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by Harold Friend
The New York Mets are in a lot of trouble. In 2006, when New York's other team came within one timely hit of winning the National League pennant, Carlos Beltran, who could have delivered that hit but took a called third strike, hit 41 home runs. Carlos Delgado had 38 home runs.
From 38 to 12
Beltran's 33 home runs led the team in 2007, and Delgado hit another 38 home runs in 2008 on a Mets team that hit a total of 177. In 2009, Daniel Murphy led the Mets with 12 home runs, as the team finished a dismal season with 95 home runs.
Lower Fence in Center Field
The 2010 Mets expect recently acquired Jason Bay, David Wright, David Murphy, Jeff Francoeur and Carlos Beltran to hit home runs. Mets management has decided to cut the height of the center field fence from 16 feet to eight feet. It is a noble gesture, but it should be noted that the Mets finished last with 46 home runs on the road.
First Base Competitors
Mike Jacobs used to play for the Mets. He has rejoined them after batting .228 with Kansas City, but he hit 19 home runs for the team that represents the city the Yankees used to go to get many of its stars. It is expected that Daniel Murphy, Jacobs, and hold over Fernando Tatis, who once hit two grand slams in a single inning, both against Chan Ho Park, will compete for the first base job. How does that compare to Ryan Howard?
Luis Castillo has had more than his share of problems. He is a singles hitter without power. Last season, Castillo, who had what was considered a good year for him, had a .387 on base average and a .346 slugging average. Can anyone say "Hello, Billy Goodman?"
David Wright had a greater power outage than New York City suffered on July 13, 1977. Lennie Randall was facing the Cubs' Ray Burris when the lights went out at Shea Stadium and the rest of the city. Jose Reyes is coming back, supposedly, after missing the major part of last season with some aliments many fans considered mysterious.
A Quiet Operation
In January, it was discovered that Carlos Beltran had surgery on his knee and that he would miss the start of the season. The Mets didn't want Carlos to have the surgery, but he had it done anyway, without their knowledge.
Thou Shall Not Pass
Jeff Francoeur treats pitches the way a mean teacher treats unmotivated students: Thou shall not pass. With the Braves in 2006, Francoeur drew 23 walks in 686 plate appearances. Last season, with the Braves and Mets, Jeff again 23 free passes, this time in 632 plate appearances. He has a .271 lifetime batting average, and averages about 20 home runs over 162 games.
Catching is a disaster area. Omir Santos batted .260, slugged .391, and hit 7 home runs. Prized prospect Josh Thole batted .328 at AA Binghamton, but in 384 at bats, he hit one home run. Not exactly Yogi Berra-type power.
The Mets' pitching is thinner than a middle-class worker's wallet. Johan Santana is returning from surgery to remove bone chips. It is the second time in his career that he has had such a problem.
John Maine, the number two starter, had a huge bone spur removed from his shoulder in 2008. When he returned in 2009, he was placed on the disabled list in June, suffering from "arm fatigue." He worked only 81 and one-third innings, with a 4.43 ERA.
The bullpen has been a disaster area and there is a good chance it will continue to be a problem. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is no longer the dominant fire-ball Angels fans loved. In 2009, Frankie, who is only 27 years old, had a 3.71 ERA, which is poor for a closer. Mariano Rivera has a lifetime 2.25 ERA and an incredible 202 ERA+.
It is expected that Ryota I garashi will set up Rodriguez. Ryota had Tommy John surgery in 2007. The rest of bullpen consists of lefty Pedro Feliciano, who has been inconsistent at best, the often-injured Kelvim Escobar, and many hopefuls.
The Mets collapsed in 2007 when they blew what seemed to be a certain division title. They repeated such a collapse again in 2008. Last season, they collapsed in a different way and finished fourth, 23 games behind the Phillies. The Mets will be a challenged team in 2010.