By: Michael Ganci

Nine Innings with Alan Hahn

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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.

Monday was our first installment with ESPN NY’s Adam Rubin, which you can see by clicking here. Today, we feature ESPN Radio Host Alan Hahn, a noted Yankee fan who had plenty to say about the Mets moving forward.

Check back tomorrow for part three of the series.

What do you make of this Mets’ team as currently constituted? Are they ready to contend?

The potential of the pitching staff – not just the starters but also the bullpen – allows belief in the prospect of this team contending for the division. But the Nationals loaded up their staff, too, which will make winning this thing very difficult. The issue, to me, will be offense. Will moving the fence at Citi make enough of a difference as the analytics told Sandy they would? I wonder if Granderson will benefit from it as he did at Yankee Stadium and, of course, will David Wright rediscover all-star status?

If they’re missing something, what is that piece? Who would be the guy you’d go out and get and why?

Well the issue is certainly a question at SS. Flores has shown an ability to provide some offense but how often will ground balls that could be outs turn into singles? That puts more pressure on the pitching staff, obviously. This just feels like a team that needs a veteran guy who still has something left in the tank. Who that is, of course, I don’t know, but I keep coming back to Gary Carter/Keith Hernandez types that would create instant upgrade. I know that’s so cliche, but with the youth/talent in the pitching and down the middle of the field, that’s what I see. A guy who can come in and show this team how to make it happen. Wright hasn’t been there-done that in the postseason to offer that kind of leadership.

How do the Mets compete with the Nationals with that superstar rotation? Is the NL East title a distant pipe dream?

As I said above, that’s the reality: the Nationals have a dominant pitching staff and a stud in Bryce Harper with a lineup built around him. The Mets have a potentially solid pitching staff, but their lineup doesn’t come close to the Nats. So while Sandy may look at the prospect of improving by 10 wins, they’re gonna need at least 15 more to sniff the division. Still, I’m not one that thinks the Mets should go into the season with lowered expectations. They need to start convincing their young guys that it’s time to grow up. This is where I think they’re in need of a veteran presence or two to raise the level of the clubhouse.

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?

Wright concerns me. His numbers drop-off, especially the power, could be linked to his change in offseason training and to that shoulder injury, or it could just be attributed to Father Time. We really won’t know until we get into the season. Can he still be a centerpiece? Was he really ever? Another offseason of rehab concerns me, but I hope he puts more work on strength over flexibility this winter, since that change didn’t help alleviate the injury issues as planned. Wish I had a more direct answer, but I think a lot depends on what he did this winter.

Who’s the guy who needs to step up to put the Mets offense over the top?

Daniel Murphy. Hard to believe a guy coming off an All-Star season needs to step up, but we all know the enigma he can be, which is why as pleased as you can be about his season pre-injury, he’s also someone you can see being traded. He has to prove what happened pre All-Star wasn’t a fluke and, most importantly, has to be more reliable in the field at second. The two-hole is so critical in the lineup and consistency from him could be a catalyst to creating the offensive support this pitching staff will need. It could also allow Wright, Cuddyer and Granderson to be more productive hitters, as well.

What are your thoughts on the Yankees? Do you hate them? Do you understand why many Mets fans do?

Well, for starters, I am a card-carrying Yankees fan. Have been since the 70s. But I grew up in a Mets household (parents, sister and even my wife and son are Mets fans!) and therefore I have enough of a respect for the Mets and their history. So I don’t hate the Yankees, obviously and I don’t hate the Mets, either. I can understand why Mets fans hate the Yankees because I grew up a Jets fan and the Giants annoy me with a similar elitist attitude. But deep down, you wish your owner spent money like Steinbrenner did. In the 80s, Doubleday did and look at the results. But then came Bobby Bonilla, the gift that keeps on giving and Bernie Madoff…..

If you could have one team as currently constituted, farm system and all, would you rather have the Mets or the Yankees? Why?

Mets. Easily. Right now they are set up to have a solid team built from the inside for years to come. Far more than the barren Yankees system. The Mets are sort of where the Yankees were in 1992, when Stick Michael put a stop to selling off prospects for expensive vets. But what the Yankees did in building around those young players by spending on veteran free agents to create the dynasty is something I don’t have confidence that the Wilpons would be willing or able to do. Huge difference there.

What’s the best thing to eat or drink at Citi Field?

I always go to Shake Shack. DiPietro and I will be going to several games this summer and I can’t wait.

Finish this sentence. By the end of the season, the Mets will be…

Contending for a wild card spot, as long as the arms stay healthy.

About Michael Ganci

Michael Ganci is the Co-Founder of the Daily Stache, along with Matthew Falkenbury. Since 2008, Ganci has eat, drank and dreamt all things Mets, and he’d have it no other way. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @DailyStache.

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