The first Opening Day of the Mets360 era happened in 2010. The Mets had strong teams in 2006-08, only to suffer an incredible number of injuries in 2009, which contributed mightily to a 70-92 record. Fans were optimistic that a return to playoff contention was on the table for ’10, even with Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy and Jose Reyes opening the season on the shelf. Here was the team’s Opening Day lineup:
The ‘10 team finished with four hitters above a 2.0 fWAR, led by Angel Pagan, who pinch-hit in that Opening Day game, with a 4.9 mark. Wright played in 157 games and posted a 3.4 fWAR on the second year of Citi Field. The other two were early-season promotion Ike Davis, with a 2.9 and Reyes with a 2.5 in 133 games.
On the flip side, Castillo had a 0.4 fWAR, Francoeur had a (-0.1) in 447 PA and Barajas, despite a strong start, had a (-0.4) in 74 games before being sold to the Dodgers for an unnamed amount. It couldn’t have been much. Despite having 60 fewer PA than Barajas, Cora finished with a (-0.5) fWAR. Beltran missed over half the season and Murphy didn’t play a game in the majors.
The 2010 team went 79-83 and while it was a nine-game improvement over the previous year, it wasn’t enough for manager Jerry Manuel and GM Omar Minaya to keep their jobs.
We took that trip down memory lane to show a contrast to the type of lineup the 2023 Mets could put out there, should the big free agent signing of Carlos Correa come to a positive conclusion. For those reading this in the future, the Mets inked Correa to a 12/$315 million deal, after his 13/$350 deal with the Giants fell apart after concerns over an old ankle injury. Turns out the Mets had similar concerns and the deal is currently in limbo, although the scuttlebutt is that the two sides will come to a compromise and complete the deal with some new terms.
We used to think that how a manager constructed his lineup was a big deal. But the difference between the best and worst lineup you can construct isn’t really that big. And if you bat a guy with a high OBP in the first spot, the difference is negligible. Still, it’s fun to play manager and propose a lineup. Here’s one the Mets can throw out, if Correa ends up on the team:
Last year, Buck Showalter batted Marte second most of the year. That could still be the way things shake out. But Marte’s main interest was a consistent place in the lineup, not that he had to hit second. This lineup separates the lefties, except for the 9-1 spots when a RHP starts. But the Mets can PH for the catcher – something that becomes even easier if they carry three backstops – and if there’s any lefty on the team not fazed by facing a LHP, it’s Nimmo. So, if you have to have back-to-back lefties, this is probably the best tandem.
If the Correa deal falls apart, Escobar moves back to 3B, with Marte moving back to the second spot and Escobar taking the sixth slot. And Alvarez becomes the righty DH.
Looking back at that 2010 lineup, it’s a bit surprising how bullish we were with Barajas, Castillo and Francoeur expected to amass so much playing time. Reyes came back quickly to upgrade things from Cora but Beltran missing so much time didn’t help, either. But it opened the door for Pagan, so it worked out okay. Perhaps if Beltran was able to come back sooner, the Francoeur experience wouldn’t have been as long and painful as it was. And Bay suffering the concussion in July was essentially the beginning of the end of his career as a productive MLB player.
You can’t predict how long players will be out or when concussions will occur. But on Opening Day 2010, fans should have been worried about three positions without hesitation and two more with injury concerns. And while some bought into the Francoeur hype (read the comments) there were enough of us who knew he wasn’t good despite his brief success for the team in 2009.
That’s a lot of worry.
Contrast that with the potential 2023 lineup. Yeah, you’d wish for more homers and you’re dubious about C and DH. My belief is that those two spots will be okay, especially if Alvarez plays. My concern is LF but McNeil can switch out there if need be. Regardless, that’s a deep lineup, one that will be productive with reasonable health.
And the pitching’s not bad, either.