This falls under the heading of Things I’d Dearly Like to Be Proved Wrong About, but I suspect the dominant storyline of the 2010 Mets will be how long it takes even the most optimistic among us to concede that the team isn’t going anywhere.
Imagine I could erase all memory of 2009 baseball from your brain. (If I could offer such a gift, dear friends, I promise I would.) From this fresh, clean perspective, survey the goings-on in Port St. Lucie over the last six weeks. Your reaction probably would be something like this:
- Oh God, Jose Reyes didn’t get any kind of decent spring training! He’s going to have to get his timing and hone his swing throughout April!
- No Beltran until at least mid-May? AUGGHH! And what’s with the screwy way they handled his injury? It almost feels like he doesn’t trust them!
- Johan Santana’s location has been consistently awful. I am really worried.
- John Maine has been horrible. He’s been beaten like a kettledrum out there.
- Oliver Perez looks like he’s in good shape, but he’s been horrible and wild and distracted.
- Mike Pelfrey has been horrible. I don’t know if he’s scared of his own defense or just can’t figure it out, but it’s bad.
- Why on earth are we turning this kid Mejia into a reliever when he’s got the makings of a front-line starter?
- Why do we think Mejia’s ready when his most-recent numbers against real competition give every indication he isn’t?
- Was Mike Jacobs put on this roster for any other reason than the old Neanderthal standby that he’s been on big-league rosters before? He can only do one thing at the plate and nothing in the field.
- If people are going to be put on rosters solely because they’re veterans, why are we jettisoning a useful pitcher like Nelson Figueroa?
And you know what? You’d be right. It’s only in comparison to the scorched-earth disaster that was 2009 that 2010 spring training doesn’t look like a disaster in its own right. The Mets’ plan for the offseason was either bizarre or not worthy of the name, the starting pitching looks so thin you can see through it, the relief corps consists of Pedro Feliciano and guys who are either unknown quantities or depressingly known ones, two core offensive players will start the season on the shelf, and there are already signs that the decision-makers are looking at short-term fixes even if those create long-term problems. (I love Jenrry Mejia. He shouldn’t be here.)
The 2010 Mets look like a disaster in the making. At this point it’s useless to carp that it didn’t have to be this way, so I will resolutely fix my gaze ahead, to where the view is no more encouraging. I’ll give it until about May 15 before towels start getting thrown in, and June 15 before the incurable optimists experience a medical breakthrough.
This isn’t to say that all is lost. There were some bright green shoots in spring training that give me real hope for 2011, if they’re properly nurtured. We know about Mejia. If Ike Davis and Josh Thole stay on track, they could be ready to take their places in the starting lineup near the end of this season. I’m excited to see a full season from Jon Niese, and to figure out if Angel Pagan is a late (though not too late) bloomer. Ruben Tejada could some quickly. Fernando Martinez had a great spring, and has been through the glare and disappointment of New York and emerged alive. And 2011 needn’t just be a youth movement. Santana, Beltran, Wright, Reyes and Bay will all still be here. Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Tim Hudson and Cliff Lee will be free agents at the end of this season. Looking short-term, I have little hope. Looking just a little farther down the road, I have a fair amount.
And looking at the really short-term, I’m giddy. The last couple of days have seen me fidgeting and wishing it were time to get on my gear and head for the 2/3 which will take me to the 7. Despite all of the above, I can’t wait until Monday. Or even Sunday, though I could do without an instant serving of Yankees-Red Sox. Even if you like those teams, why start this way? Can you imagine a Bud Selig dinner party? Hi, welcome, don’t even take your coat off yet BECAUSE THIS EVENING MUST BEGIN WITH CRAMMING HALF A RIB ROAST DOWN YOUR THROAT!
But come Monday, I want to see the apple in its new home. I want to see the new banners. (In color, no less!) I want to eyeball the new friezes for Casey and Gil, and the (now-corrected) plaques for great moments, and get a look at the Mets museum, and see if the stairwells are painted, and see if there are new miscellaneous touches that say “this is the home of the Mets.” I want to see if McFadden’s is worth adding to my routine. I want to see familiar faces. I want to make that can’t-go-wrong choice between Shake Shack and Taqueria. I want to chat with my co-blogger and not have to ask him what’s going on, because the answer will be happily obvious. I want to hear the National Anthem and see red-white-and-blue bunting and then let myself get too excited for baseball and then relax back into it. There will be plenty of time to feel doomed. It’ll wait a bit.