Ya gotta believe: Five things the Mets can do to contend in 2013
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As a New York Mets fan, one can often feel like something of a punching bag. First of all, we live in close proximity to the Yankees, the closest thing baseball’s had to a dynasty in a generation. Secondly, the Wilpons. Third, the epic collapse. Fourth, getting clowned by the Bernie Madoff scheme. Fifth … well, you get it.
In light of the above, it’s easy to forget that the Mets are only a handful of years from being one out — and one Yadier (bleeping) Molina home run — from the World Series. Jimmy Rollins chirped to the world that we (and by “we,” I henceforth loosely mean the Mets) had no heart, and it worked — to the tune of one of the most embarrassing season-ending collapses in major league history. That was right before a string of injuries, bad luck and bad contracts doomed the Mets to several years of frustrating mediocrity that many speak of as if it’s been decades-long … to which I reply, have you seen the Pirates’ past couple of decades? Then again, the Pirates have stuck around late enough in the season that they almost seem clear of their running-joke status, and even the Orioles are finally getting out of their own way, so let’s just get back to the Mets.
In order to break through the water-treading mediocrity that has bedeviled them in recent seasons, the Mets need only make a few moves. That’s right — they really aren’t that far! Preposterous, you say? Well, here are five things that can have them contending seriously in 2013.
1. Send Jason Bay back to the American League
Look, I have nothing against Jason Bay. He came here with excessive hype, having flourished in hitters parks and under the radar. But that’s the thing. While Shea Stadium and Citi Field have killed the power numbers of bigger sluggers than Bay, and even dampened the numbers of guys like Mike Piazza, it’s also the case that Shea and Citi have exposed previously-thought-to-be-power-hitters like Bay for what they are: gap-to-gap line-drive hitters with warning-track power. Bay hit for power in Boston, because if he got under it a bit, it left the yard or banged off the Green Monster. Even his line-drive floaters were doubles in Fenway, and moreover, he played in the AL East, which is chock-full of hitter-friendly parks. You might retort that he hit well in Pittsburgh, leading me to the second part of my point, which is, in Pittsburgh, he was basically off the grid. Not much pressure there, playing for a perennial bottom-feeder, while there’s tons of pressure playing for an East Coast team, on the cusp of contending, that pins their hopes on your cleanup prowess. And then, during his time here, Bay’s been concussed twice and has broken his ribs — mostly while hustling on defense (though, to be fair, he is quite a good defender) to make up for his disappointments at the plate. He’s swung big and long, and swung at a lot of junk, and spiraled. He’s become, at a less-than-advanced age, a shell of himself — but I think that with a new start he can be effective somewhere. Somewhere where he can bat fifth or sixth, hit a lot of doubles and drive in runs, throw out base runners and not kill his career trying to make up for a bad impression. We can trade low for him, maybe get a serviceable relief pitcher and clear room for move number two …
2. Make Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin the core of the outfield
Mike Baxter has good speed and hustle; he gets a good jump on the ball, and he plays a good left field. He’s got a steady bat and nice athleticism, and the makings of a solid overall hitter. Jordany Valdespin is fast, energetic and strong, and he looks like still might fill out a bit. He and Baxter could make a nice one-two punch at the top of the order, as long as Valdespin keeps his batting average high enough to hit from the two-hole. Neither would have to be slap-happy about stealing bases, either; having two fast, aggressive athletes at the top of the order puts plenty of pressure on a defense. David Wright is a legitimate number-three hitter, and with that sort of athleticism on the bases, Wright could stick to being the kind of hitter he is at his best: line-drive dominant, with 15-20 home run power. Daniel Murphy would be a dream in the five spot, as a lefty doubles machine who makes good contact and rarely makes a bad out. We’d just need a good cleanup bat between them, which brings me to my next point …
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