By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper
I love when creative juices start flowing when I talk about non-Mets issues. Take for instance this Jeremy Lin guy on the New York Knicks. I am not a basketball fan (I used to follow John Stockton and Karl Malone back in the day), but it’s tough to live in New York City and not buy into the hype surrounding this guy after only five games.
My husband is a basketball fan, and we were talking about the Lin phenomenon in our house the other night. So much so that he even wrote a post comparing him to Jon Niese on the Mets (just read it – it makes sense, trust me). What also happened in our little conversation is that I remarked that I wondered if the hype machine was working a little too much for someone like Lin. Please note again that I don’t follow basketball. However, he agreed with me and said, “You know, he could very well turn into Gregg Jefferies.”
This was also truly funny, because our friend and blolleague Metstradamus wrote a post about Jefferies the other day. I was a Jefferies fan and probably was the first player I ever drank the Mets Kool-Aid on in my tenure as a fan. Over the years, I can’t say I’ve gotten any better with overvaluing our home grown talent. Over the years, I’ve bought the hype on Generation K till Dallas Green pitched Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen into the ground. I SURVIVED LASTINGS MILLEDGE. Carlos Gomez, who didn’t even turn out to be the best prospect traded for Johan Santana. Shawn Abner, Stanley Jefferson. The list just goes on and on. I wrote a few years ago that I was sick of drinking the Kool-Aid surrounding Mets prospects, and the one in question was Jenrry Mejia.
Yet, out of the other side of my mouth, I say, “I’d rather lose with the young guys than the overpaid veterans that have been par for the course these last few years.” And it’s true. I think win or lose, it’s more palatable when it’s young hungry guys who are balls-to-the-wall competitive and just love to play baseball.
Daniel Murphy is someone I am excited to see come back this year. This is a dude with something to prove. While he’s not exactly a “young” guy, since he’s been with the team in some capacity since 2008, he’s not exactly a veteran either. Those of us who are “With28″ are excited of the prospect of him playing a full season. Especially since last year, up till his dramatic injury, he was in the thick of things in the batting title race.
Ike Davis also has the potential to be the home run leader on the team this year. His inaugural season had him hitting monster home runs and driving in lots of runs. If moving the walls in does what it’s supposed to do, Davis could very well have a breakout season after one marred with injury.
Jonathon Niese is a curious case. Many people have proclaimed this could be a breakout year. While I get concerned that Dan Warthen isn’t an adequate pitching coach to bring out the best in his staff, the truth is Niese has the goods to become better on his own. If he can stay healthy throughout the year (and his injury history isn’t even pitching related, it’s mostly overall conditioning), he could be the best pitcher on staff (that is, if the “old” Johan Santana doesn’t show up, which is quite possible).
Dillon Gee is also another character that could easily get better this year in his role as starter. After all, he doesn’t have much of a choice due to lack of depth in the rotation. That’s okay though. Gee is a good problem to have.
Much ado has been made about the nothing payroll that the Mets have under Sandy Alderson’s watch this year. Meanwhile, in the past, all the Mets have done is spend and not win. Perhaps this is a cause-and-effect analysis by this new institution: let’s tap into resources we already have. It’s not a bad plan, since they seem intent on building up within and shoring out the farm system. Plus, Alderson did right by not trading Niese or Davis, which I probably would have keeled over had that happened. I was prepared to let Jose Reyes go…not prepared to trade one or two young guys that I have a feeling are just on the precipice of having a great season. If Alderson pays attention to dollars and cents as much as we are led to believe he has to in order to keep this team at an operating level, he is smart enough to realize that keeping guys who are under team control for a few years are a better alternative than trading them for prospects who may not be ready to contribute at a major league level at this point.
Right now, $57 million on the projected $87 million payroll is devoted to THREE guys: Santana, David Wright and Jason Bay. This is well over 50% of the payroll devoted to a crapshoot, a guy who tries too damn hard and someone who needs to have a wall-induced breakout year so that perhaps his underwater contract can be tradeable.
Letting the young guys duke it out doesn’t sound so horrible, now, does it?
In the past, the Mets have been notorious for hyping up their own prospects. In fact, potential Jeremy Lins have popped up more often than not in the Mets history than we care to admit who have later faltered. Circa 1990, I read an article on Gregg Jefferies titled, “Troubled Phenom.” It was probably the first time that I realized that not all prospects are “sure things.” It was a kick in the head but one that made me realize that not all children turn out to be the future.
In the 2012 Mets case, I’ve seen enough of these players to know they can play. None of them have daddy issues or helicopter parenting and possibly know that to lead is to lead by example. They also seem wise enough to keep things in the clubhouse, where they belong.
Yes, I say I’d rather if the Mets lose, they do with the young guys. Yet, young guys have proven the ability to just go out and play when it matters. So that’s why I am excited about these phenoms for 2012. The Mets may surprise us…my dad think they’ll be worse than we think…but I tend to be a little more optimistic than that.