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Playing Pepper 2011: New York Mets

Posted on March 11, 2011 at 6:51 PM
Filed Under: New York Mets | Playing Pepper
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

New York Mets (79-83, 18 GB and fourth place in the NL East)

Ah, the Mets.  Things are a little different now than what they used to be when the Cards and the "Pond Scum" battled it out for the division title.  Ever since Yadier Molina's home run cleared the Shea Stadium wall and Carlos Beltran couldn't swing at Adam Wainwright's curveball, it's been a lot of heartbreak, misery, and controversy.

Can things get any better for the New York nine in 2011?  As with the Yankees, there were a whole lot of people to ask.  I was able to get eight different bloggers to chime in with their ideas of what this season is going to look like.

Anthony writes for the blog Long Live Shea Stadium.  I've linked to his work before when he was able to go to Cardinal spring training last year.  He's also one of the rare bloggers that isn't Twittering or Facebooking his blog.

Paul has a bit of an eclectic reach in his blog, as evidenced by the name.  Paul's Random Baseball Stuff will take on other professional baseball teams in New York as well as baseball cards to go along with following the Mets.  He's Twittering at @PaulsRandomStuf.

Kerel Cooper does his blogging a little differently.  On The Black is mainly a video blog, where Kerel opines in front of his web cam.  You can follow his Facebook page as well as his tweets.

The Eddie Kranepool Society is written by Steve Keane.  Steve's a busy man, being the president of the New York NL Chapter of the BBA as well as doing his own podcast and being a regular host on the BBA's show.  Here's the Twitter and while he hasn't yet set up a page over there, you can still follow his blog on Facebook.

AC Wayne is the name behind Mets Public Record.  He's got his own show as well and I want to note that I'll be a guest on his March 20th outing.  You can find him on Twitter at @publicrecord.

M.W. Strout puts his thoughts down at Mets Fan For Life as well as Tweets them.  M.W.'s one of the relatively new members to the BBA.

Despite what you might think, Hoops Approved is not a basketball blog.  It's where Philip Hoops Jr. jots down things about the Mets.  When he's not writing there, you can also find him on Twitter.

Finally, Dave Doyle heads up the staff at The Mets Report.  While there are a number of people that contribute, Dave puts up the brunt of the work.  You can also find him on Twitter and also on Facebook.

After the jump, all these guys get into the regular questions as well as how much the off-field news will translate to problems on the field.

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C70: What was your opinion of the New York offseason?

LLSS: For the Mets this off-season, I would give them a B. They did what they needed to do, which was not do anything stupid. The only contract I didn't like was the 2 year contract for D.J. Carrasco, but if that's the worst move I'm ok with it. I'm glad they didn't make a big long term contract commitment; although Cliff Lee obviously would've made the 2011 Mets team a lot better, it still wouldn't have made them a division favorite. 

PRBS: The Mets addressed some immediate needs and didn't tie themselves to any long-term deals, so they didn't do anything to hurt themselves. Still, it's hard to get very excited about acquisitions like Chris Young, Chris Capuano and Ronnie Paulino. 

OTB: Mets GM Sandy Alderson said from the very beginning not to expect any big name free agent signings and he stuck to his plan. I think the signings of Chris Capuano and Chris Young will prove to be good signings by the Mets. Overall I'd say a B. 

EKS: Off the field it's been a disaster as the Wilpons try to hold on to ownership of the team while facing mounting debt and a lawsuit field by the trustees of the victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. As Mets fans it's the baseball equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. On the field it's been well different. There is a real live baseball exec in charge as Sandy Alderson has taken control of the baseball ops. The Mets have not had this kind of front office leadership since the 1980's under Frank Cashen. Alderson has the major assignment to save the Mets franchise. If he make the Mets into a winner he should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

MPR: On the Mets off season, their front office did what they had to do. GM Sandy Alderson was made to cry payroll inflexibility throughout the winter. I did however think that he did a good job completing some bargain-basement deals to help with the Mets' "Santana-less" pitching staff. 

