Upon arriving in camp, Carlos Delgado was asked by reporters to explain himself, his lousy last season and his team's horrific nosedive. In the course of offering his take on 2007 (not as if we didn't see or couldn't figure it out for ourselves), he gave a shoutout to its predecessor:
“I think 2006 was a magical year. It was an extraordinary year. We went out and played great baseball from the start to the finish.”
Perhaps the subtext of CD's remarks is you can't expect to live that kind of charmed life every year. Perhaps it is Delgado's way of gently wriggling from responsibility for the worst you-know-what in baseball history because ordinary years, by definition, occur more often than extraordinary years, and boy weren't the 2007 Mets ordinary when it counted? Perhaps it's nothing. I'm doing my best not to read into what every Met says about every little thing for the next week even though there isn't much to be gleaned from Spring Training at this point other than every little thing every Met says. Maybe Delgado was just trying to get through this little rite of arrival — the peppering of uncomfortable questions for which there are no easy answers — with a minimum of fuss so he could get over to the cage and let his bat clear its throat.
What interests me for the moment is 2006, the year that was indeed magical through roughly the middle of October. Yes, it was extraordinary. Yes, they did go out and play great baseball from the start to the finish. Yes, we had some bananas.
So where did those 2006 Mets go?
I don't mean in the competitive sense. I mean literally, where'd they all go? Like every good fan in February with nothing better to do because there is nothing better to do once the yay!ness of St. Lucie sightings has worn off, I was constructing an Opening Day roster in my head and I noticed something numerically startling.
Do you know how many Mets who played in October 2006 against the Dodgers and Cardinals are likely to be 2008 Mets six weeks from today?
Ten. No more than 40% of those who line up in Miami on March 31 will be able to say they were part of the payoff to that magical year. There are five position players: Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Chavez and Delgado. There are five pitchers: Maine, Perez, Wagner, Feliciano and Heilman. And that's it.
Mind you, the math is a little skewed when you take into account three pitchers (Pedro, El Duque and Sanchez) who were injured two Octobers ago, one catcher (Castro) who was glued to the bench, two players who played then and are in camp now but likely won't survive the spring (last-chance invitee Jose Valentin and perpetual pinch-runner Anderson Hernandez) and, for the hell of it, one current Met who was a former Met who then was playing against the Mets (brief Dodger Marlon Anderson). When you apply all the asterisks, maybe it's not as startling as it seems.
Even still. A scant sixteen months ago, we cheered our hearts out and screamed our heads off for a particular set of individuals who repeatedly made us not believe our eyes (gladly paying through the nose for the privilege when we got so lucky). For ten games in October 2006, those were our live-and-die Mets, the Mets we'd do anything for if we thought it would help them win us five more games than they did. Yet come the last day of March 2008, a majority of those Mets will be long gone long.
If I were to call the roll of those who have split, you might shrug. I wouldn't exactly be shedding a tear over their individual absences either given that several of them earned their way out of town in the ordinary year that ensued. For many, it was simply time for them to go. Yet they were most of the 2006 Mets into whom we threw ourselves with as much force as we've done anything since the turn of the century, and now they're not here anymore, they're not Mets anymore. It's not ten years later. It's not five years later. It's not even two years later. October 2006 was practically yesterday and suddenly it's tomorrow once more.
Geez, that was quick.