The New York Mets made headlines in the off-season, but for the wrong reasons. Speculation ran rampant that majority owner Fred Wilpon lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and might be forced to sell the team; Wilpon is now embroiled in a related lawsuit. Major League Baseball could step in and take over if needed, but it’s hardly the kind of news that inspires confidence for the club’s present and future.
The Action: The past off-season was more about losses than gains for the Mets. All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes departed via free agency. General manager Sandy Alderson traded outfielder Carlos Betran (and cash) to the Giants for pitcher Zack Wheeler, and dealt Angel Pagan to San Francisco in a separate deal for outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez.
Speaking of the bullpen, the Mets picked up Toronto’s co-closers from last season: Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch will now toe the mound in late-inning situations.
It’s A Lock: The Mets have 99 problems but it appears that, for now at least, Johan Santana ain’t one. The lefthanded fireballer threw 42 pitches in his second spring start and looks to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery on his pitching shoulder which kept him out for the entire 2011 season.
They’ll need the two-time Cy Young winner to stay off the disabled list, because their training room has already been busy in 2012 and will probably remain so throughout the season. Meanwhile, the other southpaw starter, Jonathon Niese, is working on a change-up which looked effective.
Hedge Your Bets: It’s only spring training, but already manager Terry Collins is dealing with significant injury woes to his lineup. Third baseman David Wright is taking cortisone shots for an inflamed ribcage; Justin Turner could see more time at the hot corner as could Ronny Cedeno, who will also back up Ruben Tejada at shortstop, or Daniel Murphy, who is listed as the starter at second base.
Ike Davis played only 36 games last season, and was allegedly diagnosed with “Valley Fever,” a lung infection. He doesn’t seem to be hampered so far, though, with four hits in 10 spring at-bats.
Torres has played more than 100 games only twice in his seven-year career, and formerly steady Jason Bay has turned into an injury liability since arriving in Queens. Lucas Duda is learning how to play right field; converted pitcher Adam Loewen could provide cover for Duda or Bay. The catchers are Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas and Rob Johnson, who will remind no one of the recently deceased Gary Carter.
In the bullpen, lefty reliever Tim Byrdak has had surgery on his knee: Pedro Beato and D.J. Carrasco are also hurting. Starters Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Dillon Gee don’t exactly cause opponents’ knees to buckle; pitching prospects Chris Schwinden and Jenrry Mejia will get their chance to show what they can do.
The Payoff: With far more questions than answers, the Mets’ chances of winning anything this season will be miraculous; the MLB futures betting reflects that. All the signals indicate a long, tiring season ahead in Metland. Are Ed Kranepool and Jerry Koosman still available?