Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the sport year--the slate is clean, everyone is in first place and it is a day to dream. For Met fans, it has been tough sledding the past few years. But in 2013, with the Madoff scandal clearly in the rear view mirror, Sandy Alderson is assembling a core of young players that will lead the Mets out of the wilderness. We all got a taste of Matt Harvey who showed he has great stuff coupled with a work ethic that will make him a top of the line starting pitcher. In many ways, Harvey reminds me of a right-handed Jerry Koosman--a nice guy who when he takes the mound becomes a competitive warrior.
The Mets signed David Wright to a long-term contract this off-season which many critics of the team thought would never happen and I really think the Met third basemen deserves every penny not onlyfor his play on the field but his guidance and leadership off of it as well. I have been covering baseball for over 20 years and have never went a finer person in any baseball clubhouse. He loves being a Met and cherishes every moment by being the first player in the clubhouse and because of media demands, usually the last to leave. Wright and Ike Davis provide 2 cornerstones in a Met infield that includes Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada who have both proven to be reliable middle infielders.
Beyond Harvey, Jonathan Niese, Shaun Marcum, and Dillon Gee provide a good quartet of starting pitching which should be strengthened when Zack Wheeler arrives--likely sometime in June. If you think Harvey was impressive, wait until you see this guy. High 90's fastball, outstanding change-up and absolutely perfect mechanics.He will be a star in this sport for years to come. From the start, Sandy Alderson believed the Mets needed to improve their farm system which the baseball world has recognized. "The Mets have a lot of pitching throughout the farm system", marveled one baseball scout," and it is not just Wheeler and Harvey. The kids they got from the Jays in the Dickey trade (catcher Travis d'arnaud and Noah Syndergaard) are top of the line prospects and many baseball people are shocked he was able to snare both of them."
The Met bullpen figures to be better this year as veterans LaTroy Hawkins and Brandon Lyon will combine with Josh Edgin who impressed in 2012, to bridge the game to Bobby Parnell who will begin the season as the Met closer with Frank Francisco once again landing on the disabled list. I applaud the move of Parnell to that important role because quite frankly, it is time to find out about him once and for all. He has always possessed a high 90's fastball but has recently added a curveball to the mix which he showed in spring training he is not afraid to unleash in fastball counts. Some say Parnell does not have the stomach to be a closer--I say nonsense. Most of those people are not around him as much as I am and I will tell you he has a fire in his belly about this role. I think he will excel given in a way that will surprise Met fans.
Does this team have weaknesses? Sure it does with the outfield at the top of the list and if they get power production from Lucas Duda, that will go a long way towards solving that issue. Players like Jordanny Valdespin, Marlon Byrd, and Collin Cowgill will need to contribute as well but all 3 have skills that can be real helpful to the manager. Which brings me to my last point ---Terry Collins.
He has been put in a tough position because he is the caretaker of this team and will be responsible for the development of young players he may not be around to manage in 2014. And that is because he is in the last year of his contract. Now don't get me wrong--I understand the Mets position here and agree with their decision to not extend him--just yet. But I will say this about Collins--he is handling it well and this team plays hard for him as evidenced by the first half of both 2011 and 2012. Now, the team was not able to sustain that play in both seasons but that was due more to lack of depth than anything else. And the interesting thing is this team will get reinforcements in mid-season as prospect d'arnaud and Wheeler arrive in Flushing.
And that will make 2013 an interesting season for the Mets. Interesting enough that they will finish north of .500 at 82-80 but more importantly, the youngsters will have received Major League experience and the long-term contracts will all be gone giving Sandy Alderson the ability to play in the free agency game. And that makes the future bright for Met fans.