|Relative Success Possible for the Mets|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 31, 2012
The Mets might actually be able to right their ship.
Well, sort of.
Mets fans aren't likely to forgive the Wilpons and their bumbling mismanagement of the team, at least not unless the Wilpons manage to put a contending likable team on the field. And even if the owners figure out how to right their financial situation and get out from under the shadow of Bernie Madoff, the product they are pushing on the field for 2012 won't be a strong one.
OK, they might not actually be wretched, but it's going to be bad. The Mets have a lot of talent coming back from injuries, question marks and players who'll need big bounce back years if this team is going get any respect in what has become a strong division. As it stands right now, the New Yorkers are the weakest team in the NL East, weaker than the Marlins, weaker than the Nationals.
But ownership hopes that the new dimensions of Citi Field can do more than that. They hope shorter fences will revitalize the bat of Jason Bay, add power to the statistics of David Wright and bolster some of the team's Punch and Judy hitters enough that they'll put on a good show for hometown fans. Throw in another solid season by the surprising Lucas Duda, who by far exceeded expectations last year, and avoiding a 100-loss season seems more than possible.
And that doesn't include the potential contributions by guys like Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis, who both had promising seasons truncated by injuries. Murphy won't contribute more than average if he's healthy, but Davis has the potential to hit 25 home runs and drive in a lot of runs from the center of the lineup.
If Davis fails, the Mets will find themselves in big trouble; the center of the lineup has little pop other than Wright and possibly Bay. For that reason the return of Davis is key to the Mets' success, perhaps even more than a partial return to form by Johan Santana.
And Santana will be the key to the Mets pitching. After all even if Santana comes back as 75% of what he was, he'll still be a huge boost to a rotation that only had one starter who posted an ERA of less than 4.40. Yet the Mets' staff is an area where there is a lot of hope.
Ironically what was pretty much a dreadful rotation last year, where only R.A. Dickey looked like a dominating pitcher, could end up being a strength. Now the Mets can't count on the knuckleballing Dickey to repeat his 3.28 ERA -- especially as knuckleballers are amazingly unpredictable from start to start, let alone season to season -- but if Santana is 75% and Dickey can keep his ERA under 3.75, the Mets will have a respectable 1-2 punch at the start of the rotation.
But the goodness doesn't stop there. The best of the rest is Jonathon Niese, who despite some ugly-looking numbers last season has the potential to be one of this year's pleasant surprises. The other pitcher left with upside is Dillon Gee, who'd be better served with more seasoning at AAA or in the bullpen but who definitely can improve on last season.
The truth is that even if everything comes together, the Mets aren't a playoff team, certainly not in this division. But the Mets could, if everything went right, win a lot more games than people think. Real success would be 75-77 wins. That's a heck of a lot better than 100+ losses.
Of course what goes on the field may very well be influenced by what happens to ownership off the field. While the team has already cut payroll, that payroll could get a lot thinner if a financially strapped ownership decides to sell off Santana and possibly even Wright during the upcoming season.
And that's why many Mets fans are boycotting the lousy on-field product and hoping for new management. That's an unlikely scenario as things stand right now. The Wilpons seem desperate to keep the team and have been creatively trying to market a minority share in the team, but one that doesn't offer the opportunity for that shareholder to take over the team down the road.
Recent court rulings may very well help the Wilpons accomplish that by limiting their exposure in terms of damages if they have to pay out damages to those scammed by Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. If those rulings are not overturned on appeal, the Wilpons might well regain a modicum of financial stability before the season ends.
However, even if that happens, it doesn't mean that the team can look forward to an increased payroll or a more competitive team any time in the immediate future, at least not until ownership manages to pay down their baseball related debts and get their personal financial matters in order.Play Bingo