By Ernie Palladino
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Thanks to Sandy Alderson, we now know the Mets’ magic number.
It’s 90, as in a 90-win season, punch line not included.
It is rather laughable, though, that any high executive of a major league team would take such an optimistic view given the roster quality his ownership has limited him to. The Mets, supposedly in a position this year to spend gobs of money on free-agent talent, started spring training with a price tag of $87 million. Aside from ancient starter Bartolo Colon and power-hitter Curtis Granderson, well, there’s not a lot of bang for the buck in those millions.
So why might Alderson have been chirping like Nellie Forbush, that loveable, cock-eyed optimist of South Pacific? Well, he could point to the pitching staff. Along with Colon’s projected production and Dillon Gee’s established competence, there is a strong lefty in Jonathon Niese, fast-rising right-hander Zack Wheeler, the ever-dangerous Matt Harvey, and youngster Noah Syndergaard.
Oh, wait. Harvey’s out after Tommy John surgery. The negative MRI on Niese’s left triceps, causing “dead arm” syndrome just months after shoulder issues cost him seven weeks of 2013 was a relief, but one can never be too sure about these things. No guarantees there.
Nor can there be any with Colon, who is already suffering from a sore calf. And Syndergaard probably won’t even start the season in the big leagues because of future contract considerations.
Hmmm. So now, all that pitching that seemed so priceless a month ago appears potentially worthless as we near the end of February. A little nod to advancing age, a troublesome pop, and the whole house can collapse.
Forget about meaningful September baseball. Unless every one of those existing rostered pitchers has an outstanding start, games this year might lose all meaning by June 1. And won’t that make for a wonderful environment at Citi Field. The front office will be selling seats behind the plate at five bucks a pop just to give the center-field camera a background.
At least the bullpen is in good shape. What? Oh, yeah, there’s that spinal fusion issue with the closer, Bobby Parnell, and the fact that nobody is nominating set-up men Jeurys Familia and Vic Black for Cooperstown just yet.
And then there’s that lineup. Somehow, Ike Davis remains part of the organization, assuring it only of about 140 strikeouts if he sticks the whole season in Flushing. Granderson’s power won’t carry the club. And it’s just so hard to get excited over Ruben Tejada even after he dieted his way back into the hierarchy’s good graces.
The constitution of this lineup indicates that David Wright and Daniel Murphy will again have to work against the tide.
Ninety wins. Really? The way the Mets are positioned right now, a 90-win season would not only give cause for a century-long extension for Alderson and Terry Collins, but the erection of a healing shrine.
We’ve seen unexpected seasons in New York before, so don’t throw in the Mets’ season yet. Rex Ryan coaxed an 8-8 year out of his Jets, who are simply the football incarnation of the Mets in terms of both talent and organizational competence. But that’s .500, which in baseball equates to an 81-win season.
Ninety? That’s another level. Pulling that many wins out of a team with so few legitimate stars would represent nothing short of a 1969 “miracle.” They’d be “The Miracle Mets of 2014.”
It would be nice. Alderson is certainly wishing and hoping for it.
But in all likelihood, he just let his imagination and emotions get away from him during that staff meeting.
His underlings were just too polite to tell him he’s nuts.
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