Now That The Snow Has Melted, The Hard Ground of Reality Is Revealed

The Mets, on the verge of Spring Training, have plenty of new faces and attitudes to keep them fresh. But seeing this projected team altogether on paper for the first time makes one begin to cringe a little in the realisation that alot of winter's highest hopes were based upon a really really optimistic forgetfulness of some very large holes in the roster, rotation and bullpen.

A quick glance of the our prospects for winning to date from the Mets website:

Projected batting order
1. SS Jose Reyes, .255 BA, 2 HR, 14 RBI in 2004
2. 2B Kazuo Matsui, .272 BA, 7 HR, 44 RBI in 2004
3. CF Carlos Beltran, .267 BA, 38 HR, 104 RBI in 2004
4. C Mike Piazza, .266 BA, 20 HR, 54 RBI in 2004
5. 3B David Wright, .293 BA, 14 HR, 40 RBI in 2004
6. LF Cliff Floyd, .260 BA, 18 HR, 63 RBI in 2004
7. RF Mike Cameron, .231 BA, 30 HR, 76 RBI in 2004
8. 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, .238 BA, 6 HR, 35 RBI in 2004

Making the wild assumption that Hamstring Jose will remain healthy, this is not a bad start although what jumps out at one straight away is that no one on this team hit for .300 last season and only a rookie who might be headed for the dreaded sophomore slump, David Wright, even came close. It also shows a pronounced lack of power outside of a flukey 30 homer season from Mike Cameron and the Superstah Beltran who will have to carry the Mets on his back.

This has all the makings, all spring time optimism aside, of some pretty dodgy Mets batting orders from the past which saw no power, no ability to get on base and alot of low calibre production.

Of course, this is just the first reaction of shock to seeing the batting order. If you assume Hamstring Jose is with us for 75% of the season, you've got a potential live wire leading off, the Kaz Man to advance him to second and then Beltran, Piazza, Wright, Floyd and yes, even the pouty rightfielder Mike Cameron, to bring themselves home. If Piazza were to remain injury free with his increasingly-fragile body AND regained his power touch, well, this might well be a reasonably formidable batting order.

But the key to this fantasy is that we're starting off with two major IFS to this batting order being anything but a pipe dream and that is IF Reyes and Piazza stay healthy for a season. The leadoff and clean up hitter are two of the most important ingredients to a healthy lineup and unfortunately for the Mets they are both the most injury-prone in a team riddled with injury-prone players. Without a little more depth and a little more power, this batting order will begin to look ridiculous and unfortunately for Omar, he's just run out of Latino free agents for the season.

Projected rotation
1. Pedro Martinez, 16-9, 3.90 ERA in 2004
2. Tom Glavine, 11-14, 3.60 in 2004
3. Kris Benson, 12-12, 4.31 in 2004
4. Victor Zambrano, 11-7, 4.37 in 2004
5. Steve Trachsel, 12-13, 4.00 in 2004

With a cumulative 62-55 record last season, this might well be the strength of the Mets, again, barring injury. But in order for the Mets to compete in the NL East, this rotatin is going to have to produce at least 70 victories on their own. Pedro and Glavine, although old and fragile both could possible head a rotation with alot of potential. Pedro might even run through the National League with a vengeance and I think actually, he will. Glavine, perhaps inspired by Pedro, will have another fine season and maybe, if the Mets are lucky, either Benson or Zambrano will have the kind of break-out season that will be required to make this a respectable, although never feared rotation. However, if the Mets batting order above does not stay intact and the Mets are forced to go with a series of banjo hitters to replace them day in and out, there will be, like Glavine experienced last season, no runs to give him a big lead with and thus both Pedro and Glavine might turn small leads over to what might be the biggest Achilles Heel of all for the Mets, THE BULLPEN:

Projected bullpen
Closer: Braden Looper, 2-5, 29 saves, 2.70 ERA in 2004
RH setup man: Mike DeJean, 0-5, 5.02 ERA in 2004
LH setup man: Dae-Sung Koo, 6-10, 4.32 in 2004 (Japan)

Here is where we can begin to tremble and shake with fear and the notion of any sort of even .500 season becomes almost absurd. One thing you can be certain of is that if this is what the Mets will bring out of the bullpen every night, there will be no chase for the NL East, merely a long and difficult battle fending off the Washington Nats to stay out of last place.

Again, apologies for the lack of optimism but seeing it all down here in black and white like that has just caused a spasm of regret for all the giddy optimism of the winter.

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