The 2010 New York Mets remind me of how I felt about the New York Rangers when the 1993-94 season began. The Rangers in 1991-92 acquired Mark Messier from the Oilers. They won the Presidents trophy for best record in the regular season, but then lost to the Penguins in the 2nd round, after Mario Lemieux was injured. It was a heartbreaking loss.
The following season the Rangers went from best record to missing the playoffs. I remember feeling quite disgusted at the end of the season. So I remember the Opening Night introductions for the 93-94 Rangers and thinking, “This team sucks.”
But the Rangers didn’t suck. I was a 23-year-old kid thinking with my heart not my head. The Rangers had Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Mike Gartner, Adam Graves…this was a good veteran team. They were dreadful in 92-93, but that was clearly an aberration. They just had too much talent to repeat that season.
Of course the Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup that season, and end 54-years of futility. So do I think the Mets are going to ride down the Canyon of Heroes?? No. But I don’t think they suck either.
Lets take a look at just the 2010 season, meaning 2011 and beyond doesn’t matter. If you look at the Mets from this context, things start to get a little brighter. Sure the Mets have plenty of gaping holes, but how many teams would trade their top six players for the Mets top 6 of Johan Santana, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran?
The Mets have an elite starting pitcher, a great shortstop and third baseman, two quality outfielders (even though Beltran will start the season on the DL) and a reliable reliever. That’s pretty good. Almost every team in baseball would jump at the chance to trade their top six players for the Mets top six. Unfortunately, two of the teams that wouldn’t make that trade are the Mets biggest rivals the Phillies, and their annoying big brother the Yankees. So instead of celebrating how good the Mets top guys are, fans are upset that the Phillies and Yankees are more stacked.
With the wild card, there is no reason the Mets shouldn’t be able to contend for a playoff spot. They just have too much talent not to. Last season, they suffered an epic number of injuries. Even though the Mets haven’t changed their medical staff, you’d have to assume this season is going to be far more healthier than last season, based on luck alone. So there are a lot of reasons for Met fans to smile.
Now can they replicate what the Rangers did and win the Stanley Cup? You know what I mean! The short answer is yes, the long answer is a lot has to change for them to have a legitimate shot.
The Rangers had a great supporting cast for Leetch and Messier in 1994. Notice I didn’t say 93-94. The Rangers head coach Mike Keenan implored General Manager Neil Smith to make drastic changes during the season. Keenan knew his team was good, but not great. Smith was smart enough to consider what Keenan was saying, and act on many of those suggestions. But Smith was also smart enough not to just blindly listen to Keenan as well. It was a nice set of checks and balances.
The Rangers also had one of the best leaders in the history of sports in Messier. The players still refer to Messier as, “The Captain” to this day.
The Mets have the top level talent to win it all. But they need the right youthful and veteran mix. Bargain basement free agents were available all winter long, and for some reason Omar Minaya didn’t act on it. They are also sorely lacking in the leadership department. Of course without being on the team, its hard to truly tell who is a leader and who isn’t. Except with how many fundamental mistakes this team makes year after year after year, its obvious whoever their leaders are aren’t doing the job.
But here’s the positive. The Mets can have all the right youthful and veteran mix. They can have the best leader in all of baseball. But if they don’t have the top six…they can’t even think of contending. As the Mets found out the hard way last season, you cant replace Beltran, Wright, Reyes and Santana. Finding a supporting player and creating a new leadership is much easier.
So who knows? Maybe the Mets can find their Metsier.