Mets At Pivotal Crossroads for 2012 Season
The legendary Robert Johnson (and later Eric Clapton in Cream) sang, "I went down to the crossroads, fell down upon my knees. Asked the Lord above for mercy, 'Save me if you please!'"
Those lyrics jumped into my head when I read about the triumvirate of injuries that recently befell the surprisingly competent contingent in Queens. Going into the 2012 season all of the pundits had written it off as a year of treading water while awaiting some big contracts to be traded away (Santana, Bay), and hoping for fast track development of players currently in the minors.
Then something surprising happened. The Mets reeled off an opening April that has them over .500. The hated Phillies are in the basement and there is, dare I say, optimism afloat among the frustrated but loyal fanbase.
Reality, unfortunately, has a way of catching up to you when you least expect it. For the Mets and their fans it happened when, in the space of 48 hours they lost Cedeño with an intercostol muscle strain, Bay with a cracked rib and Pelfrey with an elbow ligament problem that could end his 2012 season after just 3 starts.
Herein lies the conundrum of the 2012 season. Do the Mets patch together warm bodies to fill out the roster using AAAA type talent and continue waiting for the trades and development to continue, or do they push some of their younger players into more prominent roles sooner than anticipated?
Chris Schwinden was never considered a major prospect. His success at the minor league level pitching to the tune of a 3.53 career ERA and a WHIP under 1.3 suggests there is some talent there. He made his major league debut last year at age 24. Jeremy Hefner was picked up off the scrap heap this year and just got his first taste of the majors at age 26. Garrett Olson has more eye-popping numbers in the minors but in several trials in Baltimore, Seattle and Pittsburgh hasn't ever put it together at this level. He's already 28 and his "prospect window" is probably closed.
We've seen already that the highly touted duo of Harvey and Familia still need to polish their game somewhat before they're deemed ready to ascend to the next level. Mejia is still recovering from his injury. Chris Young has had some great success in the majors but he's also in rehab.
My suggestion for a bold move if indeed Pelfrey's season is already over would be to promote Gorski from AA where apparently he's picked up right where he left off after his stellar 2011 season. At age 24 and with nearly 350 IP under his belt, I don't think he would be "rushed" a'la Mejia who had 280 at age 20. If he's the real deal, then you've actually made a step forward in terms of starting pitching quality. If he struggles, so be it. This season wasn't about winning a championship anyway. The difference to me is that someone like Gorski should be considered part of the "New Mets" future whereas retreads like Batista, Olson, Hefner and James are not. Schwinden is on the bubble and is likely waiting in the wings to see how Dillon Gee's season progresses.
The difference to me is whether you are content to try to maintain the status quo or whether you want to see if you can actually improve. Even without the injuries there was a lot of room for improvement.
On the outfield front things are likely far clearer. Lutz is a placeholder until Andres Torres finishes his rehab and then he likely replaces him on the roster. Valdespin won't likely see many innings in the OF despite playing there exclusively in 2012 in the minors with the glut of Baxter, Hairston, Torres, Nieuwenhuis and Duda. He'll be on his way back to Buffalo when the veteran but unspectacular Cedeño recovers.
So, what do the readers think? Does the team try to improve the club or simply try not to do any worse?