By: Michael Ganci

Nine Innings with Andy Martino

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Andy Martino works for the New York Daily News by providing columns about baseball and long stories about other topics too. He’s also on Daily News Live weekdays at  5 p.m. and SportsNite Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. on SNY.

Today, he plays the roll of Mets critic as he looks at the Amazins’ and their season ahead and gives us his take on today’s edition of #9innings.

For previous editions of #9innings, click here.

Here are his thoughts:

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

They are ready to contend, in the sense that they could be .500 or slightly better – which puts a team in the wild card conversation.  A .500 ballclub can get hot at the right time, and suddenly be in the playoff picture.  But there are still many “what ifs,” and plenty of scenarios where one could imagine yet another 70-something win season.

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

Shortstop really is an issue, even though everyone is sick of hearing about it (and believe me, I’m sick of writing about it).  At the winter meetings in San Diego two months ago, even rivals who respect the Alderson front office could not believe that the Mets were actually talking about going with Wilmer Flores.  And I can tell you that the Mets investigated many alternatives, and are well aware of the risks they are facing.

Flores is a superlative worker, serious and dedicated.  Unlike Ruben Tejada, he will get the most out of his talent.  As a shortstop, though, that might not be good enough.

Also, I’d worry about their closer situation.  For a team that sees itself in the playoffs, they don’t have one guy who has been a successful closer for a full season. To that end, K-Rod would have been a nice addition.

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

The Mets are in the conversation for the N.L. East title – assuming Washington’s entire roster decides on the same day to quit baseball and enter the burgeoning marijuana business in Colorado.

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?

Very hard to predict.  I can say that this is the year that will define Wright as a player either past his prime, or still able to contribute on a high level.  Another season marred by injuries and struggle will leave the irrevocable mark of the declining player.  It’s too soon to label Wright that way, but this season is crucial. (see what I did there? I dodged your question)

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

It’s more than one guy. If two of these people – Wright, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson – do not turn back time and have big years, the team is sunk.

What are your thoughts on the Yankees? Do you hate them? 

I don’t understand why any adult would have room in his or her heart to hate a sports team.  Shouldn’t we reserve our hate for Isis, or Phil Collins?

I enjoy covering the Yankees, because they are an international brand on a whole other level from most sports teams. They enjoy is a cultural relevance that is reserved for behemoths like the Lakers and Cowboys.  A-Rod, for example, is the best story in baseball, because of the feelings he inspires and complex issues that he raises; there is no individual in the game more interesting to write about.  Jeter had the same effect – when you wrote about him, you wrote about a true crossover American celebrity, which is so rare for baseball.

I enjoy covering the Mets, because I have deeper relationships in the organization from my former role as a beat writer, and find Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins to be fascinating human beings, in many different ways.

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

What a great and tough question.  After a lot of thought, here’s my answer: I’d take the Mets’ talent, from the big leagues on down.  But I’d still rather be the Yankees, because they wield a financial advantage that makes it so much easier to paper over the issues that arise during a season.  Plus, their farm system is improving.

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

Personally? Old Grand-Dad whiskey, in furtive nips from a sippy cup, with stale graham crackers.

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

Wealthy. All 25 of them.  Even the scrubs are making so much more than we are.

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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