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Playing Pepper 2012: New York Mets

Posted on March 14, 2012 at 1:30 PM
Filed Under: New York Mets | Playing Pepper
In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad.  Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.

New York Mets
77-85, fourth in the NL East

Ah, the Mets.

Ever since Yadier Molina turned around an Aaron Heilman pitch and sent it soaring into the New York night in 2006, it's been nothing but pain for the Mets faithful.  Late-season collapses.  Seasons that never got started.  Defections.  Ownership embarrassments.  You name it, the Mets have been through it.

Even with all that, though, there are still a lot of fans that haven't quite forsaken this team that labors in the shadow of its older brother.  Here to sort through the issues surrounding the National League New York entry are a few of them.

Steve Keane blogs at The Eddie Kranepool Society and is the BBA NY NL chapter head.  Steve's no stranger to this blog, most recently appearing on Episode 4 of Conversations With C70.  You can find Steve on Twitter at kranepool.

Paul writes over at Paul's Random Baseball Stuff about random baseball stuff with a Mets slant. You can follow him over on Twitter at PaulsRandomStuf.

I should have made Kerel Cooper do his in a visual format, as his On The Black blog is a video blog, one of the few that I've seen.  He's also over on Twitter at ontheblack.

Jon Presser is the voice behind The Shea Faithful and he can be found on Twitter at TheSheaFaithful.

One of the newer blogs in the BBA is Metsrospectus, written by Jeff Yurcan.  He's on Twitter at Metsrospectus.

Mets Hot Corner is run by Freddy Vasquez, which is also his Twitter handle.

Jon Lewin is the Mets half of a Yankees/Mets blogging partnership over at Subway Squawkers.  You can follow the blog on Twitter at SubwaySquawkers as well.

Finally, AC writes the blog Mets Public Record and has a show by the same name, a show on which I'll be appearing two weeks from tomorrow.  He's on Twitter at publicrecord.

For some reason, I always get more Mets bloggers to respond to this gig than just about any other team.  So get cozy as we talk about losing one of the franchise icons and what 2012 has in store for the boys in blue and orange.

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C70: What was your opinion of the team's offseason?

EKS: It went about as I thought it would. With all the financial problems that ownership has, Mets fans knew the payroll would decrease not increase but I think we were taken aback a bit by how much of a decrease it would be. To the fan base's chagrin, the payroll went down over $50mil, which I believe was a MLB record. 

What money Sandy Alderson had at his disposal he used wisely, fortifying the back end of the bullpen with the free agent signing of Frank Fransisco and Jon Rauch plus dealing for Ramon Ramirez. Dealing off Angel Pagan and non-tendering Ronnie Paulino were also positives as both were malcontents in the clubhouse and sent a clear message that accountability by the players will be enforced, something that was missing on this team for the last three years.

PRS: Disappointing. I didn't expect the Mets to add any significant players, but I had hoped they would make a stronger effort to re-sign Jose Reyes. Players like Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez might represent incremental improvements, but they're hard to get excited about.

OTB: Two things stand out about this off season: 1. It seemed like all the talk this off season centered around the Mets owners' financial position. 2. For the second off season in a row the Mets failed to bring in a big name free agent. Mainly due to #1 above. 

I don't like that the Mets lost Reyes (although the Marlins overpaid) and I don't like that the team didn't bring in a front end of the rotation starter. I like how the team filled the holes in the bullpen. I give them a C+

TSF: I think the Mets' offseason went pretty well considering the circumstances. It's painfully obvious at this point that the team has no extra money lying around and they were able to make a few shrewd additions with the little resources they do have. Acquiring a plus defender in centerfield in Andres Torres was a nice stop-gap move, for one.

MS: The team's offseason was uneventful but as good as we were capable of given the owners questionable financial and legal status. Obviously the biggest news was the loss of Reyes but we also made some nice additions. We traded Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez. Torres should be our everyday CF. He has similar offensive numbers to Pagan and much better defense (career UZR of 40.8 as opposed to 12.7). 

