Believe it or not, I'm more excited about this season, then any since 2007. Why? I'll tell the reasons in the following paragraphs. Here we go...
First of all, I love the new leadership. The hiring of Sandy Alderson was the best thing the Wilpon's ever did. Sandy immediately hired 2 very competent assistants in Ricciardi and DePodesta. As GM's, they had flaws, but both know the game and understand talent. Sandy will lean on them to make big decisions. He'll have to with a diminished payroll and uncertainty with the ownership of the team. I have faith in Sandy who has won a title and has been GM of a team that went to the World Series 3 straight years. He has a plan, uses statistical data, as well as logic and is unfailingly bright. He's the antithesis of Minaya in everyway. Sandy is in control and there is no doubt. The Mets finally have a unified voice and it's a good one.
Secondly, the Mets coaching staff is improved with the addition of Collins and the subtractions of Manuel, Shines and Johnson. Hojo was simply not good, but the other 2 were simply incompetent. Shines may be the worst positional coach in history and was one of the culprits in the card playing imbroglio. Mookie is an upgrade, just by showing up. Who doesn't love and respect Mookie? Manuel was a fraud. He talked about teaching fundamentals, but obviously didn't put the time in, nor had his coaches do so. Collins is old school. This team will play smarter and harder. You can bank on that. Hojo simply wasn't effective. We can only hope the new coach can have some positive effect. I think this team will be better prepared and held accountable.
Thirdly, Ike Davis and Josh Thole are here from the start. I think Davis is going to have a big year and Thole could be a solid catcher. They inject youth and offense to a team that needs it. Davis is also a great defensive player and Thole has shown signs of improvement in the short time he's been here. I like both players and feel they can make a significant contribution in 2011.
Fourth, let's not forget Reyes is playing for a new contract and is truly healthy for the first time in awhile. Last year he came in under a cloud, then had the health problem which sidelined him early on. Reyes understands this administration has some doubts about him and it's up to him to prove himself. If he does, he could be in line for a big pay day here or somewhere else. That's a huge motivation. In the short term(if not long term) it will help the Mets.
Fifth, Wright has that Citifield problem in his rearview mirror. He proved he can hit in the stadium for power and should be a lot more confident coming in. I can see him hitting 30+ HRS and hitting .300. I think he'll be motivated by the doubt in this team as well. David may be quiet, but has pride. I think he's taken the last 2 years personally.
Next, let's face it Beltran is playing for his career. Whether it's CF or RF(let's hope RF), he needs to prove to the baseball world, he can still play and also stay healthy. A few trips to the DL and a subpar season will be disasterous for him as his contract ends. If he has anything left, he better lay it on-the-line in 2011. If not, 2012 may leave few if any options for him. I personally think he'll do okay and be dealt at the deadline to an AL team.
Speaking of needing to prove himself, let's not forget Jason Bay. He had as bad a year as you can have and it ended with a concussion. I believe he'll bounce back and put up his usually Bay-like numbers(20-90-.280) and solidify the line-up.
Other reasons for a positive outlook is the soon to be released Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. These 2 are albatrosses and the posterboys for Omar's incompetence. You are talking 18 million dollars of pork that even the gov't would be ashamed of. 2B should be between Emaus and Murphy. I see a platoon developing and Hu being used as a late inning defensive replacement. Perez's position(long relief) is easily taken by Misch or Gee who are both upgrades, just by putting on the uniform. Adios amigos.
Also, for the first time in forever, I like the bench. Hairston and Harris should be the reserve OF's and they can play all OF positions as well as add some pop off the bench. Harris is a great defensive OF. Paulino was a solid move and if Thole falters, he could easily step in and do a solid job. If Thole does well, he adds another bat off the bench at the least and rests Thole against tough lefties and when he hits the wall. Emaus/Murphy will be on the bench when the other is starting and both have pop, especially Murphy. Hu is the 25th man, but unlike Cora, isn't making 2 million. He's the back-up glove @ 2b and will spell Reyes on occasion @ SS.
Lastly, I think the Mets bullpen will be much better than fans or the media believes. Sure losing Feliciano and Takahashi hurt, but do not undersell the acquisitions of Carrasco and Buchholtz. Both are good middle men and Buchholz was a solid set-up guy for the Rox when he was healthy. If he can throw in the low-mid 90's, he can be used there or as a 7th inning guy. Carrasco also has good stuff and could set-up if needed. Parnell's development is huge here. Parnell could start as the set-up guy and if his fastball moves and he adds a breaking pitch, he may in fact replace TKO-Rod when he's dealt @ the deadline. I also like Tankersley as the lefty specialist.
On the negative side, I'm not happy with the rotation and do not believe Santana will return when they think and/or will not be effective this year. His return is needed to get him ready for 2012 and he shouldn't be pushed, but rather brought along slowly. This organization has too much invested in him, to lose him to a career ending injury. Pelfrey, Dickey and Niese are nice pitchers, but are really #3-#5 starters. You can argue all 3 are #4 or #5 starters on good teams. I do think Young could be a real find if healthy and be the #2 in 2012 if he stays healthy throughout 2011. When healthy, he is a good pitcher and a plausible #2 pitcher. Capuano is fine as the #5, but his health is more in question, than Young's. The rotation is the reason this team will never really be a post-season threat.
Overall, I see this team winning between 80-84 games. Last year I said 82-80. I'll go one better this year with lower expectations from most and say 83-79 and a 3rd place finish. I also think we'll be on the periphery of the wild-card race until mid-late September. I also firmly believe they'll play better fundamental baseball and will add young talent at the deadline that we will see in September. I believe when the year is over, Mets fans will be very optimistic about 2012. As for the start of the Mets season, I'll simply echo Bart Scott's famous words "Can't wait!"