Five questions: New York Mets

The Metropolitans will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2012. Jose Reyes has joined the carnival Miami Marlins. The National League East division didn’t get any easier, so it may not be much of a party in Flushing. Here are a few things that are worth pondering as we head into the new season.

Will the new wall make a noticeable difference?

It’s sure gonna look different. The Mets pulled in the outfield walls in a few places without changing the corner or dead-center distances. The wall has been lowered, too, so Met fans may be looking forward to a little more offense this season. This is a tale best told in pictures and, frankly, with as little speculation as possible.

Cutting the power alleys down to size is one thing, but cutting those fences down at the same time makes things interesting, at least on the surface. This overhead shot shows the basics—no more gimmicky gaps in right and center and a shaved down left-field. It comes from a Met’s press release (via SBNation).

image

You’ve got a new row of seats in left and a new bar area in right. This is real space not some subtle reshaping of the outfield.

image image image

It will be nice to get a year of home run data from Hit Tracker and then map that back to the old layout. See you in a few months…but the purpose of these changes is to make the park more of a hitter-friendly place, obviously. As happy as this will make the hitters, the pitchers will surely be answering a different tone of question from the beat writers in the their postgame remarks.

Will Santana’s shoulder cooperate?

Starting with the thought of Johan Santana and his recovery from a shoulder capsule injury, I asked Will Carroll and Dan Wade for names of other pitchers who had such an issue. Rich Harden, Mark Prior and Chris Carpenter were on my mind, and Carroll and Wade found quite a few from the last five years.

Rich Harden, Johan Santana, Chris Young, John Maine, Pedro Feliciano, Dallas Braden, Kelvim Escobar, Scott Bittle, Chien-Ming Wang, Mark Prior

Wade noticed what you may be noticing—that’s a lot of (ex-)Mets. The severity of these injuries varies, from Maine’s nasty bone spur up to the level of Prior and Carpenter, a procedure that involves things like winding fixed parts around the collar bone. So we have to give it a little more thought when picking a comp for Santana.

Carpenter, who injured his capsule in 2002, has recovered from that and subsequent Tommy John surgery. Prior has struggled, surfaced last year and found his way into a couple minor league games before non-arm injuries derailed him. Escobar hasn’t pitched for a big-league organization (if any) since he was hurt in 2009. Harden, Braden, Felicia and Young are freshly injured. Bittle and Wang are at various stages of their comebacks, with the latter being, in Wade’s estimate, the best comp for Santana.

Folks, those names in that list up there are in roughly chronological order. Don’t count on Santana in 2012, if history tells us anything. Meanwhile, he is prepping as if he’ll start the season on time. So don’t count on history, if Santana’s rehab tells us anything.

Is this David Wright‘s last year in Queens?

The Mets’ star third baseman has been somewhat star-crossed. From his early trials of the next-gen batting helmet to a stress fracture in his back, he’s heading into his age-29 season with two of his last three seasons being curtailed. The Mets have a big decision to make when the season ends, too.

Wright’s contract is running out, and 2013 is either $1 million buyout or a $16 million team option. Wright hits well when healthy, and the adjusted walls could help his production at home this year. But I can’t find a defensive metric that likes him (outside of the Fan Scouting Report, which isn’t exactly glowing and put him as below average in 2011 for the first time in three years). Plus, the Mets are short on money.

So, we have a star player who has possibly peaked at the plate and may need to make a move across the diamond in the next year or two. Given the current situation on that side, one starts to wonder if Wright is jettisoned before the trade deadline.

Who gets the relief innings?

Short answer: the new guys.

The Mets bullpen began a transformation when Francisco Rodriguez was sent to the Brewers. In December, the transformation was completed. Three veteran relievers moved into the back of the bullpen, two via free-agent signings.

Mets 2011 innings leaders: relief pitchers

Pedro Beato
Bobby Parnell
D.J. Carrasco
Manny Acosta
Jason Isringhausen
Francisco Rodriguez*
Ryota Igarashi
Tim Byrdak**

* finished season with Milwaukee
** led team in games pitched

Mets 2012 projected innings leaders: relief pitchers (from THT Forecasts)

Parnell
Jon Rauch
Ramon Ramirez
Frank Francisco
Acosta
Byrdak
Carrasco
Beato

Weakened by Bernie—a question of degree

The 2012 Mets are already going to be arount $50 million cheaper than the 2011 Mets. As you probably know, the Wilpons, majority owners of the Mets, were hurt badly by the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Despite public claims to the contrary, this is impacting the Mets. Howard Megdal, of LoHud.com, wrote a book on the subject and has subsequently found himself on the wrong side of the Wilpons. Megdal is a quality journalist and has not stopped working the story.

As discussed in Megdal’s book, the Wilpons ownership stake is held by Sterling Partners. Of the suite of Mets properties involved (team, ballpark and SNY network), only the broadcasting is profitable. Selling the network is not a viable option despite it’s obvious appeal. Due to structuring of various debts, selling SNY would not put money back in the team’s coffers.

So, sell a share of the unprofitable team to raise cash! Well, a deal to bring in a minority partner fell apart when Fred Wilpon realized he’d eventually lose control of the team he has owned since 1980. It’s complicated, so read the book.

To summarize the latest news, the Wilpons are still seeking minority owners, but it’s not likely that will boost payroll for the team. There are major debts that come due in 2014, a complex lawsuit that will determine how much money Sterling has to pay to Madoff victims, and the added drama of conflicting public statements from Fred Wilpon (often within the same interview). There’s not much reason to expect this saga to be resolved anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Sandy Alderson is trying to get the organization on track. Happy 50th, Mets!

References & Resources
Citi Field photos from Big Apple Mets Talk

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Comments

  1. Lew said...

    The Wilpons and Sterling partners should sell the Mets and retire.  They have mismanged the team’s finances and the team now has a negative net worth as it is in hock up to its ears.  They have spent too little to bring the Mets into contention and consequently attendance and TV ratings have declined.  The Wilpons are in a doom loop, spend less on the team, get less revenue, continue to lose money.  Now they want to sell a minority stake in the team, who in their right mind would want to be a minority owner to these inept executives?

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