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Now What?

I begin on a highly positive note. The day for which Mets fans have so desperately longed – the close of the dreadful 2009 season – has finally arrived. Amen. An exhaustive post mortem is unnecessary, as the graphic details of the Mets’ demise are plainly evident. As Mets fans, we are simply left with one concern and one concern only. What about next year? What can this snake bitten franchise do in the offseason to return a contending team to Flushing? More importantly, what will it do?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Johan Santana, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are restored to full health for next season and meet all rational expectations. Let us further assume that David Wright can somehow pretend he’s still playing at Shea and manages to live up to the back of his baseball card. Let’s assume further still that the Luis Castillo of 2010 will more resemble the Luis Castillo of 2009 than the one of 2008.

Given these somewhat generous but not unreasonable assumptions, the Mets will be a much improved team next year, no doubt. A nucleus of Santana, Wright, Reyes, Beltran and K-Rod forms a very solid core. But it's not enough, and the front office had better come to this full realization. The Mets will still have multiple needs that must be addressed in this offseason if the team is to return to serious playoff contention next year. These are, seriatim:

1) A legitimate number two starter.
2) A power bat. (Either at first base or left field or both)
3) Bullpen help.
4) Catcher.

Given the Mets’ parlous financial situation and weak farm system light on marketable talent, it is unrealistic to assume that all these holes will be filled. But the first two needs must be seriously addressed if this team is to contend in 2010. If Omar survives, and it currently appears that he will, he will definitely have to earn his stripes this offseason. Is he up to it? Given his likely range of options - including the prospects of a diminished payroll - I’m not particularly optimistic. But his job literally depends upon it. One thing is certain, however. This organization cannot try to sell its fan base on the idea that all will be right with the world once the normal lineup returns. I don’t want to hear, “We’ll be fine once we get our guys back healthy.” Not after this year. Complacency is not an option.

I part with one piece of advice for the Wilpons. Do whatever it takes to bring a winning team to Citi Field next year. If you don’t have the money to sign free agents, get it from someone who does. If you can’t, go beachcombing, unearth some buried treasure somewhere, start your own Ponzi scheme, whatever. Attendance has been strong all season, but the novelty of the new stadium is now officially over. Do not assume Mets fans will put up with this again – a marginal reduction in ticket prices ain't gonna do it. If your finances look bleak now, how will they look after Citi Field is half empty next season?

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