Regardless of one’s thoughts on the Madoff situation, reasons for optimism can indeed be found. The Rangers emerged from their financial disaster with enthusiastic new ownership willing to spend, and are now among the game’s more intriguing young teams. Whatever happens in the next year, MLB surely will not allow an unsettled status quo to rule over one of the game’s most visible franchises indefinitely. Even if the Wilpons manage to retain majority control of the team, new minority ownership could come with deep pockets, and the new 3-headed GM braintrust most definitely did not come here to preside over mediocrity.
So let’s talk baseball.
SNY’s Mets Hot Stove Report last week showed a very interesting sight-David Wright working out after appearing early on a voluntary basis, joining a platoon of Met youngsters. As could be expected, few underachieving, high-paid veterans joined them. This should not be surprising, and frankly it is time for the team, its fans, and management to seriously sort out who the gamers are and who the paycheck-cashers are. The last two seasons certainly showed that David Wright is the team’s leader—the only high-paid, veteran Met who managed to stay healthy, on the field, and productive. One wonders how soon some of his teammates would have returned from the Matt Cain beaning.
Daniel Murphy is of course in camp, eager to learn how to play 2B. If only all of the Met veterans had his desire and work ethic. And yeah, I’ll say it–his grit. The only gritting going on in 2010 was the gritting of teeth when HoJo asked the veterans to take the field for pregame workouts. The feeling here is that the team will—and should—give Murphy every chance to win the full-time 2B job. New blood is sadly needed in every vein of the Met organization. Seeing Murphy, Thole, Niese, and others already hard at work in Florida with David Wright brought a serious smile to this writer’s face.
2011 is probably going to be a long, hard year. Another 4th place finish is very likely. However, one can easily extrapolate from what is already happening in Florida, and turn it into full-fledged optimism about the 2012-2013 Mets.
What might we see?
We can hope that Niese’s stuff and Gee’s guile can help them develop into rotation fixtures. We can hope that Pelf has finally arrived as a reliable annual 15+ game winner. We can hope that Dickey is at the beginning of a second career as a knuckling wizard; he can certainly be a leader of this staff with his intelligence, work ethic, and experience.
We can hope that Thole continues his impressive development; he spoke on SNY of how he watched countless hours of film and worked relentlessly to learn how to catch a knuckler, so he would not have to sit on the bench in AAA on Dickey’s pitching days. Again, precisely the type of effort that is simply heartwarming to see. A Met who WANTS to be on the field every day, and volunteered to put in loads of extra time watching tape. Now we are talking revolution.
We can hope that Ike, rushed to the bigs, as 2010 should have been his year in AAA, continues to improve. We often forget that Ike had a total of 275 minor league PA above A ball.
We can hope that Murph wins the 2B job, and develops into a decent fielder, while providing more than adequate offensive production, and injecting life into this moribund franchise. It is one thing to have a great attitude but little talent, a la Chris Carter, but Murphy showed in the minors and in his one year in the majors that he definitely has skills, and might continue to improve offensively. He too was rushed, and 2009 should have been his year in AAA.
We can debate how good Pagan really is, but beyond debate are the quality and quantity of his effort and heart, and how much he improved in 2010. We can hope that young Mets learn from this classy, hard-working man how to conduct themselves as players.
Harris and Hairston are seemingly decent enough bench players based on their past, but their true value might lie in giving FMart and Stick’s ATBFF Duda the chance to spend at least part of the year where they belong—developing in Buffalo. Should Beltran show anything at all, and should another team need a piece for a pennant run, Beltran should be traded midseason, and by then we can hope that either FMart or Duda are ready for the bigtime; maybe FMart will finally stay healthy and be ready to take over RF. Duda in RF might not work; it is hard to say but perhaps he might become a valuable trade chip should he keep evolving. Who knows–the talk of Ike moving to RF with Duda at first could possibly be considered; as could the idea of trading Duda and pursuing Prince Fielder.
Parnell, along with Niese, has also expressed desire to work harder to really excel in the bigs. We can hope that both of them live up to their clear potential; they could be major parts of the next great Met teams. Parnell definitely has a lot of what closers are made of; if he can just add a little more to his repertoire, he could be KRod’s successor.
Overall, the picture of a fit, smiling David Wright already in camp leading the kids in drills should warm the heart of every fan, even the ones most disgusted by what we have seen the last two years. It is disappointing to see how many veterans did not show voluntarily, but letting the kids get a head start with the new manager and coaches is a blessing.
Let Wright and Murphy and Niese and Thole and Gee and Parnell show the new braintrust who is most serious about returning the royal blue and orange to respectability. Let THEIR examples be the first thing young minor leaguers see when they go through their daily routines; there will be plenty of time to learn about card-playing, lacking focus, and avoiding work when the rest of the veterans arrive.
We may have another long year ahead, but the feeling here is that viewing things in proper perspective may indeed show the beginning of something new—a crop of young, eager, hard-working players led by the one veteran star we have who has remained healthy, fit, and enthusiastic, and despite the trials of recent years and the unfair amount of criticism he has received from some of the less knowledgeable fans, has retained his love and enthusiasm for the game.
David Wright holding a World Series trophy while being sprayed with champagne by Ike, Thole, Niese, and Murphy might be a fantasy right now, but if it happens, the diehards will look back to these early days of 2011 as the true birth of something new for this team. And who will even care where Ollie, Slappy, Bay, KRod, and the rest of our lamentable squad of revoltingly overpaid, injury-prone Omar legacies will be then.
Let the games begin!