MFFL: The Mets organization and front office were flipped upside down this past off-season, but the show will go on. Despite the Madoff scandal, the Wilpon's were quite active to clean house and set up new on-field upper management (Sandy Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi, Paul DePodesta), a new manager (Terry Collins), revamped field management (Mookie Wilson, Dave Hudgens, Ken Oberkfell, Jon Debus), and a crop of bargain arms including former All-Stars Chris Capuano, Chris Young, and maybe even Jason Isringhausen. It would have like to see the Mets hold onto Hisanori Takahashi and maybe Chris Carter, but I'm not losing any sleep over any other free agency losses (Pedro Feliciano, Sean Green, Elmer Dessens, Henry Blanco, John Maine, Fernando Tatis, and Kelvim Escobar). 

HA: I'm not surprised by the Mets moves, or lack of therefore, this off-season. The Wilpons' financial situation seems to be worsening after each media report that is released. Considering the minuscule amount of funds that the team had to spend, I think they did well by signing low-risk relievers like Mike O'Connor, Jason Isringhausen and Taylor Tankersley to help fill the void left by the departures of Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano. I also believe that Rule-5 pick Pedro Beato will be a solid late-inning contributor for the team. The second base battle is another interesting one to watch with so many options, although I think it's really going to come down to Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy with Castillo getting the Opening Day nod and Murphy taking a bench role at least initially. 

MR: The Mets hired the "All-Star" front office of Alderson, Ricciardi, and DePodesta which was great. That gave us a lot of hope that this franchise could get turned around and headed in the right direction. Then, to our collective surprise, they decided to stand pat with the existing roster that won 79 games last year. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

C70: Will the Madoff situation impact the Mets in a major way?

LLSS: The Mets and the Madoff situation may impact the Mets, but as of this point, it's all speculation on how exactly will impact the Mets. Sandy Alderson has been quoted this off-season with contradicting reports of the future payroll. So it's still too early to make a definitive statement on how it will impact the day to day operations (especially with the 1 billion dollar lawsuit that is currently in mediation). 

PRBS: Yes, the Madoff situation is going to be a distraction. I'm not sure how it will affect them financially, but you have to wonder if the Mets will be able to take on salary in a mid-season trade if they're in the race. In the longer term, it will probably affect their ability to re-sign Jose Reyes or sign other free agents. 

OTB: I think bad contracts (Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, etc..) will have more of an impact on this season than the Madoff situation. I think the telling sign about Madoff will be how the Mets handle Jose Reyes who will be a free agent after this season. 

EKS: Good question. Every day we get more and more information into the finances of the Mets and they are not pretty. The team has over $450 million in loans from financial institutions and about $50 or $60 mil from MLB. The Wilpons have put out the call that they would like to find a partner but a minorty and silent one at that. The Wilpons are in deep financial trouble and will most likely have to sell the team, SNY and their share of Citi Field when it's all over. 

MPR: The impact of the Madoff situation on the Mets, financially it will hurt them. You won't notice any major impact until it comes time to re-sign either Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran, more so Reyes. 

MFFL: The Madoff situation has already impacted the Mets and it will continue to do so until Picard has picked Sterling completely apart. The most unsettling thought about this whole mess is that it apparently went unnoticed under the watch of some very astute institutions and business professionals for over 25 years. It's going to take a while to trace back to find out exactly how much of Sterling's investments were tainted with Madoff money, but the lawsuit is shaking the entire family tree so its possible that a good portion of their equity will be affected. Still to the Wilpon's credit, they remain adamant about keeping a majority stake in the team so there is no telling what may happen next. 

HA: I believe that the Madoff situation has completely put the nail in the coffin of a Jose Reyes extension, although I'm not quite certain he would have been back next year since the team seems to have some concerns about his health and his ability to get on base. 

