Here’s a sign of spring: The 2014 Topps cards are out.
Let’s not go overboard: This isn’t the greatest set. The photography’s good again, but Topps has developed an unfortunate predilection for novelty shots, with far too many players romping with teammates (and often on dreaded horizontal cards), getting doused with Gatorade or showing off Oscar Gamblean coifs. The card design is boring and redundant — why a little ribbon displaying the team name when the logo’s already there? The strange numbering system in which players once ascended the rank of stardom from 5s to 10s to 50s to the coveted 100s is but a memory. And while I like the idea of adding WAR to the statistics on the back, it just seems like fuel for pointless Internet fights.
But in the dead of winter any sign of spring is welcome, and this one fixes thoughts happily on spring training and changes to The Holy Books. Of which there are four from the first series:
1) Travis d’Arnaud gets his first-ever big-league card, and it’s not bad. Added bonus: It replaces d’Arnaud’s 2013 Topps minor-league card, which Photoshopped him into being a Buffalo Bison. This is one team d’Arnaud never played for: Thanks to affiliation changes that one might expect Topps to keep track of, d’Arnaud pulled off the odd trick of playing for Las Vegas in 2012, getting traded and returning to Las Vegas in 2013.
2) Wilmer Flores gets a card. It bills him as a shortstop. Hrrm. We’ll see about that.
3) Daniel Murphy, long victimized by subpar cards, finally gets a winner in which he’s jogging around the bases with the Apple, um, tumescent behind him. Murph being Murph, he looks intense and mildly put upon. Great shot.
4) Justin Turner finally gets a decent Mets card, replacing some strange Japanese thing I picked up somewhere. Turner, you may recall, is now the newest member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it was apparently quite a while ago that he wouldn’t be a 2014 Met. In this case, Topps’ sloth is my gain. (Though I’d trade my 2013 Topps Update Shaun Marcum for never having to think about Shaun Marcum again.)
I’m just going to say it: I don’t care if the Mets sign Stephen Drew or not.
PECOTA forecasts the Mets as once again a 74-win team. With Drew the Mets would net out as … a 75-win team.
PRINT THOSE SEASON TICKETS!
Now, I don’t take PECOTA as gospel. I’m not as pessimistic as it seems to be on either score, but the point is much the same: Drew is not the missing piece of the Mets’ championship puzzle. If Ruben Tejada’s lost it, Drew would make the Mets slightly better, but not in any way we’ll remember a couple of years from now. If Tejada’s annus horribilis was an exception, the two might be a wash. The Mets’ financial health remains an unresolved question, with their payroll still awful paltry compared with what one would expect from the National League’s New York team. But Drew isn’t going to settle that question, or likely any other that we care about. If the Mets projected as an 88-win team and had money to spend, I’d be lighting Twitter aflame screeching for the Mets to add Drew. But they’re not. The whole thing is pointless, and not worth talking about even by the low standards of the hot-stove league.
Despite all that, I’ve been trying to get my arms around an emotion that I haven’t felt in quite a while.
I think it’s hope.
For the third year in a row, the Mets are poised to promote a prized young arm to the big-league rotation come mid-July. In fact, this year there are two intriguing pitchers who could get the call: Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Nothing is certain, but the team can reasonably expect to have Matt Harvey hurling thunderbolts once more in 2015. Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee are all capable or more than that. Zack Wheeler has tremendous talent. Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia are rifle-armed young pitchers with big-league experience. Jacob deGrom ascended three minor-league levels last year and could develop into a Gee type starting this year.
Again, nothing is certain in baseball — and nothing is more uncertain than the health and development of pitchers. But with a little luck — which this franchise is certainly due for — the Mets could approach the trade deadline with a stockpile of TEN very interesting 2015 big-league starters. Teams that go into a season with four of those are generally considered to be worth paying attention to.
The Mets’ farm system has been rebuilt, but that restoration has come with a nagging question: Where are the young bats?
Perhaps the answer is that they’re in other teams’ organizations.
If things go right (and again, that’s not a small if), Sandy Alderson could deal two or three or more arms from that stockpile this summer for the bats everyone agrees the Mets need. If Sandy nets his usual high return, the Mets could report for duty in 2015 looking talented and dangerous. Maybe we could be talking about the difference between 88 and 90 wins, instead of 74 and 75.
And wouldn’t that be the stuff of wonderful emotions?