Six questions with a guy who loves the Mets as much as you do the Twins.
Over at Amazin' Avenue, where they talk all kinds of Mets baseball, writes a fellow by the name of Steve Schreiber. He approached me a couple of days ago about exchanging some questions in advance of the Twins-Mets tilt at Target Field this weekend. I asked him about Johan Santana, David Wright, Matt Harvey, and we even touched on when the Mets might be a contending ball club.
Thanks to Steve for his time!
1. What's the ideal progression for Ike Davis? Can he make better contact without losing out on his power potential?
Ike Davis' offensive struggles have been confounding to say the least. If you didn't know, through the first two months of last season, Davis hit an atrocious .170/.228/.296 before finding his stroke in June and hitting a strong .253/.341/.536 with 27 home runs the rest of the way. Many of us chalked the poor start up to him missing the majority of 2011 with an ankle injury and his fight with Valley Fever that cropped up in spring training 2012. This year those issues obviously aren't there, which makes his start a bit troubling. He had a great spring but since the start of the regular season, his mechanics have seemingly gone out of whack and he's also standing really far away from the plate for some reason.
The ideal progression for Davis would be to find what he was doing the last four months of last season and do that all year. That means same stance, same mechanics, etc. (Ike has a tendency to tinker with his stance often throughout the year). If he can hit like that over a whole season and couple that with his usual strong defense, which he did for most of the second half of 2012, he seems likely to be the team's first baseman for a very long time. Unfortunately, the abysmal starts in 2012 and 2013 are disconcerting and lead us to question what to make of him, even if this is obviously a very small sample.
2. Give us a scouting report on Matt Harvey. I picked him up for my fantasy team last year and drafted him as my 2nd or 3rd starter this year, so I have a vested interest in his future.
Matt Harvey throws gas on the mound, featuring a mid to upper-90's fastball that seems to jump towards home plate (here it is in animated GIF form
) to go along with a filthy slider that Keith Law put a 70 grade on and an NL scout said may be the best in baseball right now (here's a pair
of animated GIFs
). He also throws a curveball and a still developing changeup, both of which have shown some promise. As a power pitcher, his command isn't pinpoint by any means but with his swing and miss stuff, he doesn't really need it to be. Assuming he doesn't get hurt, we're very excited by what Harvey has developed into and his starts have already become can't miss events, sort of like what R.A. Dickey's
were a year ago. Beyond his stuff, I think the one of the most impressive things about Harvey is his poise on the mound and his competitive nature. The guy is intense but ultra confident out there.
3. Did anyone really win the Johan Santana trade? Will he pitch again?
No, probably not. When he was able to pitch, the Mets got some great innings out of Santana over the life of the deal and his spectacular no-hitter last year is something that Mets fans will cherish forever. But the goal of the trade from the Mets' perspective was to propel the team to win a World Series and they failed at that (pretty spectacularly, I might add). Unfortunately for us, Santana was hurt for a large portion of the contract, certainly not unexpected when dealing with a pitcher over the age of 30, his huge contract (along with many others) ultimately bogged down the team's finances after Omar Minaya left, and the Bernie Madoff clawback lawsuit forced the team to go lean with adding payroll the last few seasons. Things just didn't work out. With all of that said, while the deal didn't get the desired result, I'll always appreciate the memories of watching Johan pitch for the Mets. He was just downright awesome in 2008 and he was a great deal of fun to watch throw every fifth day.
Knowing Johan as the competitor that he is (and I'm sure Twins fans can easily attest to this), I'm confident that Johan will pitch again at some point after the surgery and rehab. It likely won't be with the Mets but I think he'll step on a big league mound in a game situation at some point. It's pretty amazing that after the surgery and all of the time off in 2011, he was still able to throw to a 2.38 ERA and a strikeout an inning through his first 68 innings last year. I wouldn't put anything past him.
4. I get the sense that David Wright to certain Mets fans is a bit like Joe Mauer to certain Twins fans, in that he's chronically under-appreciated and may not be seen as who he truly is (one of the best talents to ever go through the organization and a future team Hall of Famer) until after his career is over. How true is that assessment? Is something as obvious as "winning a World Series" the only way to get over that hump, or is even that accomplishment not going to be enough?
That seems like an apt comparison, as that idea does exist in some factions of the fanbase. There are many who see Wright as the best position player this organization has ever developed, a potential Hall of Fame talent, and a bonafide star at third base (which he is). Of course, there are others who see him as the face of the team's collapses, an unclutch choker, and a perennial losing player (luckily those folks don't inhabit Amazin' Avenue, I'm glad to say). I think a part of that general dislike from some comes from the fact that it was Jose Reyes
who was allowed to leave, while Wright got the big contract a year later. In my mind, the two had little to do with each other – the Reyes system was unfortunate, as the Mets were cash strapped in December 2011 and the Marlins
threw big money in Reyes' face. By the time Wright was up for an extension a year later, the financial picture had cleared up and luckily, he wanted to stick around.
I think winning a World Series ring would probably help the perception of Wright, though it really shouldn't matter. He's not only one of the best players in the game but a leader and a spokesperson for the team. In terms of franchise history, he'll likely be looked at as the offensive counterpart to Tom Seaver when all is said and done and for me, it's been a pleasure to watch him develop and turn into a star in the big leagues.
5. I feel the Mets fleeced the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade. How do Mets fans feel about that swap?
Most Mets fans feel the same way and believe me, we loved R.A. Dickey as much as you can possibly love a baseball player (at Amazin' Avenue, he became a deity and we even had two separate photoshop contests using his pitch face). At the beginning of the offseason, fans were leery of trading R.A. but once Sandy Alderson worked his magic and was able to grab Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard
, John Buck
, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Blue Jays for a 38-year old knuckleballer in Dickey (along with Josh Thole
and Mike Nickeas
), it was essentially a no-brainer, even if Dickey was coming off of a Cy Young award. The deal gave the improved Mets' farm system some more upside in d'Arnaud, Syndergaard, and Becerra, to go along with a stopgap upgrade in Buck behind the plate and it ultimately helps push forward with the team's rebuilding process.
6. What's your timeline for seeing the Mets as a team ready to compete for the NL East title?
It takes a bit of wishcasting to see it but I think the organization's hope is that the team is ready to compete for at least a Wild Card spot in 2014 and a division title by 2015. The future is getting brighter and I think they're legitimately better than people think, though there are still obvious holes – all three outfield spots, namely. In an ideal world, d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler
come up later this year and solidify the catcher position and a rotation spot respectively, allowing the Mets to go shopping for some outfielders in the offseason. Alderson and team owner Fred Wilpon have both stated that they plan to open up the wallets this offseason with the last of the Minaya money finally off the books (and they nearly did in the offseason with Michael Bourn
), so hopefully the team's outfield will look a lot different (i.e. better) a year from now. Looking ahead, the free agent outfield crop looks a bit thin but the organization's biggest strength is currently in young, hard-throwing pitching (even outside of Harvey, Wheeler, and Syndergaard), so I could certainly see them dangling some of those young arms in exchange for an outfielder or two.