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.
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.