By Anthony Paradiso
On March 19th New York’s governor announced that Mets and Yankees fans will be allowed to attend games at 20 percent capacity by opening day of the 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) season. This is music to the ears of baseball fans everywhere who appreciate the sights and sounds of the game and have been shut in their homes for a year due to the ongoing pandemic.
Since I am covering the New York Mets and have had the chance to attend Zoom meetings with the Mets manager and players during spring training, I thought I would give our readership a fresh look at what the new Mets will look like when the season begins on April 1st.
New Faces at Mets Spring Training
From the get-go, the new owner of the Mets, Steve Cohen said, “I don’t just want to make the playoffs, I want a championship.” When Cohen was asked if he was willing to dip into the Mets’ new $184 million payroll for the best players in the game this past offseason, Steve from Great Neck said, “Are we going to act like drunken sailors? No.”
Cohen gave Mets fans a big gift on January 7, 2021, when he traded for all-star shortstop Francisco Lindor and veteran starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. All through the winter the 32-year-old Carrasco battled leukemia. One of my best friends has also struggled with leukemia this year. I have wished him the best of luck while he battles the disease, and certainly Carrasco has been through a tough fight of his own. At a presser with the media in early March, however, when Carrasco was asked if he will be ready to pitch to begin the season, he responded, “I’m ready to go.”
While Mets players have worked hard at their spring training facilities in Port St. Lucie, Florida, fans like WestView News writer Arthur Schwartz have been wondering, could this be the year? My dad sent me this quote about his memories of watching the Mets, which he has done since 1969: “Who could forget the Miracle Mets in ’69, beating the favored Baltimore Orioles. Stars were born in New York: Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Cleon Jones. Three New York Teams won championships in that magical season of 1969!”
Schwartz has been a Mets fan since “day one” when the team joined the major league in 1962. Schwartz remembers the Mets’ first World Series championship in 1969. He also remembers the 1986 World Series and Mookie Wilson hitting a ground ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs. The Mets went on to win games six and seven of the ’86 series and bring the fans the franchise’s second World Series title. More recently, Schwartz watched every one of first baseman Pete Alonso’s 53 home runs during the 2019 season.
While Schwartz has always been a big Mets fan and has seen a lot of special moments in the team’s history, the Mets have not won a World Series in 35 years, which is a long time even if it is not the longest drought in baseball. That distinction belongs to the Cleveland Indians who have gone 73 years without a championship.
Schwartz commented on Cohen: “It’s about time. The last time an owner had that attitude was when they traded for Mike Piazza in 1998—and it worked.” In 1999 and 2000 Piazza helped the Mets make the playoffs, and led them to the World Series in 2000, which they lost to their crosstown rivals the New York Yankees.
Piazza is still revered for all that he accomplished during his seven seasons with the Mets. He was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 and had his number retired by the Mets that same year.
Luis Rojas is beginning his second year as the Mets’ manager. Rojas will have a solid roster that will include a healthy mix of veterans and young studs to work with. Starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery during the off-season. According to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, “Thor” may not be ready to pitch until June. The Mets brought in veteran pitchers Marcus Stroman and Carlos Carrasco to help their pitching rotation while “Thor” recovers from his surgery.
During spring training, there has been an open competition for the back-end of the rotation between starters: Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, and Taijuan Walker. Walker, who has more experience at the big-league level, will likely be the front-runner to be the Mets’ fourth starter when camp breaks.
The Mets are entering the 2021 MLB season with an improved batting order. The Mets could have Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Conforto hit back-to-back-to-back in their lineup! The new guy, Franky Lindor has made his presence known at Spring Training when he hit four home runs during a five-game stretch. With Lindor’s added pop and good contact hitters, Michael Conforto and second baseman, Jeff McNeil in the Met lineup, they could score a lot more runs this season.
The big question surrounding the Mets in 2021 regards their bullpen. Young closer Edwin Diaz struck out 50 batters in just 25 innings of work in the shortened 2020 season—an improvement over his first season in Queens. Manager Rojas told reporters that he thinks Diaz has matured this spring. He explained, “Edwin is so young and his abilities are special. I think last year was another stepping stone in his career, so he’s more mature, more experienced, Diaz has slowed the game down a bit, so he can work on the things he needs to get better at.”
While there are still question marks around this year’s team, such as, do they have enough to win in a competitive National League East division? The team has been showing signs of improvement. Improvement that will take place because the players, coaches, and team staff are excited to start competing for the name on the front of their jerseys, not the name on the back, in 2021.
It smelled like team-spirit when the Mets dugout erupted with cheers after back-up shortstop Luis Guillorme earned a walk during a spring training game. The team already seems to believe in themselves a little more this year and that is great news for Mets fans.
The Mets’ first game this season will be on the road against the Washington Nationals on Thursday, April 1st at 7:00 PM. On behalf of everyone at WestView News, I say, “Play ball!”