‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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We all know that the New York Mets aren’t playing with a full deck of cards. Francisco Rodriguez was just shipped off to the Milwaukee Brewers, David Wright is still out of action and Ike Davis’ season is over in all likelihood. The Mets got very little out of injury-plagued starter Chris Young before he was shelved for the season and aren’t in any rush to have Johan Santana begin his journey back to the majors.
Superstar Jose Reyes will make his return to the Mets’ lineup tonight as they open a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Another star in the form of Carlos Beltran will join Reyes as soon as he’s able to shake off the effects of the flu. Wright is edging closer, so help is on the way but it’s coming far too late for a charge toward the playoffs. Sitting 9.5 games out of the NL Wild Card and an impossible 12.0 games below the first place Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets’ 2011 season is all but over.
This year may have brought some Met fans hope but on paper it’s similar to any other in the team’s recent history. Judging by current standings and disabled list, 2011 looks like any other lost season for the Mets full of injuries, despair and an early exit from playoff contention. There have been some encouraging signs to look forward to notably the assured performances of Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese in the absence of Santana. A resurgent Daniel Murphy has been a pleasant surprise both at the plate and in the field. Power arms Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato can form a strong back end of the Mets’ bullpen for years to come.
It isn’t like the Mets’ roster is devoid of talent as they possess both stars of the present in Santana, Wright and Reyes and ones of the future in Davis, Niese, Gee and Beato. The problem has always been having them all healthy and productive at the same time. What the Mets have been over the past few seasons is similar to an orchestra that is trying to prepare a concert but every day someone calls out sick. By the time they’re set to take the stage, they’re either missing an important member of the string section or are lacking the familiarity playing with one another to perform as a cohesive unit.
Terry Collins has been a masterful conductor of the Mets’ orchestra as he was able to hold things together and keep his team in the playoff hunt while dealing with a deep list of injuries. He’s taken his baton in hand and made sure his ensemble didn’t miss a beat while dealing with injuries that would have been debilitating to most clubs.
For a moment, Collins got Justin Turner to play trombone a bit louder to make up for some of the missing parts. Inserting young Ruben Tejada to take over for the absent Reyes at the vital first violin proved to be a decent stopgap solution. Tejada played admirably for a short period but it was clear with his inexperience that he couldn’t fill Reyes’ role. Eventually, the shorthanded Mets began to fail as a collective group. With Rodriguez sent away and Beltran next to be asked to put his instrument in its case and play under someone else’s direction, the Mets are now breaking up the band.
The plan is get everyone healthy ahead of 2012 and for General Sandy Alderson shape their roster into one that can finally contend next year. In the present, he will have to be careful dealing away Beltran and making sure that the Mets get the right kind of pieces in return that can help their big league roster in the future. The more important issue of course is Reyes who is set to be a free agent this winter as contract talks have been pushed off until the off-season.
Losing Reyes would be a deathblow to what the Mets are trying to achieve. He is the key to the direction of the franchise and without him, the team loses their image and irreplaceable sparkplug. Everything revolves around Reyes. With him signed to a long-term deal, the Mets will able to contend for years to come. Reyes and Wright are in their prime and teamed with future developing stars Niese and Davis. Collins seems to be the right man to take the Mets forward and continue instilling the right mentality into his ballclub and Reyes will be at the center of his plans.
If the Mets fail make sure Reyes’ address remains in Queens following this season, there will be harsh repercussions to pay. I don’t think Wright has the ability to carry this team on his back like Reyes can. Without the superstar shortstop beside him, Wright will not want to stay around after his contract expires in 2013 unless serious talents are acquired in Reyes’ place.
So really, it’s all dependent on Reyes. If he stays, the Mets may finally deliver on their potential in 2012 but if not, Citi Field will be a miserable and empty place in his void.
Met fans, do you see this playing out? Is the future of your team optimistic or are there dark clouds ahead? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.