Monday, April 2, 2012

Offseason and Spring Training Recap

With opening day three days away, it's as good a time as any to catch up on the last six months in Met land. Here now is some of the Good Stuff and Bad Stuff that happened over New York's offseason and Spring Training.

The Bad Stuff
  • Clearly, the worst part of the winter was the reappearance of a very familiar (albeit shorter-haired), agile, oft-injured shortstop in a Miami Marlins' uniform. Let's leave it at that.
  • With the financial strains of the front office still in effect, Sandy Alderson wasn't able to go out and make any major splashes in the free agent market. While he made a few key acquisitions (see Good Stuff below), there wasn't anything headline-grabbing like picking up Jason Bay was.
  • Speaking of Mr. Letdown, it appears the optimism of last September has all but evaporated in the warm air of Port St. Lucie. Bay is hitting under the Mendoza line with no RBIs this Spring Training, and the situation is so volatile that he could be platooned for by May. You feel that this keeps happening, but I'm almost at my final straw on Bay as well. Halfway through his contract, he's got a $3 million buyout next year based on plate appearances; if he hits in the low .250s again, I'd say you'd almost have to look at keeping him under that PA threshold.
  • As was the issue that sunk the team last August and September, the injuries piled up this March, the most recent coming to new closer Frank Francisco, who will have an MRI on his left knee today. Hey, it's better to get all the dent and dings out of the way before the actual season starts, but the team's brittleness this spring keep reminding fans just how fragile they are: a couple key injuries, and they really could be looking at the cellar of the NL East.
  • But nothing puzzles and concerns the Amazin's more than the blindside diagnosis of Ike Davis with Valley Fever. It's still difficult to pinpoint how it'll affect him: it could be nothing, it could be something that plagues him throughout the whole season. If it does, perhaps Mr. Unspeakable Owner was right about his team being snakebitten.
Well. That seems like a lot of Bad Stuff. You'd think you could keep digging under that Bad Stuff and never find any Good. But if you dig deep enough, there's always a diamond in the rough.

The Good Stuff
  • For one thing, Mets fans now have the phrase "Access to Mr. Met" in their lexicon. I dare you to find me a phrase more fun to think about than that.
  • While Sandy Alderson wasn't able to make any huge acquisitions, he was still able to shore up the bullpen by adding the aforementioned Francisco, as well as Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez. Let's face it: the Mets' bullpen ranked 28th out of 30 last season. Pretty much anything would make it better than that. Sandy was also able to unload Angel Pagan and get speedster and vocal leader Andres Torres for centerfield and the leadoff spot. If he stays healthy, he'll be an asset.
  • Speaking of the bullpen, fireballer Bobby Parnell appears to be back on track and can now throw a curveball, thanks to the guidance of Jason Isringhausen and the legendary Sandy Koufax. I still have high hopes for Parnell: the guy can reach 100 and if he stays locked in can really mow them down. The closer audition unnerved him last year, but he appears to have that behind him. It also appears he could be making a transition soon: should there be any problems with Johan Santana, Parnell appears to be the frontrunner to get his position in the rotation.
  • But it appears Santana's problems are all but behind him. He's had a crackerjack spring and made progress no one thought he would. So much progress, in fact, that Terry Collins named him Opening Day starter. If the Mets are going to have any chance of contending this year, he's got to be solid, as does the rest of the rotation.
  • Staying on the rotation for a human interest story, R.A. Dickey has had quite the offseason. In January, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for human trafficking in Mumbai, India. He also wrote an autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball, which came out last week. There's some pretty heavy stuff in it, but I'm sure Met fans will appreciate him even more for opening up like that. It's definitely on my summer reading list.
  • This could go in Good and Bad: our bonehead owners settled with Irving Picard for $162 million. Bad because they'll still be our owners for the foreseeable future (unless Magic Johnson has another $1.5 billion to burn), but Good because the distraction that was brought to the organization since Madoff's arrest in December 2008 may finally be over. We'll put this in good because with the circus that's been surrounding Citi Field may finally be packing up and heading to...
  • ...the Meadowlands. Speaking of circuses: Tim Tebow, 'nough said. This has literally nothing to do with baseball, but it does mean that the Jets are now officially the most dysfunctional team in the New York metro area. We've got our problems, but it appears we are no longer the Bluth Family of the Big Apple.
  • Finally, while the expectations for the 2012 Mets are, to put it lightly, not very high, the core of guys from that 2011 team are still around, and Terry Collins is still the manager, so you know this team won't quit. First place or last, you'll still see an honest effort from the 25 guys in the dugout. And in the end, isn't that what Mets baseball should be about?
So there's six months all rolled into one convenient post. Check back tomorrow as I shine a spotlight on a handful of players to watch in 2012.


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