D.J. Short is a senior writers for Rotoworld and he also is a blogger for Hardball Talk at NBCSports.com.
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?
Sure, I think they are contenders. The pitching staff is among the best in the National League and the lineup (if things break right) should be decent. The only issue is that there are about seven other teams who I feel could easily contend for a Wild Card spot. And the Mets haven’t separated themselves enough from the pack to be considered a favorite. I see them as a low-to-mid 80s win team right now.
If they’re missing something, what is that piece? Who would be the guy you’d go out and get and why?
The Mets had two clear needs this offseason: a corner outfielder and a shortstop. You could say they addressed one by signing Michael Cuddyer (though giving up a first-round pick was obviously questionable), but there’s still that glaring weakness at shortstop. I think Wilmer Flores will hit a little bit, but the defense? Yeah, not so great. I don’t want to say they should have gotten this guy or that guy, because it’s not that simple. There was no easy answer this winter.
Acquiring one year of Ian Desmond would have reportedly have required giving up Noah Syndergaard, and I didn’t think that made any sense. Arguing that they could have done the deal with an extension window is no sure thing either, as he reportedly turned down a $100 million extension from the Nationals already. And there’s always the issue of the Wilpons’ finances. Troy Tulowitzki was a complicated situation. He’s coming off hip surgery and is very expensive. The Rockies are hesitant to move him and would want a major haul to justify a trade to their fanbase. A deal for one of the Cubs shortstops (whether it’s Starlin Castro or one of their prospects) has always made sense on paper, but it doesn’t seem like there has ever been traction on it.
An in-season upgrade is still possible. Maybe the A’s fall out of the race and shop Ben Zobrist. Not sure he’s someone you’d rely on at shortstop for 162 games, but you could maybe get away with it for two months.
How do the Mets compete with the Nationals with that superstar rotation? Is the NL East title a distant pipe dream?
If you go into the season thinking the Mets can compete for the National League East title, you will probably be disappointed. The Nationals would be heavy favorites even if they didn’t sign Max Scherzer. Tanner Roark is headed to the bullpen and he posted a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts last season. Not bad at all.
Still, with Harvey back and some combination of Wheeler, deGrom, Niese, Colon, Gee behind him and Montero, Syndergaard, and Matz not far off, the Mets will be throwing a quality starter out there every night. And that’s something. At the very least, I think they have a decent chance to do better than the 4-15 record they put up against the Nationals last year. It can’t get worse, right? Well, I guess it could, but let’s try to not think about that.
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 shoulder is the big key, but even assuming that Wright is feeling good, it’s important to keep things in perspective. He just turned 32, so we might have already seen the best of him. It’s too bad that he has had to play out his prime on a bunch of lousy teams. Still, I’d sign up for 18-20 homers and an .800 OPS or something close to that. I think it’s reasonable if he’s healthy. He’ll certainly be happy with the latest dimension changes at Citi Field.
Who’s the guy who needs to step up to put the Mets offense over the top?
Well, the last question was about David Wright, who would likely be at the top of the list for me here. However, putting him aside, I’ll go with Travis d’Arnaud. Something clicked for him following his demotion last year and he was great during the second half, at least offensively. He was a little rough around the edges behind the plate, but it seems like his elbow issue had something to do with that. Anyway, if he can put together a full season offensively similar to what he did after his demotion last year, that would really lengthen this lineup.
What are your thoughts on the Yankees? Do you hate them? Do you understand why many Mets fans have so much animosity towards the Yankees?
Hate is a really strong word. I don’t hate any team. With the nature of my job, I have come to appreciate and enjoy watching pretty much everyone. I just like to be entertained and root for good baseball. It doesn’t matter who it is.
I grew up in Maryland, so I didn’t experience the Yankees/Mets “rivalry” quite like locals in New York did. I have a different perspective on it because of that. The Yankees are in the AL East and the Mets are in the NL East, so it’s not worth devoting a lot of time to it in the big picture. But I can certainly see why some Mets fans might not like the Yankees. They have had a lot of success and it’s easy to feel like second-class citizens in this city. Your dad/mom/brother/aunt/uncle, etc. might be a Yankees fan, so I get it. Still, I don’t think about it much.
If you could have one team as currently constituted, farm system and all, would you rather have the Mets or the Yankees? Why?
Yankees. I say that even though I believe the Mets will have a better record than the Yankees this year. The Mets also have a better farm system and more impact players close to the majors. However, the difference for me is commitment from ownership. The Wilpons don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt from me at this time. You can at least count on the Yankees to always try to win. And that’s the most you can ask for if you are a fan.
What’s the best thing to eat or drink at Citi Field?
I understand that the line can be too long for some people’s taste and you can get it in other locations around the city, but the double-shack burger is my go-to. The bacon on a stick from Pig Guy NYC became another favorite of mine when they opened last summer.
Finish this sentence. By the end of the season, the Mets will be…
Over .500 for the first time since 2008, but a couple of games short of a Wild Card spot.