Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day: 2012 Mets more like 1978 squad than 1984

It's impossible to sell the current Mets squad as a contender, so some are attempting to draw comparisons to 1984, when a team that had won 68 games the year before and had not been good for years suddenly won 90 games. But the 1984 Mets already had Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry and were adding a rookie named Dwight Gooden.

The 2012 Mets have three players who have had multiple All-Star appearances - David Wright, Johan Santana and Jason Bay. If all three of these players have seasons representative of what they've done in the past, and a lot of other things go right, the Mets can win 90 games.

But everyone knows that's not going to happen. Even team apologists have given up hoping the new fences will help the hopeless Bay and are muttering about platooning, though there's currently nobody to platoon him with.

While Santana's comeback is probably the most positive thing about the 2012 Mets, the most optimistic projections fall well short of his former status as perennial Cy Young candidate.

David Wright does have a good chance to return to his former glory, and if he does, what's a potential scenario?

He gets traded.

When the Mets finally return to contention,they are going to look drastically different than they do now. While Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada and Jon Niese could all be part of a future contender, with the possible exception of Davis, all figure to be complementary pieces more than part of an All-Star core.

At this point, I'd settle for comparison to 1983, when that 68-win squad did finish the season with a lineup that included Hernandez, Strawberry, Mookie Wilson, Hubie Brooks and George Foster.

But in the short run, the 2012 Mets figure to be more like the 1978 version, when the team that got rid of Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman the year before tried to make do with what was left.

Jose Reyes is no Tom Seaver, but he might be just as irreplaceable. And the Mets also start a season without Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, who were both with the team last year into July. With all these players, the Mets were one game over .500 at the All-Star break, only to go 31-40 in the second half.

It was almost like rubbing it in when ESPN's kickoff of the 2012 season (at least on American soil) featured Reyes and Beltran performing for their new teams, the Marlins and Cardinals.

Let's hope it's not too long before the Mets are again worth featuring on ESPN.

But in the meantime, I expect 72 wins this year and a last-place finish, but at least some hope for the future with positive showings from Davis, Niese and Duda and a late-season appearance by Matt Harvey.

As for the Yankees, 92 wins and the playoffs. Robinson Cano competes for MVP while A-Rod continues his decline. Brian Cashman blames Seattle for overusing Michael Pineda.

Squawker Lisa has at least one Met prediction I'm willing to print - the team announces on Opening Day that they are retiring Gary Carter's number. Let's hope so.

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