Sunday, February 09, 2014

N.Y. Mets: Southbound Truckin' Down I-95

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Port St. Lucie Or Bust!

One Week Till Pitchers and Catchers

The equipment truck rumbled out of Flushing, and started down I-95 a few days ago.  What many fans hope is shaping up to be the most promising Mets season of the recent past, begins Saturday morning, when pitchers and catchers report for initial work-outs.

The Mets roster is a mix of old problems, new faces, and inexperienced kids, that collectively, hope to start changing the on-field conversation in Flushing towards the better.  Although Spring Training is yet to begin, the team is already operating with a new outlook.  That's a positive condition to start.

It All Starts At The Top

Of course, there is no escaping the fact ownership is still mired in money woes, but for the moment, they have stabilized their immediate situation enough to make the 2014 regular season seem like a reasonably functional endeavor.  But make no mistake, ownership, needs increased wins on the field, in order to increase attendance, and generate higher game day revenues.  More importantly, they need the 2014 season to begin a winning trend.  There is virtually nothing they can do in one year, that can change the fact that ownership's situation is highly leveraged, and they are still near one billion dollars in debt.

The Front Office

The organization has still not discussed a contract extension with Sandy Alderson.  I find this only mildly unsettling for the moment, but my concern will grow the longer this issue remains unresolved.

In October 2013, Sandy Alderson began the off-season by expressing his desire for acquiring a major league back-up for Travis d'Arnaud.  At the beginning of the free-agency period, Sandy Alderson maintained signing a shortstop was a main priority.  Throughout the winter meetings, Sandy Alderson was intent on trading Ike Davis.  None of that transpired, and thus far, Alderson has additionally neglected the bullpen.

What Sandy Alderson has accomplished however, to a large extent, is rebuild what was a minor league caliber outfield, and, in the absence of Matt Harvey, created depth in the starting rotation.

If you're inclined to take an optimistic approach, this may finally be the season the club pulls off a surprise acquisition at the trade deadline.  Sandy Alderson has stocked the system with enough attractive prospects, should such a trade opportunity materialize.  Ownership would have to sign-off on such a move, but the club is no longer saddled with prohibitive, long term contracts, that have stymied them previously.  This off-season, Sandy Alderson smartly staggered the expiration dates on his three main free agent signings.

The Skipper

After lengthy speculation, Sandy Alderson finally decided Terry Collins would continue managing the Mets, and offered him a contract extension that runs through the 2015 season.  The real question regarding Collins was whether a better candidate existed at the time.  Outside of Wally Backman being a fan favorite, the pragmatic answer was, not really.

Not incidentally, I still find it very curious that Wally Backman agreed to stay with Las Vegas for another season.  Terry Collins' two year extension is not exactly a ringing endorsement from the general manager.  It seems more like a GM trying to retain flexibility, and keeping his options open.  Should the Mets decide to fire Terry Collins at anytime, the financial pill would be a small one for Mr. Wilpon to swallow.

Regardless, Terry Collins earned the right to return.  After a rough first half, the Mets finished the last 100 games of the 2013 season with a .500 record.  He obediently piloted them through an organizational deconstruction period, and now gets to guide the team in, what everyone hopes, is a new direction.

Secure in his position for the moment, what type of Terry Collins may we expect now?  The emergence of young players, in addition to the off-season acquisitions, means this season brings with it new expectations. The rebuilding stage, and time for coddling players has effectively passed.  In other words, Terry Collins is now under pressure to win, and at least get this team above the .500 mark this year.

Historically, under Collins, the team has gotten off to quick starts, then finished the season in a state of disarray.  Last year, however, provided just the opposite.  A repeat of last year's poor start, may doom Terry's extension.

What's Old Is New Again

Ike Davis is being given one last chance to win the first base job, while Ruben Tejada is back for another, hopefully more productive stint at shortstop.  Both players have their work cut out for them, with little margin for error, and even less organizational patience.

Terry Collin's declaration that Ike Davis has first dibs on first base, means Lucas Duda's situation is just as unsettled as ever.  Josh Satin's role appears unchanged, as he is the right handed bat in the first base equation.

Welcome To Flushing

Curtis Granderson was the most significant off-season acquisition, along with Bartolo Colon and Chris Young.  Sandy Alderson also took steps to improve depth in the starting rotation.

The Kids Are Alright

Or, so the Mets hope.  The Mets need positive contributions from their young, promising players.  Highly touted imports such as Travis d'Arnaud, and Zack Wheeler, and promoted farm hands such as Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores, are being put in the spotlight very early in their careers.  More talent is on the way.  Pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are expected to make their major league debuts at some point this season.

Winter is far from over, but let the stretching begin.  More on the Mets coming soon.


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