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Sunday Rockpile: What the Mets can learn from the late Larry Walker-era Rockies

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While reading Bill Baer's piece on fixing the New York Mets for 2010 (it came up in a Google news search for the Rockies because one of his prescriptions is going after Rafael Betancourt) I was reminded actually about the early 2000's Rockies teams and it struck me how many people might not realize the predicament that the Mets are in right now. One sentence stood out:

Everybody is coming out of the infirmary, barring more bad luck down the road. That’s right — the Mets are hoping to get 600 plate appearances each out of Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes in 2010, and 33 starts from Johan Santana.

Alright, this is where a lot of baseball fans, and at least a few front offices, seem to get it wrong. With Jose Reyes, the Mets really shouldn't be blamed if they count on a rebound of 600 plate appearances in 2010. He's in the prime of his career and 2009 was really only the first time injuries were an issue. It's the other two names that drew up my attention and brought me back to those Rockies teams where the names on the lineup would have a lot of quality but not much reliability. Larry Walker was a premium player, but after the turn of the decade, he just was no longer a reliable one. Same goes after the Mike Hampton trade with Preston Wilson and Charles Johnson. Carlos Beltran similarly has entered that phase of his career where counting on him to be an everyday producer is just not a wise decision.

Starting pitchers almost by nature are walking injury risks, and so Baer's on the right track in suggesting that the Mets would be better off targeting two decent starters rather than going after the one big fish in John Lackey, and the Maine/Perez/Pelfrey trio that they already have are probably due for some sort of rebound, but even if you add Joel Pineiro and Jason Marquis to that group it would still seem underwhelming to me.

Now, does this mean that the 2010 Mets are a lock for also ran status again? Hardly, but without building sufficient depth, Omar Minaya shouldn't point his fingers at anybody else if it does happen.

At any rate, I think New York's problems are deep enough that they're still on the outside of the playoff pack next season. In fact, I think everything I've heard and seen of the off season thus far leads me to the conclusion that there really isn't going to be much change in the NL contenders next season. I think three of these following seven teams win their division, and the other four compete for the wild card in 2010:

East:

Philly/Atlanta

Central

St. Louis/Chicago

West:

Los Angeles/San Fran/Colorado

Florida isn't going to get better, so they'll probably drop back, but I don't really see anybody in the next tier stepping up to take their place. 

****

As Betancourt's cachet increases, it would seem less likely that the Rockies will retain him, and may have to let him walk if the bidding gets too fierce. It's similar to the situation they found themselves in after 2007 when LaTroy Hawkins' help for the playoff push made him one of the more desirable free agent targets despite only being good for sixty or so innings a season. The good news is that this is a scenario that having one door close means that another becomes easier to open, and other relievers that can provide just as much quality (including Hawkins himself) are out there.

If you fret that losing Betancourt would kill the Rockies chances or prove that we're a second rate organization incapable of doing what it takes to win, you should probably consider checking yourself into an institution before you get to the next stage, which would be putting up a FanPost with liberal use of CapsLock and not so cleverly derived nicknames for the front office.