As was the case a year ago, the Mets once again enter the season with high hopes and plenty of demons to exorcise from the prior season. And much like last season, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Oliver Perez will be counted on heavily to deliver the best performances of their careers. That’s not really asking for much when you review their career numbers, and yet neither of them would rise to the occasion in 2009.
Both Maine and Perez succumbed to injury after dismal early performances and Mike Pelfrey was underwhelming at best.
It prompted Omar Minaya to make upgrading the rotation his top priority this offseason. But there would be no upgrades. Furthermore, all three are locks for the rotation much as they were last spring. There is one big difference though, this year four of the five projected starters will all be trying to exceed expectations while coming back from season ending surgeries a year ago. Basically, the expectations are the same, but now they must do it under the most difficult of circumstances, and under the watchful eyes of the New York media.
Yesterday, while the Mets were losing to the Braves, Mike Puma of the NY Post caught up with Chipper Jones who made a bold prediction regarding the Mets chances this season. Referring to Pelfrey, Maine and Perez as underachievers, he said,
“It’s time for those other guys behind Johan to step it up a notch,” Jones told The Post yesterday. “If they do, I see them contending.”
There’s no backup plan for the Mets if injury should strike again. Unless you call the same cast of Nelson Figueroa, Fernando Nieve and Bobby Parnell an apt fallback option.
Even Jerry Manuel is smart enough to understand the Mets goose is cooked if any of the Mets 2-4 starters should succumb to injury or fail to deliver strong performances.
“They have to be good,” Jerry Manuel conceded. “We don’t have enough depth to overcome a repeat of last year.”
We may never know why the Mets failed to tender an offer to any reliable free agent inning eaters like Jason Marquis or Jon Garland.
As average and unappealing as they may have been, it would have given the Mets a reliable and healthy arm that would have reduced the risk of a repeat of 2009. And even their mediocre performances would have been an improvement over the 6.00+ ERA we saw from the Mets triumvirate.
The stakes are very high, and as the Post’s Joel Sherman aptly points out, to hold on to their jobs, Minaya and Manuel probably have to make the playoffs, so they likely need no fewer than two of three from Pelfrey/Perez/Maine to have high-caliber seasons.
Can they pull it off?
Anything’s possible, but there’s no margin for error. Not even an 18+ win season from Santana will be enough to capture a wild card spot, if the Mets don’t get at least 45 wins out of their 2-4 starters.