Springtime Storylines: Are the Mets going to be able to get anyone out?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Mets. Truthers, please queue up on the right; Self-hating Mets fans please queue up on the left.


The
big question: Are the Mets going to be able to get anyone out?

Johan Santana got pounded yesterday, but he’s Johan Santana so you know he’ll be OK.  Ollie Perez, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey have been pounded all spring and they don’t have any Johan Santananess about them to inspire similar optimism.  Make no bones about it: Mets fans should be worried about their rotation. The upside of their non-Santana starters is decidedly “meh” and there hasn’t been a lot of reason to bank on upside this spring. Maine is a health concern and his strikeout rates have gone down for three straight years. Perez was simply abused yesterday and has an 8.66 ERA this spring.

But it didn’t have to be this way. The Mets knew they had rotation problems that they needed to address way back in October, but they spent the winter doing just about nothing to improve matters.  Randy Wolf, Joel Pinero and any number of other available starters got nothing more than a sniff from Omar Minaya. We can talk about team health and PR and all of that, but the Mets’ biggest problem entering the season is borne of the front office’s utter failure to address the team’s biggest need: starting pitching.

But before anyone accuses me of simply being a hater, I’ll say that I like Jon Niese and think that he could be a perfectly decent major league starter this year. Perez, Pelfrey and Maine scare the bejesus out of me.

So what
else is
going on?

  • I think the offense will rebound this year. David Wright is too good to have another punchless season. The Mets “babying” him not withstanding, Jose Reyes will play games for the Mets very soon and will provide a nice upgrade over all of the non-Reyes shortstop options. Same goes for Carlos Beltran. Sure, the Mets only scored 671 runs last season, but that really wasn’t the Mets.
  • The injury story has been beaten to death, but the beatings have focused mostly on the issue of whether they were a function of horrible bad luck, organizational incompetence or some combination of both. What’s been less noted is just how poor Omar Minaya was at finding fill-ins for the injured players last season. Alex Cora is bad even for a backup, and bringing in guys like Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews don’t inspire a lot of confidence. If the injury bug bites this team again it will be an ugly summer in Queens.
  • I don’t like the idea of Jenrry Mejia in the bullpen to start the season. This is Joba part deux. He won’t get any chance to work on his secondary pitches in that role, and given the sorry state of the Mets starting pitching I have no idea why they would go out of their way to prevent the develop one that could be pretty spectacular.
  • If the Mets don’t contend — and I don’t think they will — I think it’s highly likely that both Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel will be canned, the Wilpons will talk about starting fresh and the Mets’ chances of competing in the near term will disappear.

So how
are they gonna do?

Contrary to the sheer amount of ink spent criticizing the Mets, they are not a horrible team (a horrible organization, maybe, which is a different thing). If they stay healthy they can be perfectly respectable. But I really can’t stress how little I like this rotation, and I think it will ultimately sink them.

Prediction: Fourth place in the NL East, though if things break just so they could easily pass the Marlins for third. I think there’s about zero chance that they’ll compete with the Braves and Phillies, though.

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Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.