As an intern for the E-Mak Show on St. Louis Sports Radio 1380 AM, I was asked on Tuesday to defend on air my view that if the Mets stay healthy, they have a shot of winning the Wild Card in 2011. When I stated that I was very surprisingly pleased with the results of Young and Capuano this spring, co-host Cory Mitchell replied, "Are you talking about Chris Young? Chris Capuano?" This was correct. Shocked at how I could have such high confidence in two pitchers who are clearly past their prime, Mitchell, though in a respectful manner, more or less laughed it off and suggested that I am going to have a very tough six months if I think a team can win with the roster it currently has.
Yes, it is true that the Mets have a very tough road ahead of them. They play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, and they're heading into the regular season with a very similar roster to what they carried in 2010. However, there is one major difference between the 2010 and 2011 Mets that people already seem to be forgetting: Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins. When the Wilpons hired now-General Manager Sandy Alderson following the 2010 regular season, Alderson put a plan into place that set this team to go in the right direction. First, he hired two extremely knowledgeable and experienced baseball people in J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta to help him not only with his day-to-day business, but also to help him assess the current status of the clubhouse and the farm system. It was almost as if the Mets went from having one mediocre-at-best general manager (Omar Minaya) to three very well-respected general managers who have all had success in their careers when trying to improve a fourth or fifth place team.
After putting into place a very impressive team of assistants and advisors, Alderson went through an extremely complex managerial search and hired Terry Collins, a man who has thoroughly impressed me thus far in the way he conducts his team. Since day one, Collins has been constantly running around trying to get to know each and every one of his players as well as possible so he knows all of the strengths and weaknesses of his team come April 1. The most telling example of this can be seen in a video that Matt Cerrone posted to his blog, MetsBlog.com. This process may sound like an obvious one that every manager should have, but as far as I can tell, this was a very different approach than Jerry Manuel ever took. Not once in this two-and-a-half-year reign as manager did I see an ounce of the energetic approach that Terry Collins seems to have regarding every aspect of the team. The only thing I ever heard about from Jerry Manuel's spring training camp? That 80-pitch opposite field drill all hitters were required to successfully complete.
It is a fair point to say the Mets are more or less the same team as in 2010 and thus will finish around the same 80-game area. However, the changing of an authority figure in any business should never be overlooked. Collins clearly has a vast knowledge about baseball and the Mets, especially the younger guys, since he served as the Mets' Minor League Field Coordinator for the 2010 season. So when the Mets take the field on Friday evening against the Florida Marlins, remember that this is in fact a very different team and with different expectations. Between the leadership of Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins, I expect the Mets to carry themselves in 2011 in a very different manner than in recent history.