The New York Mets and their fans have to be gnashing their teeth. Not only did they have their arch rival Phillies in the World Series, but also their cross town rivals, the Yankees. All that occurred while the Mets had one of the highest payrolls, the highest of expectations and it all evaporated in a New York minute. The team couldn't hit, they couldn't pitch and their front office was back pedaling after a myriad of scandals. It was a tough year for the New York Mets in their brand new stadium.
The big story for the Mets in 2009 was injuries. At various times, they lost Beltran, Jose Reyes, John Maine, Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado and J. J. Putz. And these stars weren't lost for just a week or two, but huge chunks of time. Reyes, their once promising building block at shortstop, has tremendous damage to his wheels. Santana had elbow surgery and will be lost for an extensive period of time. Putz, who was expected (along with Francisco Rodriguez) to shore up the bullpen, which led to catastrophic results in 2007 and 2008, was a huge disappointment and then went down to season-ending injury. The Mets have declined to pick up his option, so he is history.
Beltran came back at the end of the season and produced like he always has. He is one of the most underrated performers in the majors. So he'll be fine. Delgado is a free agent and probably won't be resigned. He is going to be 38 after all. Maine came back at the end of the season to mixed results. And nobody seems to know what will happen with Jose Reyes. Cora is a free agent as his backup, but it seems that the Mets should plan on a one-year fill in for Reyes as he tries to rebuild his body.
The other big story for the Mets was their new ballpark. Despite the Mets 92 losses and the fact they were out of the race by June, the fans came out in droves to the tune of 3.3 million. That's encouraging and should continue the stream of income. But the new ball park seemed to make Shea look like the Polo Grounds. Daniel Murphy (of all people) led the Mets in homers with 12. Yes, you heard that right. 12. David Wright, who hit 130 homers his first five seasons with the Mets hit 10 in 2009. And he apparently was so discouraged by the ballpark that he changed his entire hitting philosophy. That has to be discouraging for the Mets when they are used to him popping 30+ homers a year like he did in 2007 and 2008.
So you would think that the Mets would have a good pitching chance in such a ballpark. But in fact, the pitching was bloody awful. Santana pitched great despite his arm being all messed up until he had his surgery. Nelson Figueroa was decent and Fernando Nieve showed promise (plus, he can hit!), but too many starts went to Livan and then his replacement, Tim Redding, with predictable results. But perhaps the Mets' biggest mistake was resigning Oliver Perez. And that's a huge understatement. He was brutal. And many of us who write about baseball predicted this and yet, the Mets went ahead and did it anyway.
The Mets do have some hope for a decent rotation in 2010. Maine, Figueroa, Nieve, Pelfrey and young Jonathan Niese could hold their own. Pelfrey is a disappointment of sorts. His K/BB ratio shows he will never be more than a fourth starter, which is a lot lower than expectations. But if he is fourth or fifth, it's a lot better than at the top of the rotation where he was forced to be in 2009. The Mets also need to figure out if Bobby Parnell is a relief pitcher or a starter. He shows promise but seems to be in the same limbo land that faces the Yankees' Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.
The Mets' relief core wasn't all that bad. Francisco Rodriguez was perfect early and then stumbled quite a bit at the end. He ended up with 35 saves but finished with a 3.71 ERA and blew a lot of saves late in the season. Dessens (who is probably gone as a free agent), Feliciano and Ken Takahashi did some nice work. But Sean Green and Brian Stokes got way too many innings that didn't work out too well. It seems the Mets will need to pick up some arms in the off season.
As for the regulars, nearly all (with the exception of Delgado) are signed for 2010, so the cast will remain about the same. It will be interesting to see if they bring back free agent, Fernando Tatis, who was useful. Angel Pagan did surprisingly well while filling in for Beltran. But Beltran is one of the best centerfielders in baseball. Daniel Murphy is very questionable as Delgado's replacement at first. He doesn't hit enough for the position and he is a lousy fielder. The Mets seem to like the guy, but it doesn't make sense.
Their are questions at catcher. Schneider can't hit and is a free agent. Santos hit okay, but isn't wonderful. So it will be interesting to see if the Mets do something there. Other than that, the Mets will have Castillo, who had a decent 2009, at second. Wright will still be one of the elite third basemen (though he did make 18 errors and can be erratic in the field). Beltran will do his thing in center. That leaves left field (Pagan?), right field (is Francoeur staying?), first base and catcher as question marks.
The Mets certainly should be better in 2010 than they were in 2009. A lot will depend on the rotation and what the Mets do in the off season. But no matter how you look at it, this team does not look like an elite team and will do well to play around .500 ball and finish in the middle of the pack in 2010.