Spring what now? Spring Training? Never heard of it. If, in fact, it existed, it has completely ceased to matter. The Mets, I seem to vaguely recall, introduced the phrase “winless streak” to the baseball vocabulary for a couple of weeks at the end of March, but March has ended. Games that don’t matter don’t matter even more now that they’re ensconced in the past tense.
It’s Opening Night tonight. That’s what matters. That and its 161 companions to come.
I’m very excited. Also, the sky is blue, the grass is green and the clouds are puffy and cumulus. None of this is news, though to me, the part where I’m excited has me psyched, stoked and revved. The last time I was very excited in advance of a season’s lid being lifted was nine years ago. Perhaps you recognize an echo in that formulation. Last September, we were clinching our first postseason trip in nine years. Now we’re opening a season on the heels of one for the first time in that same size span. One of the fringe benefits of success is a lingering case of excitement.
I’ve avoided mentioning the exact calendar year that was the site of my previous overspill of Game One enthusiasm, but after a trip to the World Series, why be coy? It was 2007. Yes, Game 162 sapped the enthusiasm that was so in abundance six months before, but never mind that. Seriously, never mind any thoughts of a Year After syndrome. 2007 undercut 2006’s legacy and cast a shadow on 2008, which itself certainly didn’t bode well for anticipation of 2009, and so we went clear up to the outset of 2015, which I approached with no more than perfunctory elation.
Which was still elation, because it was still the beginning of baseball season, and the beginning of baseball season is always just cause for elation, but 2015 followed 2014, which had been the latest in the Nothing Special Parade that had been coursing through Metsopotamia for more than a half-decade.
Ah, but 2015’s full complement of 162 changed the direction, trajectory and arc of where we were going, and ever since things straightened out to our liking, everything about the Mets is exciting. Opening Night is exciting, even if it’s at night, even if it’s on ESPN, even if it’s in an American League facility and even if it brings us into direct contact with the Kansas City Royals, the only team in all the land that had a better 2015 than ours, directly at our expense — which is almost irrelevant amid our excitement, except when pangs of regret remind us that isn’t.
But never mind that, either.
The most exciting part of all this, after an October when baseball activities never ceased and a winter devoted to ensuring there might be another one in our not-so-distant future, is that we can Believe from the get-go without straining our inner credulity (which will get you pronounced day-to-day by Ray Ramirez). We can honestly Believe we might go as least as far again, a phenomenon a whole lot different from groping for pieces of if everything goes right, then maybe we won’t be so bad. There are no motions to go through when you have a ballclub like this. There is no limiting your aspirations when you have pitching like this. There is no stretching to imagine when you have a pretty good idea of how real the Mets can be.
Our reality is a dream that has every legitimate chance to come true, not the generic dream of thirty teams having a shot while sitting at 0-0. There is at play an actual amalgam of talent and ability and experience that you’re entitled to envision processing teamwork into dreamwork. No guarantees — despite the inspirational anniversary at hand — but we have arrived at a stronger competitive not to mention emotional starting point than we have at any Opener post-2007.
We’re not living in the post-2007 world anymore. This here, brothers and sisters, is the year after 2015, and I mean that in the best sense possible.