Feb 20

Welcome back

I always loved this day, when pitchers and catchers report. Actually, the first day of spring training has become blurred with players reporting earlier each spring. It seems the week after the Super Bowl is when  players begin to trickle in. David Wright has been working out in PSL for over a week now.

This is the day when enthusiasm and optimism run high for the summer ahead. This spring that has been tempered for the Mets with the Wilpon’s financial crisis and the passing of Gary Carter. Incidentally, of all the tributes to Carter, the one by the Montreal Canadiens was my favorite. Their players wearing No. 8 and Carter’s image on the ice were truly memorable.

I digress for a moment, but it reminds me how much I miss Montreal as a stop on the tour. I always used to like visiting that city. Historical town, great places to eat and the obvious European flavor.

I always thought Montreal got a raw deal from MLB. Yes, attendance was dwindling, but how could that have been avoided with MLB threatening to leave for years until the city built a new stadium. Just shabby.

The Mets, you’ll recall ponied up most of the money for Citi Field, and despite getting $20 million a year in naming rights, the new stadium hasn’t provided either the payday or the home field advantage the team sought.

Attendance was just over 2 million last season, and that is the first of my top issues facing the Mets as their 50th year in existence begins:

Q1. Will the Mets draw over 2 million?

A. The debate isn’t whether the Mets have enough to contend with the Phillies and Braves, but if they have the talent to keep pace with the Nationals and Marlins? They don’t on paper or the field and are projected to finish fifth in the NL East. With a brutal April schedule, they could be trailing by double digits before the weather warms. If the Mets aren’t competitive, there’s no reason to head out to Citi Field and the attendance will drop, and with it will come a further drain on their finances. Never mind winning, but the Mets need a competitive, exciting team for the turnstiles to keep clicking.

Q2. Will the Mets win their court case?

A. Seventeen days prior to Opening Day we should get an idea how much the Mets could be on the hook for because of the Ponzi scandal. Win or lose, there will be an appeal, but should they win there’s a sliver of hope the Mets might be able to add talent at the trade deadline if they are competitive.

Q3. Will David Wright be traded?

A. I don’t believe GM Sandy Alderson for a second when he says how good the team the Mets are will have no bearing on whether Wright is dealt. If they are playing beyond expectations and people are coming out, the Mets can’t afford to trade Wright and expect fans to keep showing up. If they are stinking, who can’t envision Wright not being traded?

Q4. What’s to become of Johan Santana?

A. He’s throwing in PSL, but there’s still no timetable for his return. If he comes back or not, he’ll still cost the Mets close to $25 million. It’s a pipe dream to hope for Santana being able to pitch and be healthy enough for the Mets to trade him. The odds don’t favor a complete recovery from his type of shoulder surgery. It’s a long shot, but the Mets are hoping he’s good enough physically to give them enough starts to create interest.

Q5. Will they get anything out of Jason Bay?

A. With the fences moved in 15 feet, perhaps Bay can’t help but hit for some more power. Bay has done nothing to warrant his contract and outside the fences, there’s no reason to believe anything has changed this season.

 

On the first day of spring training, you’d like to see the team’s primary questions divorced from the Mets’ financial problems, but that’s being naive. What happens on the field is directly linked to the Wilpon’s bank accounts. That’s just the way it is.

I’ll be back later with more baseball specific questions surrounding the team.