MR: The Madoff situation already has impacted the team. The Wilpons are trying to sell a piece of their beloved team and there's great speculation that they may not be able to retain a controlling portion of ownership. They have loans out with MLB and appear to be headed down the same path that Tom Hicks did last year with the Rangers.

C70: What are the expectations for Carlos Beltran?

LLSS: I am not expecting the return of the All-Star Carlos Beltran this year, but he still will be an above-average player. He's turning 34 in April, and has combined to play only 145 games, and 602 plate appearance over the past two years. In the previous 3 years, he had averaged 34 home runs, but I'm only projecting 18 home runs. My overall line for Beltran would be: 140 games, 550 at bats, 73 runs, 18 home runs, 73 rbi's, 9 stolen bases, 3 caught stealing, .284/.365/.475. As a reference, the slash stats for the average NL CF for 2010 was: .260/.330/.407. So Beltran is still an above average player, but I don't expect him to perform like the All-Star/borderline Hall Of Famer he was in his prime. 

PRBS: Beltran is a mystery at this point. The Mets need him to play at somewhere near his career level in order to compete, but I don't know if Beltran's knee is strong enough to let him. OTB: I expect Beltran to hit about 25 HR and 100+ RBI. I'm concerned about his defense in terms of his range but if healthy he should be fine. 

EKS: Beltran has relented and moved to right field which is the proper move. He is still hobbled by his arthritic post op knee and has to wear a cumbersome brace on that knee. With this his last year on his Mets contract, he may be an ex-Met by the trade deadline. 

MPR: Regarding Carlos Beltran, it's all up to him now, nobody but he can make sure that his career hasn't ended from having very bad knees. The proposed move to right field may help him in the short term but, in all honesty, his iron man days just might be over. As for expectations this year, if he's able to find his stroke on a consistent basis at the plate, it won't matter to Mets fans how well he plays in the outfield. 

MFFL: Carlos Beltran is going to go down in Mets baseball lore as the 2011 opening day Mets right-fielder, but there is no telling for how long or even how often. His knee is still not 100% and he will be faced with some rather odd dimensions at CitiField as well as uncharted territory in every away ballpark's outfield. Beltran is still an extremely talented baseball player and, considering he is in the last year of his current contract, should prosper if he can remain healthy enough to play hard everyday. Given the Mets' need to save money, Beltran's cool $20 million is likely to be dealt before the year is over, even if the Mets do have to absorb some (half?) of the salary. I guess Mets fans can only hope he gets to 100%, stays healthy, gets hot, optimally makes the All-Star team, thus making him worth at least a handful of prospects and draft picks from a playoff contending team. 

HA: My expectations for Carlos Beltran are non-existent sadly. He's knees have deteriorated to the point where I don't see that he could be anything more than possibly a DH at this point. If he misses more than a week or two of spring training with his latest injury you'd have to think that he'll start the season on the DL. The question is who would be the opening day right fielder? Scott Hairston is a possibility seeing as he is ticketed for the big league club anyways and has experience playing the corner outfield positions. Willie Harris, who is in on a minor league deal, probably won't start due to his .183 batting average from last season, but could see time in the outfield late in games. Maybe this is the time that Fernando Martinez can shine by putting it all together and claiming the job for as long as Beltran is out. 

MR: Sadly, Carlos Beltran has really degenerated from one of the best natural athletes in baseball to a prematurely aging right fielder with bad knees. I'm sure the Mets speculated that the final year of his seven year deal could be bad when they signed Beltran. It appears that will become the reality of the situation in 2011.

C70: Is there a prospect that will make a significant impact this season?

LLSS: The majority of the Mets top prospects are in the lower level of the minors (Flores, Puello, Harvey, A Rodriquez), so as of right now it will depend a lot of spring training/injuries creating opportunities. J Mejia was mishandled last year and rushed in the bullpen wasting a year of his development; hopefully the new regime will prevent this from happening in the future. Some people may get excited about Dillon Gee or Brad Emaus (rule 5 draft pick), but they don't have a chance to be an all-star or game-changer. Mejia, F Martinez (with the requisite "if healthy" attached) have game-changing talent. Reese Havens also has that "if healthy" stigma, but he could make a splash in the 2nd half of the season if 2nd base is still a logjam. 

