As we revealed on Saturday, #9Innings is a new interview series in which several people throughout the sports world have agreed to participate in.
It’s all about the Mets as Spring Training approaches. Today, we’re proud to bring you the first installment. Call me biased, but Adam Rubin went to my high school and always has his finger on the pulse of the Mets for ESPN New York, and were lucky enough to include him on today’s edition.
Check back tomorrow for part two of this daily installment.
What do you make of this Mets’ team as currently constituted? Are they ready to contend?
The Mets have produced six straight losing seasons, tied with the Houston Astros for the longest active streak in the majors. I do believe they will post a winning record in 2015, snapping that streak. But I also believe the win total will be in the 83-to-85 range. That should be enough to keep the Mets within proximity of the wild-card leaders and ensure, to use a loaded phrase, meaningful games in September. Still, the Mets could have done more this offseason to ensure legitimate playoff contention.
If they’re missing something, what is that piece? Who would be the guy you’d go out and get and why?
Sandy Alderson identified at the beginning of the winter his priorities as adding an outfield bat, an upgrade at shortstop and a second lefty reliever to complement Josh Edgin. The only additions were Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr. as well as Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, a left-hander. Clearly, a lot will hinge on Wilmer Flores’ capacity at shortstop. And Edgin may end up the lone lefty in the bullpen if the Mets are dissatisfied with the southpaw competitors during spring training (Gilmartin, Scott Rice, Dario Alvarez, Darin Gorski, Jack Leathersich). Who’d be the guy you’d go out and get? I could pander and say Troy Tulowitzki, but that’s a nonstarter for the Mets. And it’s too late on some of the most viable winter options, such as Didi Gregorius.
How do the Mets compete with the Nationals with that superstar rotation? Is the NL East title a distant pipe dream?
Barring a trade of Jordan Zimmermann or Stephen Strasburg before Opening Day, you would expect the Mets would see Max Scherzer, Zimmermann and Strasburg in D.C. in some order during the opening series. The Mets are not going to compete with the Nats this year, considering the caliber of Washington’s offense as well. The Nats may be the best team in the majors on paper. So the Mets’ aim should be to get to the upper 80s in wins and capture a wild-card slot. The good news for Mets fans is that the Atlanta Braves have taken a step back to retool and the Philadelphia Phillies will be dreadful, so it’s really the Mets and Miami Marlins jockeying for second place in the division. And Washington soon will start to break up … at least a little. Zimmermann and Ian Desmond are eligible for free agency after the upcoming season.
David Wright had a career-worst year in 2014. Do you think we should expect a marginalized player moving forward or do you have hope in a resurgence?
The curiosity is whether Wright’s production has slipped because he is getting older – he turned 32 in December – or because his left-shoulder injury sapped his power. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He disclosed late last season that his left shoulder was loose in the socket. He had only eight home runs last season. If the shoulder is now stable, I’m sure he’ll generate at least modestly more power. And, remember, the walls are moving closer in right-center as well. That said, his overall production has declined from his earlier days. And that’s a little scary given the $20 million-a-year commitment through 2018, which then goes to $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.
Who’s the guy who needs to step up to put the Mets offense over the top?
I know Michael Cuddyer is the new addition, but the Mets will go nowhere unless Wright and Curtis Granderson have more productive seasons than a year ago.
What are your thoughts on the Yankees? Do you hate them? Do you understand why many Mets fans do?
I don’t give the Yankees much thought at all. When I read baseball coverage, I usually read about the NL East and upcoming Mets opponents. I don’t know if you can generalize about Mets fans’ contempt, but when a team has double your team’s payroll, I can see that as being an annoyance.
If you could have one team as currently constituted, farm system and all, would you rather have the Mets or the Yankees? Why?
I’d definitely take the Mets (with the Yankees’ payroll capacity). The Mets are young and talented and positioned to win if they add a few pieces that they may not have the financial capability to bring on. Just look at the Mets’ Triple-A rotation, which could include Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Rafael Montero, Matt Bowman and Cory Mazzoni.
What’s the best thing to eat or drink at Citi Field?
The beat writers swear by Mama’s.
Finish this sentence. By the end of the season, the Mets will be…