I suppose it’s all relative, but considering the spending curve the New York Mets have been on over the past five or six years, the signing of Yoenis Cespedes marks a decisive turn in their spending habits. The salary of Cespedes for 2016 ($27.5 million) pushes the Mets to about $115 million as a team. Even at that, they’ll only be at the halfway mark among the other 29 teams. The remaining $60 or so million depends on whether or not he opts out at the end of this season, but it doesn’t really matter because that can has been kicked down the road.
What does matter though is that Fred Wilpon left) answered the call of Met fans to make this signing. Because although it’s been widely hushed up, the Mets ownership had some kind of tie to Bernie Madoff that spun their finances out of control – and Met fans not only guessed what was going on, they also did not appreciate running a franchise in the Big Apple on a shoestring. At least for a while now, the fan base is appeased and we’ll know shortly if we see a rise in ticket sales and the all important television ratings. In the end though, it all comes down to what happens on the field when the season begins………and that’s where the trouble lies………
Despite that awesome pitching staff, Vegas still has the Mets finishing with a mere 86 wins and falling short of the Nationals in the NL East. Grabbing a wild card will be a daunting task as the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals figure to monopolize that battle within the NL Central. So the Mets could pretty well be facing a winner take all situation (as it was last year) in the East. We also know from last year that no team should be considered a lock as winners or losers at this moment in time (think Nationals and Astros). I’m hoping it doesn’t………but here’s how easily the Mets season could fall apart……..even with the retention of Cespedes.
Let’s assume that the starting pitchers stay intact and injury free. Not only that but let’s assume they’re even better than last year. Let’s also assume that Terry Collins has an even better year managing the team and that Familia pulls another rabbit out of his hat as the closer. And let’s even assume that contrary to his reputation Yoenis Cespedes leads the way to total team chemistry. So far, so good right? But what’s missing……..
If you guessed run production you get to take a big bite out of the apple in center field every time a Met doesn’t hit a home run in a game when it counts. We saw the good and the bad of Cespedes last year. He pulled off one of those important and impressive streaks when he joined the team and they rode on his back all the way to the World Series (that’s the upside). The downside of course came during the playoffs when Cespedes all but disappeared as a hitter and botched two important plays in the field. Okay, that can happen with any “streak” type player. But what’s significant is that no one else on the team rose to the forefront. Down went the Mets…….
it will be a miracle if David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Travis D’Arnaud (all major players in the Mets ability to score runs) can each manage to even average 140 games. Based on their track record, that’s a really big if……….then there’s Curtis Granderson…….how much is left in his tank and even if his tank reads full he’s still going to strike out one out of three plate appearances, often with runners in scoring position.
Which leads into the biggest overall problem facing the Mets……….last year they finished ahead of only ten teams averaging only.252 with runners in scoring position. Or, to express this in a more dramatic fashion, the team failed to score a run three out of four times the opportunity presented itself. If the Royals proved anything in the playoffs, and especially against the Mets, it’s that scoring a ton of runs (hello Toronto) is not always necessary. What’s important is that you score a run or two when you have the opportunity. Again, no one knows at this point what the Mets will or will not do this season. But they can’t count on the Nationals not showing up again.
As was the case last year, pitching will only carry the Mets so far and while Cespedes is a nice addition to the lineup, they have to be better in run production by firing on all eight cylinders (not counting the pitcher’s spot in the lineup)…….. Question marks prevail for the Mets. And there will be hell to pay in Queens, not only from their fans but possibly even from the front office if the team doesn’t improve over last year because the Royals set the bar high last year showing that it CAN be done…….. Only one thing is guaranteed……….It’ll be fun to watch it play out…….