PRBS: Rule V draft pick Brad Emaus will get significant playing time at second base, but I don't think anyone will provide an Ike Davis-like impact in 2011. 

OTB: Prospect? No but I expect a couple second year players (Ike Davis and Josh Thole) to continue to improve and be contributors to the team in 2011. 

EKS: The two Rule 5 picks 2nd baseman Brad Emaus and RHP Pedro Beato could both make the club and be big contributors. 

MPR: If RHP Dillon Gee makes the Mets starting rotation, he may draw some attention. As for other top prospects, CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis, has been considered a replacement for the aging Beltran, INF Jordany Valdespin was part of the team's 40-man roster at the start of Spring Training and of course, Jenrry Mejia, Ruben Tejada, Fernando Martinez are always on the periphery. 

MFFL: Jenrry Mejia will be starting the season in AAA Buffalo and will no doubt see some Major League action, but the question is if he will be used in the bullpen or as a starter. As a reliever, Mejia posted a 3.25 ERA in 27.9 innings with his fastball topping out at 97 mph. He went back to the minors mid-season to develop some compliments to the cheese, but did not fare nearly as well in 3 starts, losing 2 and posting a 7.94 ERA in only 11.1 innings. Mejia has the potential to be successful in either a starting or relief role and his fate will be determined on how he stocks his pitching arsenal. 

HA: I don't anticipate many Mets prospects to have an impact on the 2011 team. Most of the Mets major league ready prospects (Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada) debuted last season. Down the road, it'd be interesting to see what the Mets get out of 2010 first rounder Matt Harvey. It sounds like the kid has good stuff and somewhat reminds me of a young Mike Pelfrey

MR: There are some Mets prospects like Jenrry Mejia that look like they could be spectacular player in the bigs. But I think Josh Thole is going to have the biggest impact on the team in 2011 behind the plate. He's improved his defense and looks like he can hit in the .280 to .290 range, although with little power.

C70: What's your prediction for New York's record and divisional finish?

LLSS: I would put the win total for the Mets as 83-79, so with a standard deviation I would expect to be between 80-85 wins. That should be good/bad enough for 3rd or 4th place depending on your perspective. 

PRBS: 83-79, third place. 

OTB: 83-79. 3rd place in the NL East. 

EKS: This Mets team isn't as bad as it's been portrayed. They could win between 80-85 games which would be good for 3rd or 4th in the NL East. The Mets will be as good as their pitching allows them to be. 

MPR: If everything breaks right, I still think the Mets have a chance to be in the conversation for the NL Wild Card, as for the NL East, 3rd for season record, maybe 86-78 that's "if" everything breaks right. 

MFFL: The realist in me ranked the Mets #19 overall in the MLB Blog's 2011 MLB Preseason Power Rankings. I think they'll climb over .500 with an 82-80 record (.506) and even finish ahead of the Marlins and Nationals to take 3rd place behind the Phillies (NL East Champ) and the Braves (Wildcard). 

The Mets fan in me, however, will be rooting for a playoff bid until mathematically eliminated. The team has become a group of players with something to prove and nothing to lose mixed with a despondent few and that's either a recipe for disaster (probably) or success (maybe?). It is not out of the question for the Mets to have one of the best starting rotations in baseball if Mike Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey regain their 2010 form, Chris Capuano and/or Chris Young find their former All-Star form, and cap it off with Johan's return around May. The bats also have the potential to be one of the most potent lineups in baseball with All-Star potential if Reyes, Wright, Beltran, and Bay can gel at the right moments. I guess, Ya Gotta Believe! 

HA: I predict the Mets to finish 4th in the NL East with a record of 75-87. 

MR: Unfortunately, I think the Mets are going to finish fourth in the NL East this year. Once again, they look like a 75-80 win team to me.

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