The 2011 season has mercifully come to an end for the Mets, giving way to a barrage of major questions that Mets fans are asking. Will they re-sign Reyes? Will they bring the outfield walls in closer? Will they find a way to make the Shake Shack line go faster?
While these questions all deal with the future, I have one about the past: Was the 2011 season a step in the right direction for the Mets?
The standings and several on-field performances say no. The Mets lost two more games this year than last year, duplicating their fourth place finish. Generally awful pitching was the main culprit, as one time top prospect Mike Pelfrey looked much more like a 5th starter than an aspiring ace, youngster John Niese showed little improvement, and the bullpen was downright putrid. Johan Santana, acquired to be the savior, didn't even throw a single major-league pitch.
Mets' pitchers weren't the only ones stuck in the mud this past season. Key hitters David Wright and Angel Pagan each followed up a very good 2010 season with a mediocre-at-best 2011. Supposed catcher of the future Josh Thole regressed on defense and didn't do much on offense either. And sixty-six million dollar man Jason Bay, despite teasing us at the end, showed little to make us think that the remaining two years of his contract will be any better than the first two.
I havn't even mentioned that the Mets traded away their closer (Rodriguez) and All-Star outfielder (Beltran), and may have seen the last of their best player (Reyes). In many ways you could say the Mets took a step back in 2011.
Yet despite the poor record and subpar statistical performances of several players, the season actually felt like a step forward for the Mets franchise in some ways. Dillon Gee and R.A. Dickey provided hope that they can be reliable mainstays of the rotation and Daniel Murphy emerged as an excellent hitter before being injured. Even guys with less star potential like Justin Turner, Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada proved they can be valuable contributors to a major league team.
But more important than the improvements of some players was the shift in philosophy of the entire organization, from the front office down to the 25th man. GM Sandy Alderson showed a commitment to getting the Mets back on track by dumping albatrosses Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo before the season, and then getting a top pitching prospect for two months of Carlos Beltran. Manager Terry Collins displayed a grittiness that seemed to trickle down to his players, who despite often being overmatched talent-wise rarely gave up in games.
In the end, the 2011 Mets' season were decidedly less than mediocre. A quick glance at the standings and statistics will likely make you think the season was a wash, especially considering the possible impending defection of Jose Reyes. Even so, 2011 was a step forward if only because it felt like a different organization than the one we have followed the past 5 years. The results may not come next year or even the year after, but at least the foundation has started to take shape.