The longest offseason in human history is about to end, giving way to the longest Spring Training in human history (thanks, WBC). In about eight minutes, the thrill of Pitchers & Catchers will wear off when it occurs to us all at once that they're tossing, they're drilling but they're not playing. Soon enough, they'll be pretend-playing, which will seem really cool for a good two days before we're back to staring at our sundials and waiting for the Opening Day Solstice.
But right now in Port St. Lucie, late winter is morphing into early spring — on the precipice of Valentine's Day, no less. You gotta love the timing. And you gotta love these Mets. I gotta, anyway.
What's the point of not loving these Mets as they're just beginning to stretch?
They're not always the easiest bunch to embrace, given how they like to turn early fall into the dead of winter. And individually, I've spent many of the days since September 28 not exactly ordering them Vermont Teddy Bears. But that's pre-2/14 thinking. The 2009 Mets commence to reporting for good in two days. It's time to think of them in only optimistic terms.
There was a moment back there during the first few years of this endless offseason that I contemplated a post tentatively titled “Falling Out of Love With Jose Reyes,” the gist of which was the guy who was my favorite player was no longer held in such high esteem for reasons I no longer remember or care to enumerate. Then at the end of December, the Major League Baseball Network began airing promo after promo as it prepared to launch, and the first recognizable player you'd see was Jose Reyes, rounding first. All at once, whatever bugged me about Jose Reyes didn't bug me anymore. I'm as back in love as I need to be.
David Wright…intermittently throughout the winter I'd roll my eyes at the thought of David Wright opening his mouth; and roll my eyes some more when hearing what he actually said. I think the last time I heard him say something of a Wrightomatic nature was, when asked about the Mets getting or not getting Manny, he dared to use the phrase “World Series,” as in “my goal is for us to get to the World Series.” There was something about hearing Wright's voice and that phrase. David hadn't gotten us to a World Series yet. Maybe he might have had he driven in Daniel Murphy in from third against the Cubs when the score was tied in the ninth and nobody was out, but he didn't.
The time has come to stop holding David Wright's worst at-bat ever against him. The time has come to stop rolling my eyes at the best everyday player this organization has ever produced. The time has come to appreciate all over again the way David Wright has turned Pitchers & Catchers into Pitchers & Catchers & David. I love this kid again.
We re-signed Oliver Perez when we couldn't quite nail down anybody better. We paid Oliver Perez too much. Oliver Perez pitches great in some big games. He pitches pretty well in some other big games. And he lets down like crazy plenty. But Oliver Perez is going to put on a Mets uniform and pitch for the Mets pretty soon. I'll be glad to see him do so.
I'll be glad to see Mike Pelfrey, one fine three-month stretch and a slightly shaky September to his credit. Pelfrey took a while to convince me he wasn't going to be every disappointing young Met righty from Hank Webb to Tim Leary to Paul Wilson. I'm convinced for now, for the middle of February.
Did Carlos Beltran say something about being the team to beat again? Or am I still hung up on last year? Either way, he's Carlos Beltran. He doesn't say much off the field. I can't wait to watch him on it.
The other Carlos, Delgado, may have been playing for no more than getting his option picked up last year. That's the cynic's way of viewing it. No cynics allowed on the eve of Pitchers & Catchers & David. Delgado was the offensive MVP of this club in 2008. Why not believe in him for 2009?
Why not believe in Luis Castillo? What's it gonna cost us? He's gotta get better 'cause he can't get worse.
John Maine was a question mark this winter. Now he's recovering — ahead of schedule, he says. Who are ya gonna listen to on February 12: your doubts about his self-diagnosis or the rosiest scenario possible?
Johan Santana will be pitching on two good knees. He was pretty awesome on just one. By my calculations, he'll go 32-14 this year. At least.
One of the happiest moments of my offseason that didn't involve remembering Johan taming his aches and the Marlins was when I read Brian Schneider might be traded. I had no idea how much I sought a world in which Brian Schneider was no longer the Mets' catcher. It appears Brian Schneider is still the Mets' catcher. Ah, what the hell? Welcome back Schneider.
And Ramon Castro. Read something about him maybe being traded. Wasn't distraught. But as long as he's here, I'll be whatever the opposite of distraught is. Traught, perhaps.
And Jose Valentin! He'll be in camp. Nobody was really frothing for his encore, but I always have a soft spot for veterans who haven't been in the bigs since the July before last. In February I do.
Marlon Anderson remains under contract. I'll be damned. Maybe he won't be this year. Damned, I mean.
Ryan Church looked more lost toward the end of the season than he did found at its beginning. I can believe he'll find himself unconcussed soon enough.
Fernando Tatis a one-year wonder? I sort of thought so until I realized it was time to think differently. He can do it again.
It's not that Daniel Murphy is largely unproven. It's that he's begun to prove himself and he can continue to do so this year. Nick Evans, too. Maybe Niese? Maybe not…but maybe yes?
Pedro Feliciano still a Met? Really? Duaner Sanchez joining him? They're not part of that bad old bullpen. They've got new company. It could do something good for them.
Nelson Figueroa still works here. Angel Pagan does also. Here's to giving the old guys you pretty much forgot existed a shot. And here's to the new guys…K-Rod, Putz, Green, Reed, Redding, Garcia, Cora, whoever else is invited to the party. You guys didn't blow 2007 or 2008 for us. Grab a glove, grab a ball, grab a bat. Let's see what ya got.
There'll be plenty of time to grumble at all the recurring irritations that being a Mets fan in the winter of 2009 encompassed. All the sideshows, as a blolleague called them, won't go away all at once. But Spring Training is about to begin. So yeah, actually, they will go away.
All at once.