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And Now, the Start is Near

Pitchers and catchers reported to Mets camp on February 12. Position players, if they weren’t already on hand, checked in on February 17. The first full-squad workout under the auspices of new manager Mickey Callaway was February 19. Exhibition games began on February 23.

On March 13, 29 days after the 2018 Mets commenced the process of evolving from amorphous concept to tangible entity, the first cut of Spring Training was revealed. The Mets were dispatching to the minor league side of St. Lucie…outfielder Tim Tebow.

They required a full month of baseball activity to decide to demote a football player. The entertainment business [1] is funny that way.

Roster wheels grind slowly, but they do grind. Ground up moments after the Tebow news broke (because everything related to Binghamton-bound Tebow is considered news [2]) were more minor league cuts: Kevin McGowan and Jamie Callahan, who we saw pitch for us last season, and Marcos Molina, Corey Oswalt and Gerson Bautista, who maybe we’ll see pitch for us someday. The next day, six more players were told for sure they wouldn’t immediately be making the Mets: 2017 contingency starter Chris Flexen, plus pitcher Tyler Bashlor; first baseman Peter Alonso; outfielders Zach Borenstein and Kevin Kaczmarski; catcher Patrick Mazeika; and third baseman David Thompson.

The Mets continued to play games that didn’t count, often deploying players they weren’t counting on anyway, including some of the above. Nobody minds in Spring Training. Games have to get played if not completed. There were three ties.

On March 20, the Mets deleted ten more players from their imminent plans, including three with a Mets past — second baseman Gavin Cecchini, utilityman Ty Kelly and outfielder Matt den Dekker — along with seven others of varying backgrounds and foregrounds: pitchers P.J. Conlon, A.J. Griffin, Matt Purke, Drew Smith and Corey Taylor; infielder Luis Guillorme; and catcher/erstwhile enemy of the people Jose Lobaton. Three days later, two 2017 Mets were instructed to take a similar short hike: catcher Tomàs Nido and everybody’s favorite point man, reliever Hansel Robles.

All that was left to do by March 24 was sort out who was injured and who wouldn’t be in the rotation. The former group encompassed non-surprises Rafael Montero, David Wright and T.J. Rivera and better safe-than-sorry guys Jason Vargas and Michael Conforto. Dom Smith seems destined for both the DL and AAA. Zack Wheeler is healthy but not deemed major league-caliber at this time [3].

The part of Spring Training devoted to weeding out who wouldn’t be a Met was complete. So was the part in which those who would be Mets were prepared to be Mets, either for the first time or yet again. Hence, step right up and greet your first-edition 2018 New York Mets:

Syndergaard and Plawecki.
DeGrom and d’Arnaud.
Gonzalez, Cabrera, Rosario and Frazier. Cespedes, Nimmo and Bruce.
Reyes. Flores. Lagares. Evans. (Every non-catcher likely to sit on the first Met bench has a name that ends in an ‘s’.)
Harvey, Matz and Lugo.
Gsellman and Rhame.
Sewald and Swarzak.
Blevins.
Ramos.
Familia to close things out, unless something goes awry or Callaway gets creative.

That’s 25. That’s a roster. That’s the Mets on the eve of when we shall need Mets. All we need now is a season. One of those, per the forecast of an optimistic orphan named Annie, is only an Opening Day away.

We can’t do anything about the weather beyond hoping the sun will come out tomorrow and that rain will stay at bay. The temperature will peak nowhere near that which measures as comfortable, but when was the last time you heard of the Mets postponing a game due to cold? Barring torrents of precipitation, they will play. They will win or perhaps lose. They will be One and Oh, which will match the greatest late-March/early-April feeling you’ve ever known, or they will be Oh and One, which won’t be remotely as great, but will beat the hell out of the Oh and Oh we’ve been stuck on since last autumn’s universal reset.

The Mets played 31 Spring Training games. Their record was 10-18-3. I note that here in the event that next February it’s wondered how the Mets did last Spring. Nobody will remember. We will be correct to have forgotten. It won’t matter by then. It no longer matters now. It didn’t matter while it was going on. We passed the competitively inconsequential time monitoring the professional dips in the road encountered by the Tebows, the Coreys and so on. Their performance within those games that nobody will remember may have been consequential to organizational perceptions of their development, but not very telling to the rest of us. Depending on your ballplaying classification, the downside of getting invited to Spring Training [4] is getting invited out of Spring Training before Spring Training ends.

Eventually, we got our men, all 25 of them. We were pretty certain of the identities of the vast majority going in, but Spring Training is a well-established, long-ass ritual that must be abided. The least we can do is act as if we’ve learned something profound when told Phillip Evans and Jacob Rhame have made the squad [5].

The 25-man roster we took six weeks to fully confirm will have its episodes of attrition and replacement. Several of whom we said “so long” to in March we’ll say “hey” to sooner than we anticipate. Knock wood, we stand to get Vargas and Conforto back ASAP if not ASAP enough. We stand a decent chance of getting to know lefty reliever Fernando Abad [6] and outfielder Bryce Brentz [7], two major league veterans snagged for presumably minor league purposes just as the Mets were boarding the last Delta [8] out of West Palm. There’ll be downs, countered by ups. The Mets started 2017 with a 25-man roster. By the time they ended 2017, there had been 52 Mets.

It was like looking in a funhouse mirror, except without the fun.

The 2017 Mets are gone. Never mind that 22 of our first 25 2018 Mets were 2017 Mets. That can no longer be held against them. These Mets of this brand new year are Oh and Oh on March 28, the last day that Oh and Oh is the best we can hope for.