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Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes)

A pal asked me the other day how I felt about the Mets’ offseason, and I said I was happy. “But of course,” I added, “there’s accepting the fact that nothing much is going to happen.”

Fiscal responsibility is a laudable thing after a run of stupidity: It isn’t just Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez that piss me off, but thinking about K-Rod’s absurd vesting option, and Alex Cora’s absurd one, until finally even hearing the words “vesting option” makes me want to sneak over to Omar Minaya’s house and key his car. It’s a relief not to have to contend with any of that foolishness, even when it comes tinged with regrettable farewells. Seriously: Given that middle relievers are essentially spaghetti against a wall, would you have given Pedro Feliciano $8 million over two years?

But fiscal responsibility also isn’t any fun. It generates no entertaining stories, no funny Facebook pictures, nothing to whoop it up about. Raul Chavez? Taylor Tankersley? Willie Harris? Umm…yay?

Which brings us to Chris Capuano and Chris Young, the latter pending a not entirely pro forma physical. Both seem like smart moves: The risk is fairly low, the potential reward relatively high. Injuries put both of them on the side of the road for quite a while, but they did pitch with relative success in September. Neither’s getting a deal for more than a year, or a … (grits teeth) … vesting option. They’re there for back-of-the-rotation depth. The Mets won’t be putting everything on Dillon Gee or, God forbid, the Arsonist of Culiacan. Contrast this to, say, expecting everything to work out because of the presence of Ollie and John Maine.

(Excuse me while I sneak back to let the air out of Omar’s tires.)

Still, fiscal responsibility won’t be much comfort when the Phillies are beating the tar out of us — to say nothing of the Braves and Marlins. Nor can I imagine either Greg or me beginning a post with “It’s a shame Chris Young’s velocity doesn’t look like it will ever return — but that smart contract makes me feel like we’re winners anyway.” Can there anything much to enjoy from a year of refilling the piggybank and staying out of bars and boutiques?

Well, yes. There’s baseball itself of course, which is not to be overlooked given that it’s January and a particularly miserable January at that. If you told me Jerry Manuel had been rehired for a day and was sending the Luis Hernandez All-Stars out for an encore against the Nationals, I’d clear my calendar and watch avidly. It’s true that I’d be disgusted and booing everyone in sight by the third inning, but the point stands.

But maybe there’s more than that. Can’t we get lucky for once? Can’t we find a jewel in the scrap heap? Show up at the baseball version of Antiques Roadshow and be told that “this vintage Capuano is a rare find — there’s a little damage on the upper left, but it’s been expertly repaired. And you’re saying you bought this at a garage sale?”

Looking back at 20-odd years of Met dumpster-diving, most of the names depress me. Remember Pete Smith? Mel Rojas? John Hudek? Rick Wilkins? Allen Watson? Mike Bordick? Pedro Astacio? Jeff D’Amico? James Baldwin? Scott Erickson? Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer? Danny Graves? Kaz Ishii? Jose Lima? Ben Johnson? Chan Ho Fucking Park? Scott Schoeneweis? Ricardo Rincon? Matt Wise? Livan Hernandez? Jeremy Reed? J.J. “No Physical” Putz? Mike Jacobs II? It’s a sad parade, one mostly notable for its ability to revive long-dormant complaining.

Yet looking back isn’t universally tragic. There was Brian Bohanon. Rick Reed. Darren Oliver. Jose Valentin. Nelson Figueroa. Heck, there was R.A. Dickey. Even Kenny Rogers was pretty good until finally he wasn’t. Some of those pickups even go on the Minaya ledger — sorry about the key marks and the flat tires, O. (Eh. Not really.) Is it a measure of my faith in Sandy Alderson that I can’t help thinking we might get lucky? That Capuano and Young might be good for more than giving Dickey someone to discuss the merits of higher education vs. autodidactism with between starts? (Somehow I don’t think Mike Pelfrey’s up for that kind of thing.) That we might be praising Scott Hairston as our invaluable fourth outfielder come September? Saying “that sure was an awesome Willie Harris catch” without throwing things across the room?

We could get lucky, right? Right?