By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Lost in the chaos created by Bernard Madoff and the Wilpons is a very real truth: the Mets are a lot better than many want to give them credit for.
You all heard the many predictions back during spring training. This team was doomed. There was no hope. They didn’t do anything in the offseason. They hired a general manager who would be in over his head and prevented from spending any real money. Terry Collins was nothing more than a retread, a baseball lifer who was brought in to manage because ownership wasn’t in a position to get anyone better.
It goes on and on and on and frankly I’m tired of it. Mets fans should be tired of it. The media is clearly tired of it because most of the stuff I read these days doesn’t really kill the product on the field. It has dealt more with the circus off of it, which has been perpetuated by owners who may be trying to deflect potential criticism of the players so they can do their jobs, but have instead made an already bad front office situation appear worse by keeping it front and center.
Can the Mets spend money? I don’t have the first clue. But that’s really immaterial because the team as is doesn’t need a major overhaul to position itself for a run at the wildcard. These Mets have actually done their fan base proud so far considering all the long faces coming out of Florida in March.
Now, you may think 22-24 is nothing to get too excited about or enough of an indication that a parade down the Canyon of Heroes will be coming in the not-so-distant future and you’d be right about that. But think about it: are these Mets the laughingstock that everyone thought they would be? Are they so bad that they are utterly unwatchable and not worthy of your hard-earned dollars?
If anything, the Mets have exceeded expectations. They are the better New York sports story right now than their cross-town “rivals,” who, despite their ridiculous payroll and star-laden lineup, only seem to win when they hit the ball to Queens.
No, the Mets may not end up being world beaters, but they have done an awful lot so far with little to no pitching. They’ve been without Johan Santana all season and have gotten basically nothing from last year’s feel-good story, R.A. Dickey, and supposed ace-in-waiting Mike Pelfrey.
It’s my firm belief that if these two guys can get back to what has made them successful and the Mets can get Santana back in some capacity over the summer there’s no reason why they cannot surpass those dire 70-win predictions. Most people thought if everything broke right — as in no injuries and guys performed up to their capabilities — the Mets would be lucky to go 81-81. Well, I’m here to tell you the Mets have not yet come close to hitting their ceiling potential and if they can add a pitcher or two to a rotation that should only get better — with or without a healthy Santana — they could very well be in the race for the wildcard and finish comfortably above .500.
People like to get on Collins because he’s really never won anything and they like to think he was hired because the team had no other options short of promoting from the minors, but, really, so far he has proven to be the right guy for the job. Collins seems to understand the balance between pushing his players when they need to be pushed and knowing when to ease off the stick. The Mets have a lot of young guys and Collins has seemingly found that balance with them as well, while dealing with the Carlos Beltrans and Francisco Rodriguezes of the world and he should be applauded for it.
In fact, if the Mets finish .500 or better I’d be the first person to trumpet Collins as NL Manager of the Year.
As one of my colleagues wrote earlier this season, there’s really nothing not to like about the Mets’ lineup. Jose Reyes, David Wright, Beltran, Ike Davis, Jason Bay and, when healthy, Angel Pagan are a more than representative group who, if given time to find themselves, should generate enough runs for any pitching staff to work with, let alone one as suspect as the Mets’ seems to be at this time.
What’s not to like about Justin Turner, Fernando Martinez and Jason Pridie right now considering the circumstances? They are not being unfairly asked to carry this team, but they have each had their moments, which is all you can ask for on a team that features a largely veteran lineup.
Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole are in that same boat, even though they have struggled to mount any consistency in the batter’s box. But again, they, too, have had their moments and have not reached that point of no return that always seems to come quicker in New York than anywhere else.
The Wilpons and GM Sandy Alderson need to leave this group alone and focus on adding more depth in the rotation because until the Mets’ finances are worked out the future is now, even if this is not the prototypical team you’d go to war with in order to raise banners and get fitted for rings.
And all of this utter nonsense about trading Reyes and/or Wright is just financial fanaticism. Sure, the Mets got a loan from Major League Baseball. Yes, they are currently looking to sell 20 percent or so of the team, but this franchise would be better suited keeping the two best homegrown players it has produced in decades than selling them off for the great unknown. That’s because, like I stated earlier, these Mets are better than you think and are completely capable of giving New York something to be proud of.
Fred Wilpon’s comments this week in which he basically ripped Reyes, Wright and Beltran should be chalked up to nothing more than stress and discouragement. I think he’s failed to realize all the positives that have come to the fore in the season’s first quarter because his and many of the fans’ desires have come at the expense of their hearts and not their heads.
But that’s not to say the Mets still can’t be something more than a footnote on the road to the completion of 162. On the contrary, they already are, all things considered.
Fred, you won’t win if you trade Reyes, who leads all major league shortstops in just about every important offensive category. He is worth Carl Crawford money, maybe even more. Spend some of your time trying to figure out a strategy to keep this kid for the duration. He’s maturing by the day and should not be held accountable for transgressions of the past. Plus, there’s likely not a package out there that will offset the loss of the best piece in the package.
Fred, you are not going to trade Wright, a guy who commands the respect of everyone, is a spokesman for all that is right about your franchise and can play the game at the highest level. He is the glue that holds together the model of what you want this team to be. You take him out of the equation and you are cutting off the head of a locker room that is just now beginning to house a group of professional, talented and dedicated players.
Fred, get some more pitching and let these guys do their thing. You are not Gen. George Steinbrenner. Firing off missives will not work.
Instead, embrace what you have, avoid the negatives and spread good cheer. Positive vibes, man. Positive vibes.
Because these Mets will be a sum of their parts. And right now I don’t see many that were grabbed for nothing from the scrap heap.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
What do you think Mets ownership should do going forward? Do you think they are playing way above themselves or are really a lot better than many initially gave them credit for? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.