We also signed Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco as potential closers. Both have never been able to hold a closer spot but have great potential for relatively low risk.

MHC: It was what I expected. No big moves and the loss of Jose Reyes. Of course it hurts to see him gone, but I don't want to pay six years for a bum hamstring.

SS: The Mets are slashing payroll an MLB-record $50 million. They let homegrown star, fan favorite and offense catalyst Jose Reyes leave without making an offer. They did not have any money for bench depth or even starting pitching depth, which is particularly troubling since they have penciled in Johan Santana for the rotation and there is no assurance that he will be ready for the start of the season, much less completely healthy after that. 

The Mets did attempt to improve their bullpen by acquiring Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez, which should at least be an improvement over what they had at the end of last year. They also moved the fences in, which is expected to help their power hitters.

MPR: Pretty pathetic to say the least, however, they did pick up some veteran bullpen arms (Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez) via free agency and trade.

C70: How much will the ongoing ownership issues affect the club this season?

EKS: It's only a distraction to the fans and media. I got to speak to Daniel Murphy and R.A. Dickey over the winter and I asked them if the off the field stuff ever creeps into the clubhouse and both players told me no and credited manager Terry Collins for that. The Wilpons were not very popular with the fan base before all this Madoff Madness broke and now with all the information out there on this case, Mets fans would love to see them sell the team.

PRS: The Mets' financial situation forced them to slash payroll by more than a third. While teams have won World Series titles by spending $90 million or less, they didn't have nearly half of that money tied up in a pair of players like Jason Bay and Johan Santana that were completely unproductive last year.

OTB: I think we've already seen the impact. No big name free agents, loss of Jose Reyes and trying to fill the gaps with low risk type players and for the first time since 2004, the Mets payroll will be under $100 million.

TSF: The ownership issues will affect the club dramatically until either more funds are raised by minority owners or, hopefully, the team is sold to an owner who can financially support the club. The Mets are in a tough division and likely will finish last in the NL East, and because of the ownership issues, they won't be able to dramatically change their fate any time soon.

MS: They will and they won't. Obviously the team's questionable financial future is affecting the front office's ability to sign expensive talent or make some moves that might better the squad. That being said there are not many signings that would have made a huge difference at this point. At the end of the day, the Wilpons aren't the ones taking the field. If the team plays well, they will play well regardless of outside financial matters. Also if they somehow become competitive, I am sure the team will find the money to give them what they need.

MHC: I know the Madoff deal was bad for business - no money equals no good players. Is there anything the Wilpons can do about it? No - but no in the sense that they are not going to sell the team, so it is what it is. Should they sell the team to someone or a group with tons of cash to help us out? Sure, but they're not selling.

SS: On March 19, the trial is scheduled to start in which the Madoff trustee seeks an additional $300 million from Mets ownership on top of the $83 million he said they were liable for in a recent ruling. The trial is expected to last three weeks. So shortly after the season starts, fans and media will have a better sense as to whether the Wilpons can retain control of the team. If the Wilpons lose the trial, speculation over their future with the Mets will probably overwhelm whatever is happening on the field. 

If they win the trial, the Wilpons could demonstrate that things are changing by signing David Wright to an extension. With Reyes gone, David Wright is the unquestioned face of the franchise and the remaining homegrown star. However, if Wright does bounce back from an injury-plagued 2011, the off-field issues are more likely to prompt a trade.

MPR: There is no argument from me that the current financial situation the Mets owners have found themselves in has affected the Mets payroll. The pending trial looming over their heads that could possibly force them to forfeit up to $386M does not help matters either. If the decision does not fall in their favor, Mets fans will be saying a lot of "who the heck is that?" in their Opening Day lineups down the road.

C70: From a personal standpoint, is it tough not seeing Jose Reyes out at short?

EKS: No. I thought Sandy Alderson handled the Reyes situation perfectly. Alderson approached Reyes agent to talk about a contract extension during the season but the Reyes camp declined and wanted to have their client test the free agent waters, which is his right to do. Then the Reyes camp came to Alderson looking for an offer when free agency opened up. Alderson was smart to tell them that he was not going to set the market price, instead he said Reyes should go get offers and see if the Mets would match or better the offers. When it came down to only the Marlins bidding for Reyes and offering 6 years in a deal, Alderson told him he wouldn't match that and enjoy South Beach. 

