Mets Season PreviewMets Season Preview
Offseason leaves more questions than answers
Robert S. Dressel
After what has arguably been the most chaotic off-season in team history, the New York Mets enter the 2011 season plagued with nothing but questions. With new manager, Terry Collins, and new general manager, Sandy Alderson, on board the Mets should be optimistically looking toward the future. But at the same time, the ominous cloud of past failure and troubled ownership looms over the team as they return to Citi Field this spring.
Off the field, Mets’ ownership is being sued for approximately $1 billion by victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. The Mets owners (the Wilpons) were allegedly one of the few beneficiaries of the scheme. In addition, the Wilpons already borrowed $25 million from Major League Baseball and have put a quarter of the team up for sale. Looking towards the future, ownership of the team past the 2011 season is very much uncertain.
For all of these reasons, it has been speculated that the Mets will attempt to cut their annual $130 million payroll in half after the coming season. This would drop them from one of the top five spending teams in the league down to one of the bottom ten.
As for the players, ace pitcher Johan Santana is still recovering from shoulder surgery and is not due back until early July at best. Outfielders Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay are both battling injuries, and their long-term health is a major concern for the team. Unfortunately, the productivity of these struggling players will be critical to the team’s success this season.
Many players may be traded before season’s end, namely star short stop Jose Reyes, who is entering a contract-year. He would be a likely candidate for a mid-season trade if the Mets are not in contention for a playoff spot.
Despite the countless negatives, some progress has been made. Both Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, players that have symbolized and embodied the failure of recent Mets teams, were cut in spring training. Mets fans’ endless calls for their departure have finally been acknowledged. It was the least the team could do to inspire an already taxed and weary fan-base. Many of these fans may not show up to games at all this season if the Mets do not put a competitive and likeable team on the field.
Having the unfortunate task of sharing a division with the stacked pitching staff of the juggernaut Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets’ feeble hopes for success in 2011 depend on the team’s health. They will also need outstanding performances from pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and last season’s breakout knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Center-fielder Angel Pagan and first-baseman Ike Davis will also play important roles.
Finally, there is one player whose name does not provoke uncertainty. That would be all-star third-baseman and team leader David Wright. It seems that he may be the only constant left in the Mets’ uncertain universe. Here’s one more certainty: Wright and the Mets will have their work cut out for them this year.