Demolished: A Mets 2009 Preview
The hyper-real metaphor of Mets fandom. Courtesy of the Post of NY.
It's time for a season preview only slightly less crazed than a ransom note from Wallace Matthews . Now we all know blogs are like assholes, and although Murray Chass won't be reading them, every last one of them is doing a season preview right now. Why should you read this one? 'Cause I have a slogan: "Mets 2009: It's never too early to focus on the Houston Astros." And a bold prediction: The Mets will be playing October baseball. Write it down in your diaries and remember where you heard it.
Not persuaded and leaning towards Metso-mainia.com's exclusive interview with Bobby Keilty instead of reading my essay? Well, as always, my efforts are still the only Mets preview aided by the wit and wisdom of Ralph Kiner. Where else can you get that? To paraphrase the great Kiner, "Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Mets fans." The question is, are we Metsfans going to be getting what we deserve this season? And how much longer will we put up with this team?
Team Identity: “Hello, everybody. Welcome to Kiner's Corner. This is....uh. I'm...uh"
Who are these guys? Chokers? Jokers? A team with 4 of the games' best players needs to solve its perennial leadership problem (in case you're wondering, Marlon Anderson does not seem to be the answer here) and establish some kind of identity. They haven't had a real ra-ra, sis boom ba kind of leader since Mike Piazza (I keed). In any event, they need a narrative about who they are and where they're going, and this time they must aim for going farther than the last weekend of the regular season.
If the team identity is in any way defined by the suits, we're all in trouble. The Mets organization has perfected a certain...something. We need a German word. Laughingstocknfreud.Only the Mets could be so tone-deaf as to schedule the historical Shea lovefest directly after the previously scheduled annual last-weekend collapse, so that no one, in their heart of hearts, could bear to view it. Of course, many of us still watched, as the masterminds of Sterling knew we would. But we couldn't bear it. Whatever didn't kill us, to paraphrase Nietzsche, would strengthen Mets fans... for the coming ticket price gouging of historical proportions.
Addition by Subtraction. Nuff said?
This picture says it all, or should. Omar gets credit for eliminating some of the most shameful sorry sacks ever to disgrace Shea's bullpen. The Mets bullpen the last two seasons is only something I plan to be able to fully address years from now in therapy. If you don't understand that Heilman was a Mets baseball sucubus, then you're just simply not a real Mets fan. Don't get me wrong, maybe you're a nice person. Good at math. Helpful. But you weren't really comprehending what was going on for the last three years, so you may have spent your time better. Omar took out the trash this off-season, and for that I guess we should be thankful. By the end of the season last year, I still believed in exactly one Met. His name was Johan. I'm picking this up where I left it. This team will have to win me over.
Omar handled the outfield by doing nothing but some shuffling. Wow, no room for improvement? Nothing? Wow. Uh, is there something we're forgetting? Ah yes the arrival of the Teenage Hitting Machine, or, as MBTN's calls him, Fartinez. If this young fella can avoid being Escobared (hyped up for years only to be chronically injured), Milledged (hyped up for years only to be abused by media and teammates and traded away for nothing), or K*zmired (hyped up for years only to be traded away for something worse than nothing) long enough to "arrive" at Citi this season, the whole complexion of the club could change. The current Fernando in the outfield leaves something to be desired since I can't seem to forget the way his award-winning season ended last year, going up for a catchable fly and coming down with a shoulder separation: the man is a danger to himself out there, mark my words.
"He missed the ball by this much."
"He's going to be out of action the rest of his career."
The injury factor: Besides Tatis, perma-injured Moises Alou is finally out of the picture, Pedro and his pride are still sitting under a mango tree, and the team is rid of at least one Hernandez brother, so injuries aren't as predictable a factor for this year's squad. As for the outfield, Church is perpetually dazed and unproven, Daniel Murphy is promising and a pleasure to watch, and Beltran is still out there. But we're supposed to be happy that Church is able to run out to the appropriate part of the outfield? When no valid backups exist at first base or catcher one has to worry about the team being a single injury (Beltran, Reyes, Wright) away from Art Howe territory. John Maine is un-synched and both he and Santana are recovering from proceedures. HEAD Castro is undependable and sure to be injured soon, and Schnieder has already had the words "indefinite" and "injury" attached to his name this spring.
"This one deep to right and it is way back, going, going, it is gone, no off of the top of the wall."Is the Offense in Trouble? Omar added no big bat to the corner spots or anywhere else. Jerry seems to be planning to bat 15 left-handers in a row. I think Omar must have convinced himself that he was getting Carlos Delgado, circa 1998. I suspect we will spend some time wishing on the Offense Fairy (and I don't mean A-Rod). Omar didn't add offense and the Mets sorely needed a chemistry fix. Citi might be a factor here too.
