How High Should Expectations Be for the 2021 Mets?
It’s crucial to start setting expectations for the new season with five days left until pitcher’s and catcher’s report and 48 days until Opening Day. On February 7th, PECOTA released their 2021 projections. Despite having the Braves criminally low–and I bleed orange and blue!– PECOTA has the Mets running away with the NL East. At ten wins over the second-place team, this gap is only second to the Yankees’ 11 win-lead over the Rays.
However, is it reasonable to expect that a team who finished 26-34 in last year’s shortened season and 86-76 the year before that can complete this new season on top of their division? Even with a new owner, a busy offseason, and numerous new additions, how high should expectations be for the 2021 Mets?
Let me preface by saying this: no matter what the situation, it’s always better to keep expectations reasonable. If they’re too high, you’re likely to be disappointed. Confidence is useful, but over-confidence is not.
A Busy Offseason for the Mets
The biggest reason to have high expectations for the Mets is their whirlwind offseason. By getting a new owner in Steven Cohen, trading for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, and signing James McCann and Trevor May as free agents (among other moves), the Mets have had one of their best offseasons in a long time. Even with all these moves, the Mets still might not be done yet. They are still considering a starting pitcher and have recently been linked to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.
George Springer and Trevor Bauer might have signed elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean this hasn’t been a prosperous time for the Mets. They acquired one of the best shortstops in the league and have improved all around. On paper, it’s easy to have sky-high expectations for this team. It’s easy to say they’ll win the National League East. It’s easy to jump on the Mets bandwagon.
However, it’s essential to take off the rose-colored glasses.
With those glasses off, you’ll see that their division is still one of the toughest in baseball. Just take a look at the other teams:
- The Braves have won the division three years in a row, going 35-25 last year and 97-65 in 2019. Their core has mostly stayed the same, with Ronald Acuña Jr. leading the pact and Marcell Ozuna returning for another season. Additionally, they have a strong rotation featuring Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Ian Anderson.
- After winning the World Series in 2019, the Nationals finished 2020, tied with the Mets for the last place in the division. Like the Mets, they, too, have had a busy offseason that has seen them trade for Josh Bell and sign Brad Hand, Jon Lester, and Kyle Schwarber. Add them to Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and a litany of great players, and you have a strong team.
- The Phillies haven’t been as loud this offseason, but their most significant move came from locking down J.T. Realmuto for another five years. They still have Bryce Harper, former Met Zach Wheeler, Rhys Hoskins, and Aaron Nola, who will all be doing their best to lift Philly from the bottom half of the division.
- Lastly, the Marlins shocked the baseball world by finishing second in the division last season. While they have the expanded playoffs to thank for their playoff appearance, most of their team is returning for this season. Guys like Miguel Rojas, Brian Anderson, and Sandy Alcantra will hope to be the underdogs again.
Each team has at least some shot of making the playoffs, which can’t be said for other divisions. Plus, this is all without considering the strengths of the Dodgers, Padres, and Cardinals. The National League will be a bloodbath this year.
Questions Remain and Final Outlook
Another thing you’ll notice without those rose-colored glasses is that questions remain for the 2021 Mets. Will Lindor need time to adjust to his new team and new division? Can Pete Alonso recover from a sophomore slump? How effectively will Noah Syndergaard be when he returns from Tommy John’s surgery, and what will his innings limit look like? Will the bullpen be a liability yet again?
Like I said, on paper, the Mets could be considered as one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. However, it’s essential to be realistic and consider all the different possibilities. Newton’s Third Law states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” In other words, for every offseason acquisition, there could be a problem that arises once the season begins. Knowing the Mets’ history and considering some of their other headlines this offseason (*cough cough* Jared Porter *cough cough*), it’s better to expect the unexpected and prepare for anything.
So yes, Mets fans have every right to be excited about this upcoming season. However, realism is key, and we must consider what could happen throughout a 162-game season that also just so happens to take place during a pandemic. Expectations can be high, but let’s not get them too high; the last thing we need is a possible disappointment.