April 04, 2007

3 Keys To A Successful Season By The Mets

By Jonathan Elfenbein

Obviously, there are many keys to the Mets achieving a successful season. However, I have identified what I think are 3 key things that MUST happen in order for the Mets to reach the World Series this season.

1.) Aaron Heilman must repeat and build upon past successes.
With the loss of Duaner Sanchez, for most if not all of this season, as well as Mota's 50-game suspension, Heilman's role as the set-up man to closer Billy Wagner is even more vital than in year's past. There is no Sanchez or Hernandez to get the ball to Wagner this year, nor even Chad Bradford, and while I like what each of their replacements brings to the table, Heilman's success is practically as vital, if not AS vital, to the Mets' chances this season as Wagner's is. If I were GM, I'd sign Heilman to a 3 year deal for somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 mil per, and assure his agent (and Heilman, of course) how much he's valued to the team! A happy, successful Heilman means a successful bullpen (or at least a large portion of it).

2.) John Maine realizes his potential over a full season as a bonafide #3 starter. Over at metsblog (click the link), a reader asks about John Maine's potential this season. Matt Cerone posted the following:

…in talking to people in baseball prior to the season, it sounds like most feel he can win around 12 or 13 games, post an ERA around 4.00, and chalk up a good number of strike outs while pitching close to 180 innings…

…frankly, i think he can be better than that, since those are pretty middle-of-the-road type numbers…

I agree with Cerone's last statement- if Maine were pitching for the Indians, Twins, Red Sox or Braves, he'd be annointed by the media as a great #3 starter with 15 win, 3.50 ERA potential - and that's what I believe he will provide the Mets with. He's very even-tempered and keeps the team in just about every game he pitches. I predict a 14-7 record with an ERA of 3.75. Maine has to continue to step up this season, as his contribution is vital to a rotation that has good potential but must execute well. If Perez does, indeed, revert to 2004 form, as Peter Gammons says that Pitching Coach Rick Peterson has intimated (read more about it by clicking here ), Tom Glavine and O-Hern perform like they did the first 2 games of this season, and Mike Pelfrey arrives this season, our rotation will be far stronger than last year's model ever was. For this to happen, John Maine has to be the lynch-pin to hold it all together. I really think he can...

3.) David Wright has to return to his first-half of last season form.
Will the REAL Mr. Wright please stand up? If he hits (and fields) as he did the first half of last season all year long, he will not only be the face of the game and the team, he'll be the leading candidate for MVP in 2007! Wright is coming into his own as a person, maturing each year, and both his fielding and hitting are at times so spectacular that we forget that he is only human! However, in order for the Mets' to make it all the way, Wright has to emulate teammate Jose Reyes and make great strides from season to season. Reyes is FAR from reaching his potential, but he is head and shoulders above any shortstop in the game right now. His upside is scary- but so is Wright's. There's no reason why Wright can't hit .320, with 40 homers and 125+ RBI's, 20 stolen bases and Gold Glove-caliber defense, year in, year out. THIS is the season that Wright has to make the hype go away and the MVP candidacies start flowing (and by no means am I knocking the great numbers that Wright has put up so far, but I believe, as do most, that he is capable of far more!) The best part, as a Mets' fan, is that we get a front-row seat to watch his (and Reyes') development as one of the best shortsto-third base tandems in the history of the game! Let's hope this year is one of consistency for both stars!

Finally, many people still seem to have a misconception of the Mets' as an "old" team...we have experience, yes, but with Wright, Reyes, Perez, Maine, Pelfrey, Heilman, Burgos, Smith and Milledge all well under 30 and Beltran still a few years away, with Mulvey, Humber, Gomez, Pena, Carp, Martinez and Guerra not too far from being major league-ready, we are a lot like the Yankees' teams of the mid-to-late 1990's - filled with players who have the potential to be with us from 10-15 years in pursuit of multiple World Championships! Far from being old...and here's my last words for today- Let's make it 3 for 3 from the Redbirds!!!!

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