By Declan Finn
As the New York Mets enter what should be a make-or-break season for coaches, management and players, here are five bold predictions for the new year, with first pitch coming Monday afternoon against the Washington Nationals.
1. Mets make playoffs as wild card team
While this might seem beyond bold to many of you, considering the Mets haven't made the postseason since 2006, it's nowhere near out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if the Mets don't at least seriously challenge for a playoff spot, manager Terry Collins and maybe even general manager Sandy Alderson will be fired. The Mets, however, won't have to worry about making sweeping changes, as they will not only contend but grab one of the two wild card spots. The keys, as they seemingly always are with the Mets, are for the pitching to continue its current trajectory and the hitting to improve greatly. That means Curtis Granderson, Michael Cuddyer and David Wright must all have big years for this bold prediction to come true. We say it will happen.
2. Granderson goes deep 30 times
Say what? The same guy who struggled all of last season is going to hit 30 home runs, even with playing half his games in Citi Field? Yes, yes he will. It's obvious, based on last year's results, that this prediction could be more fiction than anything else, but let's lay the foundation nonetheless. Granderson was terrible last year, heading into June hitting under .200 and finishing with a .227 batting average. But Granderson was trending up as the season finished. He hit .378 with four homers and 17 RBI in the month of September. He's not going to hit anywhere near .378 this year, but if you parlay those homer and RBI totals over a full season, Granderson would have 24 and 102, respectively. The Mets and Granderson would sign up for those numbers right now. Reaching 30 homers isn't going to be easy, but Granderson did reach that mark in three of his last four full seasons, not including the year in Queens and an injury-riddled final year in the Bronx. He hit 30 homers for Detroit in 2009, had 24 home runs in 2010 with the Yankees and then hit 41 and 43 out of the ballpark in two straight seasons for the Yankees. Granderson had his one year grace period to get acclimated to the National League, now he will regain the stroke that made him one of the game's great home run hitters.
3. Mets trade for a shortstop
This might be more wishful thinking, as the Mets have basically ignored their fans' pleas to sign a shortstop this offseason, but sometimes dreams do come true. After the All-Star break, with the Mets firmly in contention for a playoff berth, Alderson will finally look to spend money and give up some youth in order to make a run at a championship. That trade would include a starting shortstop Mets fans will be happy with, and more importantly, one who automatically makes the team better. Who that shortstop will be is another bold prediction we're not willing to make even in this column. Could the perfect fit become Elvis Andrus from the Texas Rangers? We'll have to wait and see.
4. Wright finishes in Top 10 in MVP voting
Wright hasn't lived up to his status as face of the franchise, and injury cost him the end of last season, but if the Mets are going to make the playoffs this year, and if Granderson is going to revert back to the monster he used to be at the plate, than Wright will have every opportunity to be an MVP candidate. If Wright is the best player on a Mets team that makes the playoffs, how would he not get consideration for the National League's biggest award? If Wright comes close to his numbers from the 2012 season, when he hit .306 with 41 doubles, 21 homers and 91 RBI, he certainly will get there. Of course, if Wright doesn't at least come close to those numbers, the Mets won't be the playoffs and the third baseman won't have a shot at being mentioned in the MVP conversation. It's time for Wright to regain his past form.
5. Harvey and deGrom combine for 33 wins
Even pairing a vintage Dwight Gooden with a vintage Tom Seaver wouldn't be a lock for 33 combined victories, but the Mets certainly have two guys at the top of the rotation who can make it happen. Harvey and deGrom would have to average 16.5 wins apiece for this pick to come true. If Harvey returns to full strength, and his spring training so far suggests he has, 18 wins is a realistic goal. deGrom projected to win 14 games over a full season last year, so with roughly a year under his belt in the big leagues, he should be able to reach 15 victories this go around. For those who aren't math majors, us included, 18 + 15 = 33 wins. A lot has to go right for this prediction to come true, but bold is bold.