It was the right move by the Mets. What I'm surprised about is during the season last year, Mets fans were screaming to keep Reyes, but I put the question to my readers "should the Mets honor Reyes in his first trip to Citi Field" and overwhelming they said NO! I think the way Reyes ended his career as a Met with the bunt single to secure the NL Batting Crown and then taking himself out of the game after one at bat, left a sour taste in Mets fans mouths.

PRS: No, it won't bother me to see Ruben Tejada at shortstop on Opening Day. It will be hard to watch Jose Reyes wearing a Miami Marlins uniform and playing against the Mets.

OTB: It will be weird not to see Reyes at SS but at the same time we have to try to move forward. I think the Marlins overpaid for Reyes and I think it 3 years that will be a bad contract.

TSF: It will be a little strange not seeing Jose Reyes at the leadoff spot, but I've personally grown comfortable and confident with young Ruben Tejada at shortstop. The 22-year-old has shown outstanding baseball IQ for his age, as well as a better glove than Reyes had shown in recent years. I think Tejada has a chance to really surprise people if he continues to be productive offensively, as he impressively put up a .360 OBP at age 21 last season.

MS: I am very ok with not seeing Reyes on the team. Obviously he is a great player but I am excited to move on to a new Mets era. Reyes was part of a very disappointing series of teams from 07-11 and I feel like getting new blood on the squad and moving on from the collapse kids is what this franchise needs. It will hurt this year and possibly next but will ultimately be good for the team to let young guys like Ruben Tejada get comfortable in long term roles.

MHC: Yes, but it's only because he was here from the beginning. I am positive he will get hurt this year and then all Mets fans will let out a sigh of relief and say "I told you so." Regardless it's tough to see any long time player go, especially Jose Reyes. Don't be surprised if Wright is gone by the trade deadline either.

SS: I will greatly miss Reyes, both for what he brought to the team and for what it says about the team's future that they let him go without making an offer. The first tickets I bought for the new season were for Miami's first visit to Citi Field.

MPR: It took me a while to come to grips with the fact that Reyes is now a Marlin and not a Met. Then again, I've seen Reyes on the DL quite a number of times and I wouldn't be surprised if Marlins fans witness him on the shelf at some point this season. Unfortunately, that's the only way I can rationalize it.

C70: Is there a prospect that will make an impact on the team this season?

EKS: Kirk Nieuwenhuis could make the team out of spring, especially if Jason Bay has an awful spring. The Mets could go with a platoon of Bay/Nieuwenhuis in LF as Bay last season couldn't hit right handed pitching. Reese Havens is another prospect to watch just see if he can play without getting injured. Havens has some Dan Uggla in him as he can hit for power and play 2nd base. RHP Matt Harvey is one of the young arms who could make a big impression on the Mets brain trust and it would be great if his spring performance made their decision tough on which starting pitchers come North.

PRS: I don't think the Mets will have any impact rookies on the Opening Day roster. I think outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis or pitcher Matt Harvey could play a role before the end of the season if the right opportunities develop.

OTB: I don't know if there is a prospect that will make a huge impact in 2012 but I am excited about the the pitching that's making it's way through the Mets organization. Specifically Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia. I think we may see Harvey at some point in 2012. Wheeler is probably another 1-2 years away and depending on how Mejia comes back from his injury we could see him later this year as well.

TSF: I'm not sure if Tejada or Lucas Duda are considered prospects per se, but I expect good seasons from them, especially the power-hitting Duda. It also is not out of the question that top pitching prospects Matt Harvey and/or Juerys Familia can make an impact in the big leagues after a midseason call-up.

MS: The best chance we have of seeing a prospect make an impact this year is Matt Harvey. He likely won't make the opening day roster as he has not seen any AAA time yet but he is a likely to see MLB time in August or September. His numbers have been great so far (3.23 FIP, over 9 K's per 9) so I look forward to watching him in AAA this Spring.

