COMMENTARY | The New York Mets are building for the future. As much as you might like to think that they can compete this season, the organization is clearly looking to 2014 and beyond.
With that said, however, 2013 is up first.
At the risk of contributing to all the negativity surrounding this club heading into the season, here are the Mets' top three disappointments in spring training:
Johan Santana: If you expect Johan Santana to be the ace pitcher that he was when he first joined the Mets, you're not being realistic. If you expect him -- for the $31 million the team owes him in the final year of his contract -- to be adequate, you're being more than fair.
Santana's spring got off to a bad start when the Mets had to shut him down because of a lack of arm strength. That's not a good sign for a guy who missed significant time last year due to ankle and back injuries.
After recovering from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, Santana returned in 2012 to throw a no-hitter on June 1. After that, however, he struggled and his season ended due to injury.
Santana only has a few more months left as a Met. If he pitches well, the Mets could trade him to a contender. Worst-case scenario, if he doesn't pitch well, or doesn't pitch at all, he's gone at the end of the year anyway. You would think Santana would want to end his Mets career on a good note.
But now there's talk about him heading to the disabled list. Not a good start to the new season.
Lucas Duda: We've been through this before: The Mets' outfield is one of the worst in baseball. A lot can change but in order for that to happen, Lucas Duda is going to have to develop into a consistent hitter. So far, the results aren't promising.
Despite his struggles last year (Duda hit .239 with 120 strikeouts in 401 at-bats), he enters the season as the Mets' everyday left fielder.
There are a few problems. First, his play was so bad at times last year that the Mets sent him down to the minors. Second, he's not a good outfielder, which means he must hit. And third, he got off to an awful start this spring.
In his first 19 at-bats, he hit .158 with 10 strikeouts. Since then, as he's been working on his swing, he's raised his average to .259. Still, he only has one home run this spring.
Because he is, for the most part, a defensive liability, Duda has to hit. And he has to hit for power. So far, that hasn't happened consistently enough.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Because the Mets' outfield has been criticized so much, it wouldn't be right to only add one of their projected starters to the list of most disappointing players this spring.
If Kirk Nieuwenhuis' idea of cutting down on strikeouts after he K'd 98 times in 201 at-bats last year is to strike out seven times in 18 at-bats, something is not right. In those 18 at-bats this spring, he has just one hit (.056 average), and he's been out for more than a week with a bone bruise on his knee.
At the very least, the Mets hope Nieuwenhuis can be part of a platoon with Collin Cowgill in center field. As it stands now, Cowgill, who is batting .400, might not have to worry about sharing time, at least not with Nieuwenhuis.
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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