Mets may have to defy odds

In a division that features many good teams in the National League East, the Mets may be hard-pressed to win the division.

First-year Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen proclaimed his team being the team to beat this offseason. He did not flinch when the Phillies signed Bryce Harper few weeks ago.

There was a method to his madness. He wanted to create a new clubhouse culture where he expects his players to win rather than hoping to win. He wanted to give his team life in what has been a stale atmosphere in the last couple of seasons.

As refreshing as it sounds, it does not change the Mets play in a tough National League East. The Washington Nationals should be good with a good lineup and excellent starting rotation. The Philadelphia Phillies have a loaded lineup. The Atlanta Braves have young talent all across the board in the starting lineup and in the starting rotation. While the Miami Marlins are rebuilding, they are going to give the Mets fits like they always do.

This does not mean the Mets are inferior to them. Their starting rotation gives them a chance to win games. The problem is whether or not the starters can be healthy and make 30 starts this season. The number of starts these starters have will determine whether or not the Mets can win the division.

It’s going to be an uphill battle. Everything has to go right for the Mets for them to win the division. The lineup has to be more than decent. The bullpen has to be great, and outside of the Yankee bullpen, bullpens tend to fluctuate from good to bad and vice versa each year, so who knows about the Mets bullpen?

Most unnamed executives and scouts don’t seem bullish on the Mets’ chances.

The consensus is the Braves and Nationals will be dueling it out to win the NL East based on both teams having a complete lineup and efficient pitching.

It makes sense since both teams have had success against the Mets in recent years. Look for it to not change this season, either.

The great thing about baseball is it’s not played based on predictions. Teams have to work for it, and the Mets will get a shot to show what they can do. They certainly can make a case that they are better than the Phillies and Nationals.

The Mets had a good offseason. They made their lineup better by acquiring Robinson Cano and signing Wilson Ramos, and they added depth such as Jed Lowrie, Justin Wilson, Keon Broxton, J.D. Davis, Rajai Davis, Dilson Herrera, Danny Espinosa and Carlos Gomez. They made the bullpen better by acquiring Edwin Diaz to be their closer and signing Jeurys Familia to be their setup man.

Is it enough to dethrone the Braves and Phillies? Probably not.

If the Mets win the division, it will be because all of their five starters do well and Michael Conforto and Cano hitting 30 home runs apiece. It will also be because Peter Alonso has an impressive rookie campaign by hitting 25 home runs.

That’s a big if right there. We know Jacob deGrom is a lock to win 12 games based on his consistent good seasons in the last few years. But Noah Syndergaard has yet to be injured-free or put together a great season, Zack Wheeler has yet to show he can be a reliable starter consistently and Steven Matz has to show not only he can avoid being on the disabled list (yeah I know it’s injured list, but we call it disabled list in this site), but he can put on a good season for one full year. It’s hard to take Jason Vargas seriously as a decent fifth starter.

Conforto has yet to have a great season in his career. Cano is on the wrong side of 30. As good as Alonso is, to expect him to play like a rookie version of Mike Trout is unrealistic. Ramos is injury-prone. The Mets also have to show they can create a balance between hitting home runs and using speed to manufacture runs.

Van Wagenen won’t be deterred, and neither will his players. If anything else, this will make them motivated and determined. The Mets could use that type of attitude after being so complacent the last two seasons.

There has not been much circus atmosphere about the Mets this spring training. Mets fans are in wait-and-see mode about their team.

The Mets have their work cut out. So many questions have to be answered.

But they like their chances, so that’s half the battle.

We are going to find out soon enough.

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