11:01 am Mar. 22, 2013
The Mets passed along two pieces of news on Thursday afternoon.
The good news is that David Wright has been named captain of the team, a symbolic but nevertheless deserved development. It goes along with giving Wright a massive, long-term deal to stay with the Mets, not to mention a total lack of alternatives for the position. Who else would it be? Ike Davis, who turns 26 Friday? Collin Cowgill? Marlon Byrd?
But anything the Mets do to make their franchise player feel at home is a welcome change from doing things like running that player out of town or putting public pressure on him to play hurt. One can only hope that the team's desire to put Wright on the field Opening Day doesn't result in Wright coming back prematurely, since the far more important thing for the Mets in 2013 is to have Wright around for the end of the season, not just the beginning of it.
The other piece of news was an announcement that Jonathon Niese will be the Opening Day starter, which implicitly confirmed that Johan Santana will start the season on the disabled list. The more troubling thing with Santana isn't missing the initial start, but that his return seems to have come to a complete halt. He hasn't been on a mound for two weeks, and only took the mound that time as a response to criticism he received from general manager Sandy Alderson for not doing more this winter to throw, a program that the team itself had endorsed late last summer.
Niese is a perfectly capable pitcher, if miscast as a number one. The real concern with the rotation is that the depth issues that should have led the Mets to bring in viable fallback plans have already presented themselves. Santana is nowhere close to starting, while Shaun Marcum, a budget acquisition with upside whose health issues are why he was available in the first place, missed a spring start and was given a cortisone shot in his shoulder this week.
The Mets are using Jeremy Hefner, a solid long relief/spot starter option, in Santana's place. It isn't clear who would take Marcum's place should he miss time, though Aaron Laffey and his 2012 x.F.I.P. of 4.91 seems like the only real candidate around.
And let's not even think about the fact that at second base, where Daniel Murphy's lingering injury has threatened his Openind Day status, the two options appear to be Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin.
All of this is such a problem not because teams don't have injuries, or some spots that require dipping deeper into depth than would be preferred, but because the infield and the starting pitching is supposed to be what carries the 2013 Mets past a truly deplorable outfield situation and a bullpen that was terrible last season and added primarily reclamation projects this offseason. The infield and the starting pitching, combined, is supposed to combat those weaknesses. And before the season even starts, both look to be compromised.
It's clear why this is the case; nothing ceremonial about David Wright could alter the financial realities of this team.
But celebrating him is one meaningful thing the Mets can do to show appreciation for one of the only truly special players left in Flushing. The other thing they can do, of course, is give him enough time to heal before rushing back out onto the field.
We'll see how that goes.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Nets qualified for the playoffs Thursday night, thanks to a 76ers loss. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov released this statement to mark the occasion: "Of course I'm pleased the Nets have made the playoffs, but I can't say I'm surprised. We have a lot of talent which is really coming together now and starting to gel. I am confident that the team's best days on the court are still ahead."
Iman Shumpert, who left Wednesday night's game with discomfort in his knee, is expected to start Friday against Toronto.
Looks like Ivan Nova and David Phelps will be in the Yankees' rotation to start the season, and Phil Hughes will begin on the disabled list.
Derek Jeter is being held out of major league games in case his trip to the disabled list needs to be backdated.
Day 1 of the N.C.A.A. tournament featured an upset by 14 seed Harvard over three seed New Mexico.
M.L.S veteran goalkeeper Kevin Hartman said on Twitter Thursday night that he's joining the Red Bulls, giving the team some needed coverage as Ryan Meara continues to battle back from hip injuries.