The Mets have not made the playoffs in five years and by most people’s predictions on how the 2011-2012 offseason will go, they will soon extend that streak to six seasons. It’s no fun sitting at home while other teams are playing the biggest games of the year but the reality is that the last five years have simply not been terrible.

Just as fans completely overreacted to how bad the contracts to Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez were, they are going to ridiculous lengths to describe how hard it’s been to be a Mets fan since 2006.

Yes, the collapses in 2007 and 2008 were hard to take. Try selling that grief to a Pirates fan, who hasn’t had his team above .500 (much less competing for a playoff spot) since 1992.

Sure, the injury bug that decimated the 2009 squad and which also bit the following two seasons was very frustrating. Perhaps we need to consider that payback for allowing Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright to play in over 95% of the team’s games from 2006-2008.

Even the last two seasons provided some joy and excitement. It’s easy to forget that the 2010 Mets went 21-7 during the middle of the year. And the Mets recovered from a brutal start to be on the fringes of Wild Card contention last year until they traded Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez and before they lost Daniel Murphy to a season-ending injury.

Now it’s supposed to be the end of the world because the Mets are seemingly on the verge of losing Reyes, their dynamic homegrown star. If indeed the Mets do lose Reyes, it will be the first time since Darryl Strawberry following the 1990 season that the Mets have lost an impact player to free agency.

The bottom line is that bad things happen to teams in MLB and the Mets are not immune to those. It doesn’t make it easy when they seemingly happen one after another and it becomes infuriating when the immediate future looks bleak. Believe me, I know.

But at the same time, you have to look at things with the proper perspective. The Mets have a bunch of young players at the major league level – Davis, Duda, Murphy, Niese, Tejada and Thole – who are all league average or better and have the chance to take a step forward. They have four young pitchers in the minors – Familia, Harvey, Mejia and Wheeler – who all have high ceilings and who should be contributing in the next few years.

Those players alone should ensure that the Mets do not suffer a three-year period where they fail to win 70 games, like what happened between 1993 and 1995. That’s kind of tainted, since the latter two seasons were truncated due to labor issues. Instead, let’s say that this core of players should keep the Mets from having seven years in a row where they failed to win 70 games, like what happened between 1977 and 1983.

Omar Minaya left the system with more talent than most people care to admit. Sandy Alderson has already navigated some of the contractual nightmares left behind by Minaya and has added quality to the system in Wheeler, Nimmo, Fullmer and Mazzoni. The front office seems to be in much better shape from top to bottom than the Minaya-Bernazard era Mets and should no longer hand out bad contracts or over-aggressively push minor leaguers to their detriment.

Forced by the one-two combo of crippling injuries and ownership’s financial troubles, the Mets have rebuilt, and continue to rebuild, on the fly. They are not going to bottom out, like the late 70s-early 80s Mets referenced above or the early aughts Tigers who went from 79 to 66 to 55 to 43 wins.

The 2011 Mets took a step backwards, going from 79 wins in 2010 to 77 wins last year. But that slight step backwards could have been avoided by keeping Beltran and Rodriguez. The Mets sacrificed a few wins in a non-playoff year to better position the team in 2012 and beyond. They may end up doing something similar in 2012.

Or, if the stars and planets properly align, Jason Bay and David Wright thrive with the new outfield dimensions, the young players continue to improve and the team avoids multiple injuries at the same time and we see the win total improve in the upcoming season.

As we get ready for 2012, let’s compare the current organization to what we had at the start of 2009. I think most Mets fans would say that Terry Collins is a better manager than Jerry Manuel. I think most fans would say that Alderson is better than Minaya. I think most fans would say their Top 10 prospects list is better now than it was three years ago.

The top one-fifth of the 25-man roster is not as good. But 2009 was the year that all of the injuries hit. The Mets could easily surpass that season’s win total with normal health. And with the other advantages outlined above, we can say with the benefit of hindsight that the Mets are better off in November of 2011 than they were in November of 2008.

I don’t expect the Mets to make the playoffs in 2012. But I think the Mets are going to post a better record in the 2012-2014 span than the 226-260 mark they posted from 2009-2011. And I say that knowing full well that they may lose Reyes in free agency.

Unfortunately, from experience I know what a team that loses 95+ games looks like. And I just don’t think the 2012 Mets, even without Reyes, falls into that category. Instead, I think we have already witnessed the worst and I expect a non-Reyes Mets team to be in the 72-75 win range. And that’s better than what a lot of the doomsayers are predicting.

11 comments on “Are Mets fans better off than three years ago?

  • NormE

    Brian,
    You make a reasonable assessment. My one caveat has to do with the pitching staff. Unless Alderson pulls some great value out of his hat,
    the starters don’t go long enough (except Dickey) and the thin relief corps becomes overworked.
    72-75 might be a ceiling.

