Last year in this space Gothamist's "Devoted but Critical" season ticket holder took some bold stances, was mocked by the commenters, but got nearly everything right anyway. So we asked him to come back for a second year of prognostication. Without further ado:
It's all-too-common for sportswriters today to compare this year's Mets to the 1983, '84 or '85 teams, depending on how bullish the sportswriters are on the rebuilding process. But that's a lazy comparison, a slightly better one is the Oakland A's of today—still sporting Mets GM Sandy Alderson's organizational ethos, the A's were rich in young pitching, didn't overspend on positional players (not one!) and kept their payroll low so they could add talent when they needed it. The result was a shocking ascension to the American League West title, a division considered the toughest in baseball. It's optimistic to expect the Mets to overtake the Nationals and the Braves this year, but it's reasonable to expect them to make a run in the next few years, and that's a marked improvement over the attitude of Mets fans from seasons prior.
- The Mets infield and pitching staff are as healthy as they've ever been. Yes, Johan Santana is lost for the season (and at least the next one too), but the Mets finally have the budget to acquire another pitcher if they must, and they have enough young potential starters that they could probably withstand two or three injuries without having to go outside the organization for help.
- The outfield remains the biggest cause for worry. Colin Cowgill, acquired via trade from the A's this off-season, has won the everyday centerfielder job. Gothamist commenters laughed at my suggestion that Justin Maxwell take over in Center for the Metsies, but not only did Justin contribute to the Yankees and Astros last year, he's started 2013 off right with two triples and a great defensive play in last night's win by the Astros over the Rangers. Maxwell would have been the best outfielder on the Mets last year and this one too, but at least Jason Bay is no longer around to remind us of darker days past (he's now the fifth outfielder on the struggling Mariners, one of only a handful of teams worse off in the outfield than the Mets). And I'm still bullish on Lucas Duda.
Around the field:
We're actually not attending Opening Day today, but we'll be able to report back next week.
- The Yankees and the Mets both play in the city today, a rare occurrence (it usually happens only when necessitated by a rainout, or of course during a subway series).
- The Mets have the best Opening Day winning percentage of all time, and Jonathon Niese, born on the day the Mets won the Series in 1986, will make his first career Opening Day start.
- The Mets will wear a
Newtown memorial patch on their uniforms for the first three games of the season.
- David Wright was finally (officially) named captain of the team after signing a contract extention this winter, but he won't be wearing a "C" patch on his uniform. "A uniform is a uniform," Wright reasoned, and we agree.
Off the field:
For everything the Mets are doing right on the field - taking their time to rebuild around a core of affordable talent—they are still falling down badly off it. It's easy to hope that a young scrappy group of overachievers can win the city's heart while the Yankees falter, but then you see a ticket sale on Groupon, or read about the Mets renting their largest street-level retail space to Amway, the wind is taken out of your sails a little bit. Dave Howard, who was in charge of all non-baseball operations for the Mets, has jumped ship to run operations for James Dolan's Knicks and Rangers. Even Bill Simmons took note, but it's easy to forget that Citi Field was completed on-time and on-budget, and is generally regarded as the superior of the two new New York baseball stadiums. Perhaps Howard just wanted a change after decades of working for the Mets, but it's unsettling to lose an executive who held a strong reputation around the league.
Finally, Poke fun at the Mets Harlem Shake video all you want, but they went to town on those costumes, and the presence of Jeff Wilpon means maybe the Mets ownership isn't taking itself as seriously as in year's past. And that can only be a good sign.