By Mike Steffanos
I've already given my thoughts on the roster and my initial prediction that the Mets will be a .500 team with a chance to do better. Here are a few more thoughts as we approach the opener this evening on where I believe some of the conventional wisdom regarding this team is wrong.
The Mets will finish last in their division, losing around 90 games.
It's remarkable how often I've read this prediction in the past week. It's based in part on the feeling there will be a fire sale this summer, which I've already taken some issue with in part one of this preview. Drawing any fans in the dark days following a massive fire sale depends greatly on the good will of the fan base towards the ownership, and I can guarantee that the Wilpons have to realize they don't have that.
Other than that, the roster is significantly better than last season, and I think the manager is a huge upgrade with a plan that involves more than just playing the hot hand all of the time. The team won 79 games. Santana's loss hurts, but he only represents 11 of those 79 wins. Do the math.
The Mets will trade Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran at the deadline.
It amazes me how this is becoming accepted as "fact" in much of the media, particularly when national writers talk about the Mets. While moving one or both of these players is certainly a real possibility, it's far from a given.
Both players are free agents at the end of the year. Given the value of homegrown talent in baseball these days, we've seen teams far more reluctant to ship out boatloads of talent for rental players.
Now, you might move Beltran for whatever you can get, because he has a provision in his contract where the Mets can't offer arbitration to him. Therefore, there would be no draft pick compensation when he signs elsewhere.
On the other hand, if no team offers any real prospect for Beltran, it might make sense to keep him anyway. This would especially apply if the team was performing decently. Will a team feel they needed two months of Beltran badly enough to trade one real prospect for him? Possibly, but no slam dunk, that's for sure.
As for Reyes, it would be a given that the club would offer arbitration and receive the signing team's first rounder and a sandwich round pick. Since the Mets are paying their new front office guys the big bucks for their acumen, I assume it's a given that they could turn these two picks into two very good prospects. Therefore, for moving Reyes to make sense, it would need to involve either two very good prospects who are closer to major league ready than anyone they would draft, or more than two younger prospects. Is there a team out there willing to pay this price to rent Reyes? Possibly, but no guarantees here, either.
I can't pretend that I would be shocked if one or both of these guys gets moved this summer, but I do find it surprising that the conventional wisdom sees this as inevitable. In a way, I think it's likelier to happen with Beltran if he's healthy for reasons stated above and because he's easier to replace in the short term. A trade involving Reyes is much trickier.
When the Mets traded Billy Wagner, it was clear that the move was a salary dump, as the two players received were two non-prospects: the departed Chris Carter and the immortal Eddie Lora. If you make a similar move with Reyes there will be blood.
Being a Mets fan in 2011 will be hard.
Making a living in a bad economy is hard. Suffering from a debilitating disease is hard. Losing a loved one is hard.
Even if the season falls apart for the Mets in exactly the manner that so many pundits seem to foresee, the sun will still shine at times and life will still on some level remain worth living. I promise.
It's been a tough few years, but one thing I've always treasured about being a Mets fan is the unwavering optimism at the heart of the fan base. Even as we grumpily complain about our owners and the endless mistakes they have made in running this club -- even while our rational minds see the doom and gloom which the local press seems to endlessly thrust before our weary eyes -- even so, when a Mets club manages to string a few wins together and give us any reason at all, almost despite ourselves we find ourselves believing again, just a little. Don't let the bastards get you down.
So pretend, if you must, that there is absolutely no hope for this team. Wish to God that you never watched your first game and that you took up needlepoint or origami or barbershop quartet or any other damned hobby but watching those damned Mets. Or you could just accept the fact that, despite everything, something will happen to make you believe again.