By: Michael Ganci

Nine Innings with John Harper

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John Harper has been a baseball columnist at the Daily News since 1994. He has authored or co-authored 5 books, including Mel Stottlemyre’s autobiography.

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?

If Matt Harvey regains his dominance after Tommy John surgery, I think the Mets’ pitching gives this team a legitimate chance to contend, but I’m not sure the Mets have enough offense to make the big jump to the post-season.

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

The obvious piece would be a top-notch shortstop, a topic that has been discussed all winter. I thought Starlin Castro was the right guy, but the Cubs were reluctant to trade him after they signed Jon Lester and started thinking they can contend in 2015. But the Cubs do have uber-prospect Addison Russell coming, and I think the Mets still could have convinced them to give up Castro if they had been willing to give up Syndergaard and another pitcher. Ian Desmond was tempting, but finances are still a major issue and the Mets weren’t going to sign Desmond long-term, it didn’t make sense to trade Syndergaard for a one-year rental.

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

As good as the Nationals’ pitching is, I think the Mets can pitch with them, and the bullpen could still be an issue for the Nationals. But the Nationals have a huge edge offensively, and I do think they’ll win the NL East convincingly.

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?

I think there is legitimate reason to believe David Wright can bounce back in a big way. I’m convinced his shoulder injury was a major factor, preventing him from driving the outside pitch to right-center, always a power spot for him during his career. As a result, he was vulnerable to pitches away for much of the season. With a healthy shoulder, he should go back to using the whole field, putting up numbers.

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

I think it’s Wright. The Mets desperately need a strong No. 3 hitter in that lineup, and if Wright can fill that need, a lot of pieces could fall into place around him. More power from Curtis Grandson, now that the right-field fence has been moved in again, is another key.

What are your thoughts on the Mets? Do you hate them? Do you understand why many Mets fans have so much animosity towards the Yankees? 

I’m not a fan so I don’t root for one team or the other. I don’t know about hate, but I understand why Mets’ fans get tired of hearing about the Yankees, especially after all the success the Yankees have enjoyed over the last 20 years. It’s the nature of the beast; fans should be passionate, and when there are two teams in town, that passion is bound to collide.

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 have to take the Mets based on their young major league-ready pitching and the state of their farm system as well. The Yankees have been dragged down by bad contracts and some key aging, injury-prone players. If, however, you were to tell me the Mets will continue to be limited financially in the next several years, with a payroll in the bottom half of all major-league teams, I’d probably take the Yankees because, at some point, their financial advantage will allow them to rebound in a big way.

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

Can’t beat the Shake Shake burgers but when I’m working I don’t usually have time to wait in the lines and often go for a Mama Corona’s sandwich. They’re very good.

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

in the wild-card race until late, close enough to convince fans that 2016 could be their year…if ownership/managment is willing to spend on or trade for another key offensive player.

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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