"Solo homers usually come with no one on base."Most observers noted that the Mets scored plenty of runs last year, some of us just wondered why they couldn't score them at the right times. While we can probably expect a decent volume of offense from Wright, Beltran, and Reyes. But the Delgado factor is probably bigger here than we want to admit, and I'm going out on a limb to say it worries me.
"The Mets have gotten their leadoff batter on only once this inning."Another interesting thing will be to watch the top spots of the order. Jerry has toyed with batting Castillo and Murphy higher in the order, and even thought out loud about Reyes status as leadoff. Castillo's rebirth and Murphy's continued promise are two more X factors, and as of this moment Murphy looks to be getting a shot at batting second.
The Just OK.
"They gave you how much?"
Middle of the rotation. After the Johan, the whole Mets rotation is the middle. John Maine, by all accounts including his own, has sucked more or less out loud this spring. He's coming back from surgery. Perhaps the most disappointing move (as opposed to the disappointing non-moves) was the Mets decision to resign Oliver Perez. The Tongue, on the other hand, has my full support. Since he moved from being the Mouthpiece to being the Tongue he's shown some flashes.
"There's a lot of heredity in that family."At the bottom of the rotation, it just so happens that of all the soft-tossers Omar auditioned, a Hernandez brother won out and the Mets will "keep it in the family." Now one might think the Mets would avoid the Hernandez family like they avoid Japanese players and tasteful color schemes. I'm not disappointed as much that the Mets decided to "Livan the Vida Loca" in the 5th slot and resigned themselves to persistent mediocrity, Hernandez style, as I am in the fact that they couldn't have done better. After watching Jamie Moyer survive for a couple years and even prosper, I can put up with a few months of the soft tossin' El Otro Duque as long as he doesn't go Gl*vine on me.
Andrew Wyeth is dead, and the Mets were able to resist the charm of Pedro's World, sort of.
The I dunno.
Have the Mets pulled off another masterful job at stocking the bullpen? At the back end of the pen, the Mets got a relative bargain when they signed "Mr. Save" to fill the Billy Wagner role. This should work out. But to me, the Mets planning here is unclear. If they could have picked up Putz in the trade as they did, why not make him the closer and spend the "Frank the Closer" money on an assortment of high-quality arms to really fortify the bullshit pen? After the Madoff debacle came to light, the answer is more clear. Sterling Inc. was never that good at diversifying. As is evident in the financial crisis and the outgoing administration, no one ever hangs their head in shame anymore, not when there are more willing suckers out there. Whether the Mets ought to be doing so will become evident as we see how Frank performs, as a fiery, door-slamming inspiration, or as a declining reminder of Jerome Holtzman's worst idea ever? It may just turn out that Ralph is right about K-Rod: "all his saves have come in relief appearances.”
Castillo: "But I'm not dead yet. I feel happy."
Luis Castillo and Marlon Anderson both claim to feeling much better. Castillo says "I'm a different guy" this year. Well, unless that guy is Orlando Hudson or Brandon Phillips, I'm afraid second base will be a sore spot for the Mets this year. Early returns are ok, as Castillo has avoided the media shitstorm that certainly awaits him in NY the minute he fails. But staying healthy and being productive might be too much to ask from Luis.
Management: "If Casey Stengel were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave."
Jerry Jerry Jerry. What are we to make of thou? Japan can no longer afford My Bobby Valentine, but it would be stretching it to imagine him breathing down the Gangsta's neck. The only thing I really know about Jerry is he can coach a team to collapse too. We'll see how Jerry keeps it real during a west coast trip after Delgado, Castillo turn back into pumpkins, Church relapses, and the rotation implodes.
Bobby V ain't bouncin through that door.
As for Omar, he's shown no inclination to have much of a profile during the seasons he's been GM, other than the bungled Willie midnight slaughter. Will he make any moves this year, or does he only work in the winter?
"The reason the Mets have played so well at Shea this year is they have the best home record in baseball."How will Citifield play? How will the new confines affect the team psyche? You'd have to guess that a change of venue won't hurt, since any Met paying attention will have some emotional baggage after repeated collapses while at Shea.
If you're like me, you're anxious to see how the Citi Field TARP performs.
Unlike all the other previews, I can even provide an alternative if the Mets don't work out this year: An entirely new sport to follow. We at IMFM know you have a choice when you read pointless blogger season previews, and we're happy you chose IMFM.
Now, about those Astros.