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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Sometimes You Get Lucky

Tomorrow pitchers and catchers officially report, and I will breathe a small but real sigh of relief. Depending on what’s going on in the winter, the lack of baseball is somewhere between an itch and an ache, but it’s always there somewhere. Tomorrow, we get to scratch. There will still be an agonizingly long stretch of time before there are fake games and an even longer, more agonizing stretch of time before there are real games, but tomorrow the season — with its promise of warm nights and life as it should be — will be in view once again.

What the season will bring is another story, of course.

Back in early December, elevendy-billion feet of snow ago, I reacted to the Mets’ re-signing of Alex Cora and the Red Sox’ pocketing of draft picks for Billy Wagner by vowing that I would print out and eat my just-written blog post on Opening Day if anyone could convince me that the Mets’ offseason reflected some sort of coherent plan. Having seen 10 more weeks of offseason unfold, it’s clear that I’m in no danger of having to choke down a paper meal. The Mets did sign Jason Bay, albeit without much competition, and he should help. But they completely failed to address the need for another reliable pitcher, apparently missing out on Joel Pineiro through simple incompetence. They claimed they weren’t broke, but acted like they were by passing on another chance to acquire Orlando Hudson and eliminate a defensive black hole at second base. Their surplus of backup catchers is a punch line throughout baseball — you know you’re in trouble when everybody agrees importing a guy who just posted a .258 OBP would be an upgrade. Elsewhere, they made small, baffling moves that may not hurt much but don’t seem likely to help. For a first baseman, Mike Jacobs is a heck of a designated hitter, and he’s left-handed — just like Daniel Murphy. Having Gary Matthews Jr. on the roster seems pointless, no matter how little he cost. And what would the off-season have been without the Mets mishandling an injury and engaging in their trademark finger-pointing and bungling?

It actually appears worse than I thought back in December: From what I can see the Mets not only have no plan, but as presently run are incapable of planning.

And yet.

That “and yet” has little to do with Florida sunshine and people showing up in the best shape of their life and lessons having been learned and all the usual spring-training blather, though all of that will make us feel better. Six weeks in Port St. Lucie aren’t likely to turn Mike Jacobs into a first baseman or make Luis Castillo stop fielding like a concrete pylon. Starting with a 0-0 record won’t mean Liggy and Podie have quit the premises, though it will be a lot better than watching those two stumble around when you’re clearly ticketed for 90 losses.

No, the “and yet” has to do with the fact that the Mets still have decent ballplayers at the center of their circus. I expect David Wright’s 2009 will turn out to be an outlier, not a forecast of his future. Escaping the tender mercies of his own employer seems to have allowed Jose Reyes to heal. Defying his own employer ought to bring Carlos Beltran back more quickly. Johan Santana should, with any luck, be Johan Santana. There are loads of qualifiers there, yes, but there’s also a core of talent that more than a few teams would be happy to start with. To that, add Jason Bay, who may not age well but is a far better corner outfielder than anyone from 2009’s corps. And throw in Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Daniel Murphy — question marks who at least have some recent history of being exclamation points. And while we’re being optimistic, the farm system could actually show dividends relatively soon in Jon Niese and Josh Thole, and Ike Davis might not be too far behind them. (Hey, sometimes the Alex Escobars are interrupted by a Wright or a Reyes.)

As fans and bloggers we think we know everything when we don’t. But from all the reports pointing the same general direction, it sure looks to me like the Mets could have spent the offseason turning themselves into a team that a reasonable person could expect to win around 90 games. That they proved incapable of this is exasperating, to say the least. But we can dwell on that later. With spring training finally about to arrive, I’m reminding myself of something else: Teams that a reasonable person expects to win around 83 games get lucky sometimes.

Will the Mets be one of those teams? I doubt it — one of the many things Branch Rickey was right about is that luck is residue of design. But it’s not impossible. It’s not even wildly improbable. And if the Mets get lucky and/or put their house in order, I and many other Mets fans will proclaim ourselves dead wrong with full-throated glee. That’s one of the pleasures of sports — if you’re shown to be a hopeless pessimist, admitting it is bliss.

Odds are none of this will mean anything by the warm nights of July, but on a frozen afternoon in February it’ll do.

6 comments to Sometimes You Get Lucky

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    Throughout the winter I kept on wondering not what we (the fans) and the media thought about the team but what the players felt themselves about their chances. Are they going into spring training with a negative attitude like we are. Or are they getting a chuckle from all the doomslayers and feel that if they stay healthy they still have the core to comback with not great but a dependable balance of pitching, batting and speed?

    Do they feel they’ve had a year to accept and adjust to Citifield and got to know it’s nooks and crannies enough to turn it to an advantage instead of sulking over it’s airport-type dimensions (like I still do)?

    This is basicly the same team that headed into Port St. Lucie last season favored by many to win the division (and was it Sports Illustrated that picked them to win the whole thing?). The loss of Delgado was off-set somewhat by the acquisition of Bay. Instead of left field, Murphy is now at first.

    So I don’t know. It seems Omar is staking his chips on the same team he fielded last spring (minus a few players here and there). I’m just wondering why we are not sharing the same enthusiasm we also had at that time.

  • Inside Pitcher

    It’s Erev Spring Training. Everyone is tied for first place right now. At the moment, we have as much right to hope as the fans of any other team.

    Let’s savor the upcoming pictures of Mets in uniform in Florida (even those really high numbers). We have plenty of time for Fear – right now is the time to revel in Faith.

  • CharlieH

    Hey, David Wright says the Mets expect to win the division.

    He did NOT say anything about being the team to beat.

    He did NOT guarantee anything.

    He DID praise the Phillies, Braves, Nats & Marlins.

    Good for David. He’s showing the confidence you want, without any flapdoodle.

    With Delgado gone & Beltran shelved until Memorial Day (God willin’!), this team is now in the hands of Wright & Reyes. It’s about time they get vocal.

  • Right now, I’d settle for the question marks turning themselves into semi-colons.

  • Jeremy Healey

    Whenever it happens, I’ll bring Jack to Ike’s first game with the ball club – there’s nothing quite as exciting as seeing a guy you watched in single-A make it to the majors.

    (But I’ll always think of him as a Cyclone).

    • Jacobs27

      In the unlikely event that Jacobs makes the team, with Pagan, we’ll have two players from the Cyclones inaugural season. That sounds lucky to me.