10 reasons the Mets will contend in 2010
Last season was one to forget for the Mets. This offseason was a bumpy ride with some top free agent targets signing elsewhere. But there are still plenty of reasons to believe the Mets will contend in the NL East this year.
1) They have something to prove
Doesn't it seem as if the Mets have never fully recovered from their heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the 2006 NLCS? Not only did they have a disastrous 2009 season, but there were those two dreadful collapses in 2007 and 2008.
The Mets have never stopped believing they are a top team in the National League (although they've stopped crowing about it so publicly), and they know the only way to exorcise the demons and appease an angry and frustrated fan base is to finally win.
If that's not enough motivation, people like GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel might have to do a little job hunting if things don't well this year.
2) Johan Santana is still an ace
Johan Santana looks like he is on target to begin the 2010 campaign healthy and at the top of the Mets' rotation again.
With the rotation behind him a big question mark, the pressure is on Santana to pitch a gem every time he takes the mound. But that's a pressure Santana already has proven he can handle. The two-time Cy Young winner has won 29 games, posted an ERA of 2.78, and thrown over 400 innings in 59 starts the past two years.
He's a bona fide ace and the Mets have a chance to win every time he pitches.
3) They are healthy again -- or at least healthier<>br/>
Plain and simple, the Mets were devastated by injuries last season. Key players Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana, as well as many other role players, missed significant time with various maladies. On paper, though, this is still a roster most managers would love to have.
Although the injury bug has followed the Mets into the new year -- Carlos Beltran is out of the Opening Day lineup after a controversial knee surgery -- Reyes and Santana appear set to start the season at 100 percent. With so much talent on the field, it's hard to believe the Mets won't at least challenge for a wild card spot.
4) David Wright should be better this season
David Wright hit the first home run in Citi Field history. After that. . . let's just say there were a lot of frustrated glares and muttering. Much has been written about his power outage in 2009, when his numbers dropped from an average of 29 home runs and 112 RBIs the past four season to 10 homers and 72 RBIs.
Mets fans and management are happy to see so many of their injured players back, but no one may be happier than Wright, whose only lineup protection most of 2009 was Jeff Francoeur and the aging Gary Sheffield. With Jose Reyes back at the top of the lineup and Jason Bay hitting behind him two of the major obstacles to Wright's success have been removed.
Like so many of his teammates, he'll start 2010 on a mission to prove last season's disappointment was merely an aberration.
5) Jose Reyes is ready to roll
It's hard to believe that Reyes is heading into his eighth season in the majors. For the 26-year-old shortstop, 2009 was a lost season, undone by calf and hamstring injuries. But Reyes has proclaimed that he will be 100 percent healthy for spring training. The Mets had better hope he's right.
His ability to get on base and make life miserable for opposing pitchers -- and to drive in runs from the leadoff spot -- makes him perhaps the Mets' most indispensable everyday player. With Jason Bay, David Wright and eventually Carlos Beltran behind him, Reyes must be the same table-setting threat who scored more than 110 runs each year from 2006-08.
Carlos Beltran #15 of the New York Mets bats against the Atlanta Braves on May 11, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Braves defeated the Mets 8-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
8) K-Rod -- remember him? -- is still a top closer
When the Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez prior to the 2009 season, many saw him as the missing piece on a championship roster. He did his job, saving half of the team's wins. The only problem was the injury-ravaged Mets only won 70 games.
The intimidating righty is an imposing presence when the game is on the line. He averaged just under 10 strikeouts per 9 innings in 2009, so he can still make opponents swing and miss, always a valuable skill for a closer. Assuming the Mets' questionable rotation and setup men can give him some leads to work with, he could be a key player for a team that believes it can contend.
9) What happens if their rotation pitches to its potential?
Although we're not sure if anyone has actually considered this, it is possible the Mets won't have the worst 2-3-4 starters in baseball.
Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine have all been impressive at times in the past. If (we know it's a big "if") pitching coach Dan Warthen can harness their potential -- and keep them healthy -- the Mets could end up with a decent rotation, rather than the maddeningly inconsistent, mediocre rotation most are expecting.