two seasons, he has stressed accountability and fundamentals both on and off the field. The Mets seem disciplined and there is no question of who is in charge.
As for the actual team, the Mets are a strange mix of veterans and young players which could translate into an inconsistent season.
The infield is almost entirely homegrown talent, which is a testament to Minaya’s ability to scout, and provide the Mets with a young core to build an offense around. David Wright and Jose Reyes offer the Mets one of the best left sides of the infield in the league. Both players should have productive seasons and Reyes especially has to prove he has overcome the injuries that have plagued his last two seasons.
Ike Davis should continue to impress and give the Mets a lock at first base for years to come. His power potential is outstanding and he could be a future Gold-Glover. Second base is less certain as the team will start the year shifting between Rule 5 pickup Brad Emaus and utility-extraordinaire Daniel Murphy. Emaus was named the starter by Collins as spring training came to a close, but expect Murphy to be a regular in the lineup. Josh Thole will be the main catcher for the Mets this season and the young backstop should continue to grow into a Paul Lo Duca type of player.
The Mets outfield completely hinges on health. Left field will be manned by Jason Bay and the team will hope the former slugger can regain the power stroke that made him such an attractive option when he was signed. Center field will thankfully be patrolled by last year’s surprise player Angel Pagan. Pagan’s combination of speed, power, contact ability and athleticism gives the Mets a dynamic player they can place in multiple parts of the lineup. Finally, right field will be where Carlos Beltran plays most of his innings. The former all-star shifted to right field due to the wear and tear center field had on his weak knees – something the Mets are being very cautious about. If Beltran can remain healthy and perform to his ability, the Mets offense will change dramatically.
On the mound, the Mets will play an intricate chess game as they await the return of ace Johan Santana. Mike Pelfrey, who blossomed into a strong starter last season, will begin the season as the staff’s ace. Second-year starter Jon Niese will slot as the No. 2. While R.A. Dickey will attempt to recreate last year’s magic as the team’s third starter and free agent signees Young and Capuano will fill out the final two spots.
The Mets’ bullpen is a giant question mark. If all things fall into place the Mets could create a strong bridge to K-Rod. Bobby Parnell will be the only returning arm from last year’s group and he will mesh with low-risk, high-reward type players like Buchholz, Blaine Boyer, Tim Byrdak and innings-eater D.J. Carrasco.
Overall, this season will be an interesting one for the Metropolitans. The team is in a state of transition and the Minaya regime regulars such as Beltran, K-Rod, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo will come off of the team’s payroll and Alderson can begin to craft a roster he will be able to call his own. This season we will see a new breed of Mets baseball that is disciplined and pointed, and a new “Mets brand” of baseball should overcome the public opinion.
That being said, the Mets have the ability to surprise the league. There are a lot of “ifs” the Mets face but if every “if” is realized, the team could compete late into the season. Despite this, anything higher than a third-place finish should be considered a surprise. In the coming seasons fans should be able to notice tangible progress.
SS – JOSE REYES – Reyes is entering his contract year, meaning he will be driven to prove he is the elite shortstop we all remember.
CF – ANGEL PAGAN – Pagan provides the Mets with a versatile bat in the lineup. He excels in most aspects of the game.
3B – DAVID WRIGHT – Wright is the face of the franchise but he needs to cut down on his strikeouts if he wants to cement himself as one of the league’s elite.
RF – CARLOS BELTRAN – Health is important if Beltran hopes to continue his career after this season.
1B – IKE DAVIS – The power and potential is there – he just needs to avoid the sophomore slump. Davis could be a superstar one day.
LF – JASON BAY– If Bay regains the power he was signed for the Mets lineup could be great. The only question is if he can.
2B – BRAD EMAUS– Emaus is patient and gets on base – exactly what Sandy Alderson values. He will split time with Daniel Murphy.
C – JOSH THOLE– Thole will provide a solid season as the regular catcher and has strong offensive potential.
No. 1 MIKE PELFREY – “Big Pelf” needs to have the same season he had last year and prove he is the ace he was drafted as.
No. 2 JON NIESE – Niese’s rookie season had ups and downs, but he did make strides last year.
No. 3 R.A. DICKEY – If Dickey can recapture whatever made him successful last season, he could be one of the best reclamation projects in MLB history.
No. 4 CHRIS YOUNG – Young was once one of the game’s elite starters, but injuries have derailed him. Is this the year he ascends to the top again?
No. 5 CHRIS CAPUANO – Another Alderson signing, Capuano is hoping to prove he can still start despite his injury riddled past few seasons.