Fact: If you can’t be hopeful in February, you might as well go crawl under a bush and die. Today, we’re bringing the sunshine!
But before we begin, Mike, I need you to do a few things.
First, drink this.
Now, wear these.
What? You say those glasses aren’t the right style for the shape of your head? Seriously? Dude, just put ‘em on, otherwise we can’t have this conversation.
You look fine.
No, I do not think you should start parting your hair in the middle! Jesus, Mike, can’t we just . . .
Okay, there, doesn’t that feel better? Now we’re going to look at the Mets and imagine how it’s all going to break the right way for us. Let’s begin with the starting pitching, which is going to be a strength. We both know that Johan Santana is an immensely talented, gritty performer with tremendous pride — and this year he’s coming back to give us a season similar to the first half of 2012 — remember the no-no? — before he simply wore down because of the long, brutal post-surgery rehab. He’s rested and ready to go. Last year, armed with a new contract, Jonathan Niese took his game to the next level. Now entering his age-26 year, he’s going to establish himself as one of the top lefties in baseball. And, yes, an All-Star selection. At Citi Field. You heard me. To balance those two lefties, we’ll return gasoline-throwing Matt Harvey for a full season. Last year, the team sorely missed steady Dillon Gee when he went on the DL. He’s fully recovered, and he’ll easily be the best #5 in the business. Gee’s starts will mean one thing: Win Day.
Shawn Marcum was a huge pickup for the Mets — this is a guy who, when healthy, can dominate. And guess what? He’s got something to prove, he’s fully motivated, and he’s pitching in the perfect ballpark. Come July, maybe sooner, Zack Wheeler comes on board and dominates out of the shoot, giving the Mets not only a jolt on the mound, but the flexibility needed at the trading deadline to add that prime-time bat to the outfield.
You began with starting pitching, but as I’ve said before I’m bullish on our bullpen. Adding Lyon cements this position for me. We have a lot of arms to pick from here, including a full complement of young, hard throwers. It’s all about depth these days in the pen, and I think we have that. What a good bullpen means these days cannot be dismissed. When you look at what Baltimore did last year, winning all those close games, that was their bullpen. When a team can do that, when it can outperform its Pythagorean expectation, that is how you become a fun surprise team. If the Mets are going to be a pleasant surprise, I think it will start at the end, in the pen.
And that’s when a beautiful rainbow will suddenly appear over the Iron Triangle, and pretty unicorns — carrying cupcakes! — will slide down the . . .
What? Not yet? Okay, then let’s talk about the infield. Ike Davis, at age 26, is absolutely primed for the first monster season of his career. He gave away two months last year and still hit 32 bombs. Look for him to mash 40. David Wright will continue to be the strong, steady bat we’ve come to know. Tejada will serve as the glue and quietly improve upon his overall offensive performance. But the breakout guy will be Daniel Murphy, the player who hit .320 with an .809 OPS in 2011. He’s now fully made the transition to 2B, so with that psychological burden off his shoulders, he’s going to return to top hitting form. This is his age-27 season — note how many of these guys are entering their prime — so look for Murph to be among the league leaders in batting average with close to 50 doubles.
But the real key? His name is Travis d’Arnaud. The stud catcher who slugged for .595 last season at AAA. The guy who hit 22 homers as a 22-year-old at AA in 2011. When he gets called up, d’Arnaud will provide the missing link to this offense, a feared, RH-bat in the middle of the lineup, providing protection for Ike and lengthening the quality of the lineup. When d’Arnaud arrives, it will all click into place. The Mets will have one of the most productive infields in all of baseball.
That leaves the outfield and the bench. Oh boy, pass me another glass of that Kool-Aid. On second thought, just leave the pitcher. Thank you.
There is an argument that could be made that our outfield will be markedly improved. How is that? No Jason Bay. The Mets record in games Jason Bay appeared in last year was 28-43. In games that Bay mercifully sat out it was 46-45. Talk about addition by subtraction. It makes sense, Bay wasn’t just bad, he was setting new standards for uselessness. In other words, the outfield is vastly improved!
As for the bench, it potentially has a lot of guys. Quintanilla, Brown, Baxter, Cowgill, Byrd, Patterson, Recker, even Landon Powell, all of these guys know how to breathe air. In and out. Over and over. Then you throw in Turner, with his pie-throwing ability, and all of a sudden Collins has options. This bench has players on it. You need that.
My core belief is that come July, the Mets are going to make a big move. A major injection of talent. They are going to be sellers and they are going to be buyers. We might cast off a veteran or two from the pen, for example. Bring up a fresh arm or two. Maybe flip Marcum or Santana, who knows. If things break right — and this is February, remember, so things will break right — some of our young pitching prospects will be dominating at the lower levels. For the first time, Sandy Alderson will have the pieces to put together a compelling package for a real, everyday player, and we’ll be in a position to pay his salary, too.
And somehow we’ll squeak into that crazy playoff system, and we’ll win the one and done, and then it’s playoff baseball. Not a time when the best team wins, the crown goes to the team that plays the best at the right time.
And that’s when, Mike, nine fat-faced, rose-cheeked cherubs will float down from the skies on gossamer wings, playing mandolins and signing “The Impossible Dream” . . .