Today I made up my mind: I was going to nip and tuck some assignments and duties and to-dos and do something I’ve done too little of this spring. Namely, I was going to watch my team play some baseball.
My team didn’t disappoint — a walk-off home run is always fun, even if it doesn’t really count because there’s a gale force wind howling out to right and, um, it doesn’t really count. I was happy to see K-Rod on the mound again (and agree the goggles make him look more intimidating, even though that may make Keith Hernandez burn down my house) and Chris Carter at the plate and get a look at Ruben Tejada and just generally happy to watch guys with METS across their chests play baseball. I was even happy to watch Luis Castillo hit a 26-hopper slightly to the left of the shortstop for 110 feet worth of single.
I was happy. But I was also forcing myself to be happy. LOOK! SPRING TRAINING! YAY! SAY YAY! IT’S EVEN DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME AGAIN! BE HAPPY! HAPPY, DAMN IT!
Part of that is the usual mid-March malaise — the dead-arm periods and reassignment of guys who weren’t going to make the team anyway and moaning about how long April is taking to arrive and wondering which of the three or four spring combatants we’ll get slightly more sick of today. (I never want to see the Cardinals again, despite being neutral about most all of them except the thuggish Brad Penny and the eternally irritating Tony LaRussa. I can’t say the same about the Marlins only because I loathe the teal-clad welfare queens of MLB on general principles, and repeated exposure just makes me twitch a bit more.)
That part’s familiar. But the other part of the malaise isn’t. It comes from having the calendar turn to 2010 and immediately getting months 13, 14 and 15 of 2009. And that’s the part I can’t shake. Sunshine and palm trees and numbers in the 70s usually help with not talking about the past, but not this year. The past is all too present.
I shouldn’t say this given that the majority of Mets are still able-bodied, but you would have been hard-pressed to program a more-depressing offseason for this team so far. Jason Bay aside, the Mets front office spent the winter stumbling around as if they were confused, broke or both. If they weren’t bidding against themselves for eminently replaceable players, they were failing to even pick up the phone to contact guys they were supposedly interested in. (Even with Castillo parked at second, this rotation would look so better with Joel Pineiro in it.) The Mets then managed to get in an embarrassingly public feud with Carlos Beltran, an episode that made it obvious that the team’s own players don’t trust it to handle injuries. And now, the usual buzzard’s luck: If I’d told you last November that Jose Reyes and Frankie Rodriguez would be shelved by a thyroid condition and pinkeye, respectively, you’d have laughed and taken me to task for such broad satire. Yeah right! And then Jeff Francoeur will go on the DL with river blindness!
Seriously, can you think of an offseason more perfectly designed to keep the horror of 2009 fresh and keep us from the park in droves? I guess it could be worse if Ray Ramirez stabbed David Wright with an icepick, but that aside, our worst-case scenario is alive and kicking. And hey, it’s not even St. Patrick’s Day. When the Mets ticket people call with their cheerful scripts, I just talk about the economy and the kid. It seems kinder than calling attention to the utter disaster in the making.
I’m trying. I really am. I’m trying to focus on the “2” part of 2-to-8 weeks and not the “8.” I’m trying to remember that Angel Pagan was pretty good last year and Fernando Martinez looks older and wiser. I’m trying to remind myself that Oliver Perez is inthebestshapeofhislife and Johan looks healthy and if our luck evens out we’ll be rolling 7s and 11s until the felt’s worn off the tables. I’m trying to channel the Faith and ignore the Fear.
But it’s hard. Even on days that end with walk-off home runs and Tony LaRussa looking more sour than usual, it’s hard.