COMMENTARY | It's been a few years since the New York Mets entered a season with high expectations.
In 2006, with Willie Randolph at the helm, the Mets appeared to be on the rise. With a good mix of up-and-coming stars like Jose Reyes and David Wright, and talented veterans like Tom Glavine and Carlos Beltran, the Mets appeared to be in good shape that year, and the future looked bright.
They won the National League East in '06, but lost in disappointing fashion to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series.
In 2007, they appeared well on their way to another division title, then blew a seven-game lead with 17 games to play and missed the playoffs. They would collapse in 2008 as well, again missing the playoffs despite the fact that they were in first place in September.
In 2009, the Mets opened up Citi Field. That season was also the first of four seasons where the Mets would finish in fourth place.
If you just look at the standings, there doesn't seem to be much difference between the 2009 through 2012 Mets, and the 2013 Mets. Right now they're in fourth place in the division, and with 64 wins, they'll be lucky -- real lucky if you saw how lifeless the offense (three hits, no runs) looked in last night's loss -- to get to the 74 wins they finished with last year.
But anyone who has seen this team this year knows that this is a different bunch. While the losses have mounted of late, a reminder of seasons past, there's no doubt that when the final game is played at the end of this month, there will be great anticipation heading into the winter -- to see who the Mets will bring in to plug the holes in their lineup, and to the spring -- when the Mets should begin the year with playoff aspirations.
The reason for the optimism is obvious to anyone who's watched this team on a day-in, day-out basis this year. It's true that Matt Harvey's health is a serious concern. But whenever he returns to the rotation, whether it's next April or the April after that, the Mets have themselves one of the best pitchers in baseball. He's joined in the rotation by Zack Wheeler. They should provide the Mets with a great 1-2 punch for years to come. There's depth behind those two as well, and there's more help on the way. The Mets rotation is solid, and should only get better.
And while the Mets have a ton of work to do to plug holes in their lineup and in the field -- shortstop, first base, outfield -- there's been an injection of youth this year that didn't exist the past few seasons: Eric Young Jr. and Juan Lagares in the outfield. Wilmer Flores in the infield. Travis d'Arnaud behind the plate. Who knows how things turn out for those players in the future, but in the second half of this season, they provided a dimension that didn't exist in years past.
General manager Sandy Alderson will be put to the test this offseason. It will define his legacy as Mets GM. But again, thanks to the energy supplied by the aforementioned additions, there's hope.
Of course, the Mets need more than just hope. But it's a start.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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