    • Brian Joura

      Here’s how the 2009 Mets starters did with average IP per start:

      Santana – 6.2 IP
      Pelfrey – 6.0 IP
      Livan – 6.0 IP
      Redding – 5.2 IP
      Maine – 5.1 IP
      Perez – 4.2 IP

      I feel pretty confident the Mets SP this year will at least be as good as that and perhaps a little better. I think the 2012 offense will be more productive than the 2009 version.

  • Rotoprofessor

    I would agree with Norm, without starting pitching there’s only so many games an offense can carry you to.

    What if Santana can’t fully come back?

    What if Pelfrey fails to develop (ok, this one seems likely)?

    What if Niese can’t actually stay healthy for a full season (since he hasn’t shown it yet)?

    There are way too many questions and way too many issues in the rotation right now. Hopefully we get a few more answers in the next few weeks, but right now 75 wins seems hopeful, but I would be taking the under.

  • APV

    Hell No, I’m not better off than I was three years ago! In fact, I wonder if I should even root for this team anymore. Since Opening Day 2009, I have been to a grand total of FOUR games at Citi Field. And none this past season. Want to know why? It’s not most of the players, it’s not Terry, and it’s definitely not Sandy. The reason is the Wilpons. They don’t give a fuck about the players, team employees, or fans! So they move in the fences, why did they have to be shortened in the first place? Wright will never be the same because of the original configurations of the park (as well as his beaning). Plus, the ticket prices are still out of most people’s reaches. Also, my Dad is an usher there and the Wilpons have shit on the ushers and ticket takers union every contract year since they’ve been in charge. Did you know they won’t even allow ushers to take tips? Heaven forbid that money won’t be spent on a Reyes jersey. Speaking of Reyes, he’s gone. You mentioned Strawberry’s departure after 1990. The Mets had six consecutive losing seasons after he left New York. Darryl may have been under the influence when he was here but it’s not like he ever got love and support from anyone when things were going well either. And he was great in ’87 and ’88. How exactly have the Mets performed when Jose’s been out of the lineup recently? Can’t wait to see Jose take his talents to D.C. or South Beach; after 30 years of rooting for this organization, I just might follow.

    • Bus

      I hope you do go. There is no room for fair weather fans on the Mets.

      • APV

        Buddy, I ain’t fair weather. I’ve been a fan since 1982, when they lost 98 games but got to go to Shea for free because of my father’s job. I have stuck with this team through the atrocious mid-90s, the Art Howe era, and the last few years. Everybody has a breaking point in life. WIth the Mets, I’ve just about reached mine. If you have a reason for me to still believe, I need one and I need one now.

        • Bus

          Yawn. Go call Mike Francesa about it. You’ll be back when the Mets are on top.

          • APV

            No I won’t. Bye.

  • Tommy2cat

    Brian – I appreciate the longterm historical perspective, because that’s the view this off-season engenders. How can we not be introspective after losing a top tier homegrown talent that brought home a first-ever NY Met batting title?

    In the absence of signing Jose Reyes, I think the best approach would be to fortify the roster as best as possible with interchangeable parts and fortify the bullpen substantially. Oftentimes, fans are fixated in the starting line-ups without realizing that changes that are made throughout the course of most baseball games.

    Here’s the best starting line-up I can envision at present:

    cf – Pagan
    ss – Tejada
    1b – Davis
    3b – Wright
    rf – Duda
    lf – Bay/Niewnhuis
    2b – Murphy/Turner
    c – Thole/Paulino
    P – Santana/Dickey/Pelfrey/Niese/Gee

    Bench: Niewnhuis, Turner, Paulino, Evans, Harris

    To accomplish the above, we simply need to agree to arbitration with Pelfrey & Pagan. No trades, no FA signings, no crazy contractual risks or uncertain and costly foreign imports. The ballplayers are, by and large, character guys that play the game the right way.

    By the way, Pagan gets a pass from me for last season as I do not think that the most fans realize the extent to which his bout with colitis affected his equilibrium. His condition bears watching.

    Here’s the caveat and key to 2012’s latent success:

    **Bring in Joe Nathan and Jeremy Affeldt, and either Ryan Madsen and Brad Lidge. I prefer Madsen, though Lidge may be more cost effective.

    The addition of two experienced 8th and 9th inning closers are both immediate and derivative. Nathan appears to be very receptive to joining the Mets. Madsen has just been dissed by the Phillies. No time like the present to reel him in. Lidge has had his day in the sun and would be a worthy mentor to the younger arms. Affeldt fortifies any bullpen from the left side. Their inclusion represents the great equalizer in the kind of games that the Mets allowed to slip away last year.

    Derivatively, the Mets can afford to bring along guys like Parnell, Mejia and Beato at a more measured pace.

    Bullpen: Nathan, Madsen/Lidge, Acosta, Parnell, Beato, Byrdak & Affeldt. Put it this way…if the Mets are carrying a lead into the 7th inning, I like our chances of prevailing.

  • Tommy2cat

    Addendum:

    – Not sure that Affeldt is a FA;
    – Madsen type A FA, so Lidge, a type B, may be preferred
    – Remaining lefty may require internal solution

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