2010 could be an Amazin’ year

10 02 2010

While at a recent SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) event at the midtown library in Manhattan, I overheard a few grumpy Mets fans belittle their team’s chances in 2010. One said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You look at our division and we don’t have a chance to finish better than fourth.” So it goes for fans disillusioned by the Mets’ horrendous 2009 season. Mets fans are such a depressed lot that they’ve taken to dismissing their beautiful new Citi Field and reminiscing about that turd of concrete and steel called Shea Stadium. Yet I have a positive spin on the Mets; second place is clearly within their sights.

I’m not going to pretend as if the Mets don’t have holes on their roster. Their catcher situation is embarrassing for a big market contender and they haven’t done anything to improve their rotation after Johan. The Perez/Pelfrey/Maine/Niese quartet are all 28 or younger, but at some point you have to realize a player is who he is. If Perez pitches well, then he profiles as a fine No. 3 guy. The Mets lack a reliable No. 2, which is why they should’ve targeted Javier Vazquez, who went to the Yankees.

Second base is all right with Castillo, although the Mets should’ve saddled up and signed Orlando Hudson if that’s who they really wanted for the position. Now is not a time for the Metsies to be passive. Assuming Beltran is at full health by June, they have a lineup to be reckoned with. Jose Reyes (age 26), David Wright (27), Daniel Murphy (24) and Jeff Francoeur (26) are fine pieces, especially defensively. Jason Bay (31) and Beltran (32) are great at the plate and still young enough to avoid the “old” tag.

They’ll battle the Braves and Marlins all year for second place. The Braves might seem like an up-and-coming team but I’m not a big believer. They have great pieces in Brian McCann (25) and Jason Heyward (20), who will be in right field by summer solstice. But Nate McLouth is overrated, Melky Cabrera won’t be the same in Atlanta (he’s away from his best friend Robinson Cano and he thrived on New York’s electric environment) and their infield is sort of horrifying. Can Chipper Jones stay healthy and productive at 37? Is an even more fragile Troy Glaus really the backup option you want for Chipper? Who’s going to replace Adam LaRoche’s production at first base?

Plus, the Braves dealt their best pitcher from last season in Vazquez, who would’ve formed an awesome 1-2 punch this year with studly Tommy Hanson. Hanson is sick and will be a top 10 NL pitcher this year. Now they have old Derek Lowe, old Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Kenshin Kawakami to “scare” opposing batting lineups. It gets better. They opted not to re-sign Mike Gonzalez (31) or Rafael Soriano (30), instead giving 38-year-old Billy Wagner, a year removed from elbow reconstruction surgery, the same per-year contract that Gonzalez and Soriano ultimately signed with the Orioles and Rays, respectively. Good work, Atlanta.

As for the Marlins, they definitely have the resources to be dangerous. Their starting rotation could be the best one through five in the division. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are nasty. If Cameron Maybin evolves into a poor man’s B.J. Upton from the 2008 season, then the Fish have something. Of course, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that the Marlins trade Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla for prospects by July, welcoming Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison onto the pro team. The Marlins can’t be perceived as a guaranteed threat since they walk the fence too often between 70 and 85 wins. They really can go either way, especially if MLB permits them to lower their payroll during the year and trade a couple of veterans.

We can dismiss the Nationals as contenders for the NL East. That’s easily settled just by the fact that the Nats’ most prominent off-season acquisitions were Jason Marquis and Pudge Rodriguez. Strasburg and Co. are going nowhere anytime soon. Likewise, the Phillies and Mets won’t be battling for position in the East, only for a different reason. The Phils are really, really good with the additions of Roy Halladay and Placido Polanco. Their only loose end is closer, but that’s an issue that can be solved during the season. Of course, if Halladay or one from the Utley/Howard/Rollins trio suffers a major injury, then the division race opens up. For now, let’s not deal with too many hypothetical scenarios.

Mets fans shouldn’t drive themselves crazy. The Phils might be the unquestioned leaders of the division but the Braves and Marlins have enough roster holes for the Mets to easily steamroll their way to second place.




One response

13 02 2010

pretty convincing case… but i still think we finish 3rd. i can’t get over our rotation or lack thereof

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