The inspiration for this post comes from one of my good buddies, whom we'll call Marc to protect his anonymity. Also, that's his real name. When He saw my Academy Awards post, he suggested I give the Mets the Best Supporting Actress Award. He felt this would be appropriate because, in his words, the Mets have always been the Yankees bitch (bitches?) in New York. The best part about this is that Marc is a pretty big Mets fan. Anyway he gave me the idea to profile the current laughing stock of New York City, The New York Mets.
Let's face it, friends. It's not very easy to hold your head high as a Mets fan these days. Many of my friends are almost ashamed of their fandom, to the point where they don't even bother watching or going to games. Because a couple of my close friends are Mets fans, I got used to going to a Mets game or two every season. Being an avid baseball fan, and not just a die-hard Vatican Assassin Yankees fan (thanks Charlie), I was glad to go along. I was also looking forward to the opening of Citi (don't call it shiti) Field. Then, all of a sudden, the Mets tanked. Nowadays, watching a Mets fan is like watching a man stand in front of his firing squad. He knows he's gonna die, but he doesn't know which shooter is going to kill him. In recent years, Mets fans know they're going to lose, they just don't know who is going to lose it for them.
The last two seasons have been brutal for the Metropolitans. They have finished under .500 both seasons, on their way to two 4th place finishes. That might fly in Kansas City, where Royals fans would kill for 79 wins, but not in the big apple. Especially not when the team across town wins over 90 games a year and recently won a World Series. Anyway, here's a breakdown of just how they've gone from just within reach of the World Series in 2006, to the laughable clowns they have become today.
In 2007, they went into the last game of the season with their fate in their own hands. Beat the lowly Florida Marlins, and they were in. Lose, and they went home. They sent future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to the mound. Glavine cut his teeth pitching big games for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s and, at the time, had 303 career victories. Just a few weeks earlier he had eclipsed that heralded 300 win plateau, joining such greats as Cy Young, Steve Carlton, Gaylord (tee-hee!) Perry and Greg Maddux. Surely Glavine would be the pitcher you would pick to win that game and carry the Mets into the post-season.
Glavine took to the hill in the top of the first inning mentally prepared for greatness. Unfortunately, baseball is mostly a physical sport. After walking the first hitter, Glavine got the 2nd man out to temporarily ease the worried hearts of their devoted faithful. He then collected himself, took a deep breath, pulled down his pants and took a giant dump on the mound. The next seven Marlins reached base in every way possible. There was another walk, 4 singles, a double and a hit batsman before Glavine was mercifully pulled. By the time the inning was over the Mets were down 7-0 and the season was over.
After the heartbreak of 2007, the Mets took to the field in 2008 with even more vigor than before. They played well all summer, battling the Phillies for the division. Incredibly, they reached the final game of the season once again needing to simply win to be in. Their opponents? Why the Florida Marlins, of course! This time, however, the Mets fought hard all game. When the Marlins took a 2-0 lead in the top of the 6th, the Mets scored 2 in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game back up. Things were looking pretty good for the Amazin's until the top of the 8th, when Scott Schoeneweis came in to pitch. Utility infielder Wes Helms came up to bat and promptly homered to give the Marlins a lead. Later in the inning, Dan Uggla homered to pretty much seal another Mets last day collapse. Sorry, fellows. Time to go home.
Just as we were getting used to laughing at them on the last day of the year, the Mets changed it up a bit in a disasterous 2009 season. They basically just said, "You know what? fuck it. Let's just lose from the beginning." Injuries to Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church, Carlos Delgado, Jon Niese, Angel Pagan and pretty much everyone else other than David Wright doomed the Mets season from the beginning. They ended up with only 72 wins, and barely beat out the Washington Nationals for 4th place in the NL East. Their crosstown neighbors, the Yankees, ended up hoisting the World Series trophy that year. Ouch!
For 2010, they came back swinging. They acquired their first big-ticket free agent slugger in years, when they signed former Red Sox right fielder, Canadian born Jason Bay. The re-tooled offense and another year of experience for their pitching, which again included perennial Cy-Young Award candidate Johan Santana, had Mets fans feeling better about everything and somewhat optimistic for 2010. The Mets did improve in 2010. They won 79 games this time. It was still only good enough for 4th place in the NL East. At least this season the Mets didn't have to watch their buddies in the Bronx parade down the Canyon of Heroes again. The Yankees lost to Texas in the ALCS.
So what's in store for the Mets in 2011? Their hitters are healthy (for now). Bay is back from his concussion, Beltran is back from his knee woes and has switched to right field, which will put less pressure on his aging legs. Jose Reyes stayed healthy for most of last season and returns ready to impress in the final year of his contract. David Wright remains a solid rock, returning to form last year after a shaky 2009. Ike Davis will have a whole year of experience under his belt and will be looking to bust out in a big way in 2011. Daniel Murphy is back after missing all of 2010 and looking to finally push the anchor that is Luis Castillo off of the 2B position. Finally, Angel Pagan gets the reigns in center field, hoping to continue the productivity he has shown the last couple of seasons when he has been forced into action due to other player injuries.
This revamped and rejuvenated offense is going to have to carry the team this year. At least in the first half. While i expect big things from Jonathon Niese (I think this is going to be his true break-out season) and continued solid pitching by Mike Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey, they have one big cloud hanging over this year's rotation. Johan Santana will be out until at least June while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. If the other three members of the staff can keep the Mets treading water until Santana's return and young fireballer Jenry Mejia can burst onto the scene in a better way than he did in 2010 (he was rushed to the big leagues and barely 20 years old), The Mets might be able to make a late wild card push.
That is, until the Washington Nationals knock them out of the playoffs on the last day on a pinch-hit, walk-off home run by Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Fantasy Notables: Feel free to draft David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran (a little later due to the injury potential), Jason Bay, Ike Davis (late), Santana (late stash), Jonathon Niese and K-Rod. No one else is really worth having on draft day, and should be available on the waiver wire during the season. Most of them should stay there.
Fantasy Sleeper: Watch out for center fielder Angel Pagan. I expect him to hit around .300, with possible double digit home runs and 40+ steals.
Fantasy Poison: Whoever starts at 2B. Whether it's Luis Castillo or Daniel Murphy, you probably won't want them in your lineup for the entire season.