MHC: The only one that could is Harvey, but if he does come up, it won't be until the end of the season, so as of right now no.

SS: Pitcher Matt Harvey may make it up late in the season. I just hope they don't rush him up when there is the inevitable injury to a starting pitcher. Otherwise, maybe somebody they get for trading Wright.

MPR: The Mets do have some pitching prospects, right-handers Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia, in their pipeline. But when you listen to the front office it's pretty clear that September and not April is the target date for these guys to make their way to the majors. You never know though, with the history the Mets have concerning injuries, Harvey and Familia could be on the fast track to the big leagues.

C70: Where will the team finish in their division and what are you most excited about for 2012?

EKS: Most baseball people will pick the Mets for last in the NL East and the Mets could finish 81-81 and finish last since the division is stacked. Now, if Johan Santana can make 20+ starts and Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese make the step up and just pitch effectively and the team defense greatly improves and MLB adds the second wild card for 2012, then the Mets could be the big surprise of the season. As you notice I used a lot of "if" that just shows the uncertainty surrounding this team but as Mets fans we have to listen to the late Tug McGraw "Ya Gotta Believe"

PRS: I expect a fifth place finish for the 2012 Mets. I'm excited that baseball is coming back, and that there will be lots of fun events to celebrate the team's 50th anniversary like the return of Banner Day and the induction of John Franco into the Mets Hall of Fame. I'm looking forward to seeing how Ike Davis and Johan Santana rebound from injury and if the changes in the Citi Field dimensions lead to a bounceback year for David Wright. And I'm hoping the team will be good enough to surprise a few people.

OTB: My expectations are very low this year. I think the Mets finish in last place in 2012. I hope I'm wrong but I think the team has too many "Ifs". If Santana comes back healthy, If moving in the fences help Wright and Bay, If Murphy holds up defensively at 2b, If Ike Davis picks up where he left off last year before his injury, If the bullpen pitches well and on and on and on...

TSF: Barring something pretty unforeseen, the Mets will likely finish 5th in the NL East, as the four teams ahead of them all look to be teams that can finish with winning records. I'm most excited about seeing the young talent getting the opportunities for full seasons of development in the big leagues. Ike Davis, Duda, Daniel Murphy and Tejada have the chance to make something of themselves, and David Wright has a huge make-or-break year coming up that will determine what his future is within the Mets organization. Despite their financial struggles and lack of big names, they will be an interesting team to watch in 2012.

MS: I think the team can finish anywhere in the division. I don't believe the book has been written before opening day. If I had to make a prediction though, I would go with 5th place. The division is getting better and better and the Mets are probably not as good as team as they were last year. I am excited either way just to have the Mets playing baseball. Baseball season is a time for hope and excitement no matter what your team's projections may be and I will have fun regardless of their final record.

MHC: I can see the team finishing last or second to last. WE really do have a bunch of green players out there. Some need to learn their positions, others excel, and the rest just need to stay healthy. It's a time that no fan wants to go through, but ours is now - rebuilding. We have a few years of bad baseball ahead of us and I hope it's just over sooner than later.

SS: With the Nationals and Marlins improving and the Mets going downhill, the Mets figure to finish last, though they could keep it close for awhile. 

I am looking forward to Johan Santana's return. I am also curious to see how Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay do in Citi Field now that the fences have been brought in.

MPR: I promised myself I wouldn't say this but where the Mets finish in the NL East lies heavily on the health of Johan Santana. If their ace is ready to go and can give the Mets a full season, I don't see why the team wouldn't be able to finish third. They have the offense but will that offense be able to stay on the field. With the uncertainty of a 100% David Wright, my money's on first baseman Ike Davis to supply the beef in their lineup.

My thanks and appreciation to all of those that contributed to this.  There's one thing you can say about the Mets--they are always newsworthy.  With everyone counting them out this year, it could be a year to keep an eye out for a surprise showing.

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Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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