A New Season Gives Mets Fans New Hope

The baseball gods have tormented me mercilessly in the past two years of my baseball life. After rooting for the “other” team in New York my whole life, I hoped the Mets would capitalize on the disarray of the Yankees and bring a World Series back to Queens. In a desperate effort to return to glory, they signed some of the best talents to ever step onto the diamond. Mets fans would no longer have to look back nostalgically to the glory days of Doc Gooden, but could now be comforted by the likes of Johan Santana. However, after two years of complete agony, my World Series dreams have been reduced to self-described optimistic playoff aspirations.

The Mets have shown that signing incredible talents year after year is not what it takes to win in Major League Baseball. Other than pitching, chemistry is the most vital component that a team must possess in order to have a winning season. This past season the Tampa Bay Rays exemplified the importance of teamwork as they toppled both the Yankees and Red Sox in order to clinch the American League Championship. I feel that the Mets finally have a core group of guys that can get the job done this year. All the pieces are in place for the Mets to upend the incumbent NL East Champs and World Series Champs, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Countless times last year, I watched the Mets take big leads only to watch the bullpen blow the game in the late innings. The Met bullpen had an ERA of 4.25 last season, ranking 23rd in baseball. Thanks to Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez and J.J. Putz, I will no longer have to worry about the game being left in Manny Aybar’s hands. Rodriguez and Putz are exactly what the Mets need. Putz satisfies the role as a perfect set-up man for Rodriguez who finished the year with 62 saves, an MLB record. Due to the acquisition of K-Rod, I will no longer have to mourn over the loss of the injured Billy Wagner.

Another knock on the Mets has been their inability to hit the baseball. On paper, they are one of the fastest, most versatile lineups in baseball, but in times of adversity they have been unable to get the bats going in crucial points of the season. There were many occasions last year where Johan Santana would allow only one run in eight innings and the Mets would figure out a way to lose the game. Towards the end of last season players such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright started to fill the leadership roles that the Mets needed in these times of need, but others such as Jose Reyes continued to slump at times when the Mets needed them most. Recently, the Mets acquired outfielder Gary Sheffield who should be a great pinch-hitter and utility outfielder for the Mets. Although Sheffield is only a specter of his former self, the Mets are only paying him the league minimum, $400,000. Sheffield’s uncle and former Mets great, Doc Gooden, has always urged his nephew to play for the Mets and Sheffield is ecstatic about opportunity to come back to New York. Sheffield’s flamboyancy and lack of production got him booted out of New York by the Yankees and released by the Detroit Tigers. However, this time around Sheffield is overjoyed by the opportunity to play for a serious World Series contender and is willing to contribute to this team-first environment that Mets have created. “I want to win a championship. If it takes me coming off the bench to do that, I’m willing to do that,” Sheffield said.

After 49 games worth of experience, Mets outfielder Daniel Murphy batted .313. Murphy’s scrappy yet resilient play has enabled him to land a job as the starting left fielder. Although Murphy doesn’t carry the big bat that Sheffield does, his great defense and ability to get on base allow him to be a great contributor to the Mets lineup. Not only will the Mets have to rely on Murphy and All-Star Carlos Beltran to anchor the outfield, but the return of the injured Ryan Church to right field will be essential in the quest for World Series title. After trading away Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for Church and catch Brian Schneider, Church never really got going as a Met and has been plagued by two concussions in the past year. Church is a great bat in the line-up and should chip in with about 20 home runs this year. However, Church might be the outfielder who will compromise the most of his playing time in order to accommodate Sheffield.

The Mets starting pitchers are essentially the same minus a broken down Pedro Martinez, but John Maine as well as Oliver Perez should be viable two and three spot pitchers. The incredible speed of the Mets infield combined with the team’s overall batting ability (scored 799 runs last season, eight in major league) should be enough reason for the Mets to be an offensively dominant baseball club this upcoming season. Should the Mets manage to stay healthy, carry their momentum into the end of the season and possess a dominant bullpen, this could be the year that Mets exorcise the demons and assert themselves in the postseason.