It Will Be An Interesting April For The Mets

opening-day citi field crowd attendanceInteresting April? That is for sure.

Expectations are clearly low for the Mets this year. However, they were also low last year, and the team gave fans at least three months of a season before falling off a cliff. Yes, on paper this team doesn’t look good, and they have been hampered by an astonishing number of injuries this Spring. However, this is baseball, and anything can happen. Certainly, a LOT of things will have to fall into place for the Mets to remain competitive. All I’m saying is it’s a possibility.

One of those key factors is that this team must survive April. A week out from Opening Day, the lineup is very much uncertain, and there are too many injuries to count.

Not only are the Mets going to battle injuries, they are going to battle the schedule. In terms of the opposition, it’s not spectacular but it’s not bad either. The challenge will be the combination of solid opposition, as well as a 10-game road trip early in the season, all while potentially being at less than full strength.

Pitchers Johan Santana, Shaun Marcum and Frank Francisco all will, or could, miss time. And on a side note, the reality is you may not be able to expect very much at all from Santana this year. And if that’s the case, the Mets may find they get very little in return for him if they look to move him around the deadline. Then, in the lineup and on the field, David Wright and Daniel Murphy may be unavailable for part of April. The bad news on Matt den Dekker and his broken wrist strikes a blow to the Mets’ outfield depth, so let’s hope the five that make the cut all stay healthy and productive.

Now, this morning, the Mets announced the encouraging news that Wright had taken batting practice and felt no pain. He appears on track for Opening Day at this point, but still, nothing is a certainty, particularly considering the unseasonably cold weather in the Northeast this year. You can bet there is no way the Mets will rush Santana, or Wright, particularly if the latter has the slightest setback.

Even if Wright is back, the Mets will still be shorthanded and face a less than easy slate of games.

terry collins spring 2The schedule opens with home series against the woeful Padres and Marlins, followed by that 10-game road trip to Philadelphia, Minnesota and Colorado. Many prognosticators believe much of the Phillies’ success this year will hinge on the ability of a talented, albeit aged-roster, to remain healthy. Still, this is a team that loves to beat the Mets.

The Rockies and Twins figure to struggle, but the Mets will be away from home. A challenging nine-game homestand follows, which will feature the reigning National League East Champion Nationals, who are frequently predicted to repeat, the high-spending Dodgers and the rival Phillies again. The month closes with the first two games of a six game road swing against the Marlins. In May, New York’s first visit to Atlanta will follow that three-game set in Miami.

The 10-game road is going to be a very interesting early barometer. One key will be how the Mets set themselves up for that road swing against the Padres and Marlins. A 5-1 homestand would sure help take the pressure off away from home. During the Terry Collins‘ era, the Mets have been better on the road than at home, so that could help as well. But there are no guarantees that trend will continue.

No one, including me, wants to overreact to the results in the first few weeks of April, and all the Mets need to worry about early this season is staying at or near .500. While doing that, the hope is to get healthy. And then as the season rolls on bring up the likes of Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud.

If the Mets can get to the Miami series on April 29th no worse than 12-13, they will have done well, all things considered. Hopefully, by that point, the team will be healthier and looking ahead to the summer months and the prospect of Wheeler and d’Arnaud. Doing this will be key to the Mets remaining relevant into the second half of the season.