Let's call 2009 a make or break year for the New York Mets.
After a heartbreaking loss in the 2006 NLCS, followed by two historic September meltdowns in '07 and '08, the 2009 season has to have a better ending.
This organization has some of the most loyal and dedicated fans throughout all of sports, but they won't stand for another failed season.
With a new manager, a brand-spanking new ballpark and a revamped bullpen, all the pieces are in place to help erase that losing feeling.
With new additions in closer Frankie "K-Rod" Rodriguez and setup man JJ Putz, the Mets have what they haven't had in a while, a shut-down type bullpen.
Last year's collapse can be directly attributed to the 30-plus blown saves the pen had.
This remade bullpen hopes to aleviate most of the late inning malaise from prior years. With only three holdovers from last season, both management and fans hope that the cure for the late-game blues comes from the new blood brought in.
The Mets have a trend happening with their pitching staff. Not only is their pen anchored by two studs, but their starting rotation is also playing out in the same fashion.
Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey are the only two known certainties on a staff filled with potential.
Oliver Perez has the talent of a Cy Young-caliber hurler but the brain of a pitching pubescent. If he can control his stuff and keep his emotions in check while also pitching with brains and brawn, he'll be a great #3.
John Maine has not been the same pitcher since pitching coach Rick Peterson was let go last season, and fifth starter Livan Hernandez is a shell (a very large shell) of his former self. All five starters have proven that they can win on a major league level and the Mets will need all of them to reach their potential, because there just is not a lot of pitching depth in the organization.
Young lefty Jonathon Neise is the best of a weak crop of prospects. I foresee the Mets making a big mid-season trade for a top starter to get them over the hump. (Brad Penny anyone?)
Make no mistake about it, the Mets are driven by their offense. The top five hitters in their lineup can be matched up with any other teams.
Led by Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran, this team will score an abundance of runs.
Even with these three world-class players, questions abound.
Can Carlos Delgado repeat his 2008 successes? Will Ryan Church stay healthy for a full year? Can Luis Castillo adapt to batting eighth while re-finding his stroke and speed again? Is rookie leftfielder Daniel Murphy a big-league player?
If most of these answers are yes, expect a huge year from the Amazins', but that sure is asking a lot.
There is one huge negative on this lineup: Right-handed hitters.
Church, Murphy, Delgado and catcher Brian Schneider are all south paws. Reyes, Beltran and Castillo are switchhitters but are all better from the left side. That leaves Wright on many nights as the only right-handed bat in the line-up.
The bench has a little more balance, but the only power is from right-handed Fernando Tatis.
IF Alex Cora, along with OF's Marlon Anderson, Jeremy Reed, and Nick Green provide good, but not great depth. All these guys can be good for a brief stretch, but if they had to fill in as starters for a long stretch, their flaws would be exposed.
After last year's epic collapse, the Phillies rubbed salt in the wounds by going out and winning the World Series. After back-and-forth between players the past few years, the Mets will now have a whole season of hearing about the defending world champs. To make matters worse, the Phillies have improved as well this off-season.
I think the Mets have the most talent, but do they have the biggest heart and drive to get to the postseason?
Sports Illustrated has this team winning it all.
I say baby steps and let's get to the playoffs first. Then they can focus on winning the whole enchilada. It will not be a fun winter in New York if this organization misses the post season for a third straight year. Not only will management have to blow up this roster, but the fans will not stand quietly by. They expect a winner for the prices they will be paying for tickets and the money spent on the teams new digs.
The Web site baseballprospectus.com has the Mets winning the NL East with a 91-71 record. I think that is a lofty goal for a team full of question marks and a history of disappearing in September.
I look for 86-88 wins this year and a battle for the wild cards spot with the Braves, Cardinals and Diamondbacks.
Let's hope, for the fans sake, the Mets can finally deliver a "Happy Recap!"