Jan 10

Do you still have faith in the Mets?

There have been countless lost seasons in this franchise’s history, many of them gone before pitchers and catchers report in February. This is looking like another one of those years.

The Mets only did minor tweaking this winter and are no better now than they were when the season ended. They are putting their stock in the season in the hopes of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran staying healthy, the continued development of Mike Pelfrey and some of their younger players, and encore seasons from RA Dickey and Angel Pagan.

In short, they are hoping everything breaks right, and even if it does, there are two holes in the rotation and a weak bullpen.

Still, the Mets are asking you to believe, with perhaps our biggest wish is for them to get rid of Oliver Perez before Opening Day.

As I look at the drifting snow and feel the cold, the warmth I usually feel this time of year because of spring training has slipped away like me on the ice this morning. Spring training is a time for optimism and hope, but this year realistic hope is around .500 at best. But, we knew this with the hiring of Sandy Alderson, who told us there would be no big spending this winter and he hoped the team would be competitive. That probably means a lot of close games before losing in the late innings.

Still, we follow the Mets because they are our team and are woven deep into our lives. We still love them like the gangly younger brother that embarrasses us. We are loyal to them because we know loyalty is about acceptance and we believe things will improve next year.

As we are distracted by football, we try to envision the snow gone, the grass green and lush and baseball occupying our spring nights. And, somewhere there is the hope this could be a fun summer regardless how it looks on paper now.

Feb 18

Feb. 18.10: Pitchers and catchers report with issues.

Finally, pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie today, and with them, more than a few issues that comprise the 2010 New York Mets.

It seems like forever since the Mets were last in the playoffs, but consecutive collapses and last summer’s injury-riddled freefall have us wondering if fourth place in the NL East was an aberration or a realistic assessment.

Assuming for a moment David Wright’s goal is realistic, that the World Series is realistic, it won’t happen just by saying so. For the Mets to compete, never mind win it all, the following questions must be answered in the positive during spring training:

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: Wright is correct, this team has to use embarrassment as a motivator. There were too many games last year where the Mets just mailed it in, too many games where their heart wasn’t in it. This was also not a thinking team, whether it be on the bases, in the field or at the plate. The Mets gave away far too many outs on the field and at-bats at the plate.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already Carlos Beltran won’t be ready for the first month and set-up reliever Kelvim Escobar is behind with shoulder issues. The early signs are positive for Jose Reyes, Jeff Francoeur, Oliver Perez and Johan Santana, all of who are coming off surgery. Of course, they must pass the test under game conditions.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: How far the Mets go this season is dependant on their pitching, and all three represent significant concerns. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. Pelfrey took a step back last season; Perez, who has always been erratic, spent the offseason working out and the reports have been good; and Maine is in his second year since surgery.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa are all in the mix. None represent givens. The fifth starter probably won’t matter until the end of April, but that still leaves five months where every fifth day a question takes the mound unless somebody steps forward.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The bullpen took the Mets deep into the 2006 playoffs, but played a significant role into the collapses of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Closer Francisco Rodriguez can be an adventure at times and there’s no dependable set-up man. Pedro Feliciano was run into the ground last summer, and other than him where are the consistent arms in situational roles.