Saturday, August 27, 2011

How Much Longer Must Mets Fans Wait?

Despite what will almost certainly be another losing season and an actual step backwards as far as the team's record goes, most people feel the Mets are headed in the right direction. The right direction... that's great! But shouldn't the real question be when the team is going to get there? When will all of the wheels in motion now take the shape of a team with a legitimate shot to contend for a World Series title? The answer to that question may not sit well with most fans...

Taking a quick glance at the rest of the NL East, the Mets find themselves with only three fewer runs scored that the dominant Philadelphia Phillies. It is for that very reason that the only immediate offensive concern should be the retention of Jose Reyes, who means as much to the overall health of this franchise as any one man really could. The offense, patched together around more injuries than we care to count, can clearly score runs. The issue, now and for the not so distant future will be the pitching.

The Mets need to do little else than look up in the standings to see what quality starting pitching can do. The Phillies are the obvious example, but the Braves starting staff has notched 12 more wins (56) than the Mets (44), despite receiving less run support (27 runs) than Mets starters. The more telling statistic would be that the Mets pitching staff as a whole has allowed 176 more runs than the Phillies staff and 123 more runs than the Braves staff...ouch!

Completely rebuilding the Mets pitching staff won't be easy and it alone is what really alters the timeline for contention that I mentioned above. The only man in the rotation at this point who would warrant long term consideration would be Jon Niese, who at only 24 years old made some progress again this year. Everyone else is a bit of a wild card. There is no telling what Johan Santana will bring with him when/if he finally returns. RA Dickey (whose been unlucky this year) and Dillon Gee, are middle to back end starters at best. The others are exactly that... others. There is no place in the future, one that involves a contending ball club, for the likes of Mike Pelfrey and Chris Capuano.

So where do the Mets go from here? With Johan Santana being the poster boy for why an organization should hesitate to issue long term contracts to pitchers, it would appear unlikely that Sandy Alderson will bring in top tier starters from the free agent market. At that point the organization would await the maturity of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia. With each of them currently slated to reach the majors in the 2013 to 2014 time frame, and then require time to adjust it could be 2014 or later before the Mets possess the type of staff required to compete in this division.

2014...that's a long time away, but other changes would take place between now and then as well. While forecasting the future is as ineffective as it is pointless, its reasonable to think that the Phillies will have aged greatly by then and shouldn't be as formidable. The Mets on the other hand will have rid themselves of Jason Bay's bloated contract and will have likely moved on from the Angel Pagans and Jose Tholes of the world. With any luck, the team should find Ike Davis and Lucas Duda entering their prime at the same time Jose Reyes and David Wright begin to exit theirs.

So, if that becomes the recipe for success, can you stand to wait that long? Can you put up with two more "progress" minded campaigns if it lands the team in the thick of things for the foreseeable future. There is no telling how successful the Mets young arms will be (See: Generation K), but at this point from where I'm standing, they appear to be the organization's best chance at a return to greatness. I for one can stomach progress, provided we get there soon. I'd gladly accept two World Series titles by 2020 in exchange for more misery in the meantime. The pitching is the key... can you wait for it to get here?

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