In my heart of hearts, there is no doubt that last year was just a dress rehearsal for the New York Mets. Sure I was devastated as I watched that backdoor curve freeze Carlos Beltran in game 7 of the NLCS for the last out. But I also understood the significance of everything we witnessed last season. It was a total cumulative collaboration of team work at it’s finest. Despite all the adversity, the Mets were diligent in their effort every step of the way and they grew more resilient as they overcame each obstacle.
To me it was all just a precursor for what I believe will be one of the Mets’ greatest seasons ever. The lessons from last year are already in play this spring as I hear each player saying the right thing and doing the right thing. The guys we depend on the most on offense, all showed up early. Reyes packed on 13 pounds of muscle, Beltran vows to steal more bases, and Wright worked out all offseason learning how to become more patient at the plate. These Mets don’t make excuses, they learn and grow, and have a yearning desire to get to the World Series.
You should all know that I’m just not talking out of my love for the Mets, and these are not the ravings of an over-exuberant fan. I’m ready to back my words up, and not with more rants, but rather a more sound and statistical approach. Here’s 5 reasons why I believe the Mets are going to the World Series this season.
1. Jose Reyes – Whenever people talk about MVP candidates from the Mets, you always hear the names of Carlos Beltran and David Wright. Well, I beg to differ. Jose Reyes is more valuable to the Mets than either Beltran or Wright. His ability to impact a game is unmatched by either of them. When Reyes gets on base, pitchers have to alter their delivery, catchers lose their focus, and defenses change their alignment. He completely unravels the opposition. Last year he led the Majors with 17 triples and 64 stolen bases, and became the first player in Major League history to have 122 runs or more, 194 hits or more, 19 homers or more, and 64 stolen bases or more in a single season. He also started in his first All-Star game, batted .300, and became the 9th Met ever to hit for the cycle. Nuff said! At only 23 years old, the best is yet to come.
2. Bullpen – Last year the Mets bullpen was among the best in baseball and there is no reason to believe that they wont repeat. The Mets superbly engineered their bullpen to the point of taking over a game in the 6th or 7th inning without losing any of its effectiveness over the course of the season. They created a model which is now being duplicated by even more teams this offseason. Salaries for middle relievers skyrocketed after 2006 as more and more teams became convinced that they needed specialized relievers for different aspects of the game, not just a closer and a setup man. Last year Willie Randolph used his bullpen like a surgeon, effectively using the strengths of each pitcher to extinguish any threats from the opposition. Guys like Pedro Feliciano, Darren Oliver, and Chad Bradford were no less important than their closer Billy Wagner, and setup man Aaron Heilman. The results were nothing short of amazing as the Mets bullpen led the National League with an ERA of 3.25 while having the fewest blown saves (15) and second most saves (43). They also led the majors in wins (32) and opposing batting average (.239), while finishing 2nd in strikeouts with 485. To sum it up… they were absolutely dominating! Despite the losses of Chad Bradford and Darren Oliver, the Mets may even improved with the additions of Scott Schoeneweis and Ambiorix Burgos.
3. Moises Alou – What the Mets desperately needed more than anything else this offseason was to find themselves a hitter that can hit left-handed pitching. Their lack of such a hitter may have been one of the main reasons the Mets failed to advance to the World Series in 2007. In Moises Alou, the Mets have acquired one of the most lethal right-handed hitters in the game. Last season he batted .301 and hit 22 homeruns with 74 RBI’s in only 345 at-bats. Against left-handed pitching he batted .349 with an on-base percentage of .407 and a .687 slugging percentage. He has batted .290 or better in 7 of the last 9 years, and .300 or better for 9 straight seasons against left-handed pitching. He is a fiery competitor who can work the count as good as anyone in the game and despite his power, he has never struck out more than 87 times in a season. In fact, in his last 700 at-bats he has only struck-out 74 times. His presence on this team will have a massive positive effect on David Wright, similar to the effect Carlos Delgado had on Carlos Beltran last season.
4. Tom Glavine – The Mets may not have signed any of the big free agents in the offseason, but making sure they kept their current ace, Tom Glavine, from leaving was a major priority. Luckily for the Mets, Glavine decided to stay and try to win his 300th game as a New York Met. In 2006, Glavine had his best year since the 2002 season and even earned a spot on the All Star team. The 40-year old lefty, went 15-7 in 32 starts with a 3.83 ERA, and his home ERA of 2.84, was the best in the NL East. Glavine was well on his way to winning 20 games and had compiled a nine game winning streak before going into a mild slump after returning from a blood clot scare. However, he finished the season strongly and was very effective in the postseason going 2-1 in three starts, with a sparkling 1.59 ERA. If the Mets are to have any chance at returning to the post-season, they will need Tom Glavine to be every bit as good as he was last season. As Glavine chases win number 300 into the history books, you can be sure that the Mets will be riding his chase into the World Series.
5. Destiny – Last season was only the first chapter in what is going to be a great story of how the Mets won it all in 2007. They have a great blend of veterans and youth unlike any other team in the National League. They have guys that are hungry for World Series ring like Carlos Delgado, Paul LoDuca, Moises Alou, and Tom Glavine, who wants his last season to be his most memorable. They have battle tested kids like David Wright, Jose Reyes and John Maine, who each got a sip of pennant fever and want even more than just a taste in 2007. They have one of the best bullpens in baseball, one that more than makes up for any shortcomings from their starting rotation. From the 1-8 spots in the lineup, the Mets do not have an easy out. In fact, top to bottom, they may have the best lineup in the National League. When you consider all of these facts, it’s easy to see that this season the Mets are a team of destiny. At least that’s what I think. In about 6 months we will all know if I was right or wrong.
Let me know what you think, and share your comments!