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An Actual Sign of Spring

Pitchers and catchers reporting hasn’t done much for me for a number of years, which I say not in an effort to get you to feel the same way, but as an admission that I am a flawed human being.

Because of course pitchers and catchers doing baseball stuff down in some dull Florida (or even Arizona) precinct is better than nothing. Yes, it means a significant milestone in our slow trudge out of winter and its despond. Yes, all of that is wonderful.

image of 2020 Topps Mets cards [1]

After I’m done venting, we really will talk about this one.

But it no longer does much more for me because it’s such a big tease. The pitchers need the long march (see what I did there) of spring training to get their arms used to being tortured and damaged again, or at least used enough to it that they can go five or pitch in relief without too much of a layoff, which has been declared good enough to start the season. Kind of like how babies are born as late as possible in terms of gestation but still come out pretty much helpless. (Or, really, not very much like it at all, but consider it the metaphorical equivalent of throwing catch and light jogging in February.) Nobody else needs that long doing not much, though. Not hitters, not coaches, and not fans. Or at least not this fan.

Pitchers and catchers reporting is awesome for like a day, as are all the goofy spring-training stories that are really just the same stories you read in 2019 or 1999 or 1979. Did you hear Jeurys Familia [2] has lost a ton of weight? I’m not sure he’s said he’s in the best shape of his life, but we can go ahead and assume that’s the case. We’ve already gotten that one; ahead (if I haven’t missed it already) will be stories about Edwin Diaz [3]‘s new outlook (he’ll be turning the page, working on his toughness, or whatever), how someone (maybe Dom Smith or Brandon Nimmo [4]) has had something click and is ready for a breakout season, and how someone has been hurt for a long time but finally feels healthy again. (I’m betting on Michael Wacha [5], since Yoenis Cespedes [6]‘s story involves wild boars and contract restructurings and other oh-so-Metsian stuff that makes it sui generis.) We’ll get the thoughtful revisiting of difficult times, with the candor and insights one gets when the alternative is going back to the sports bar and risking getting in trouble in the parking lot. (What really did happen to Jed Lowrie [7] during his very weird lost season, anyway?)

And of course we’ll get kumbaya talk about Luis Rojas [8] as the great communicator and Jeremy Hefner [9] as cerebral and hard-working and paeans to leadership and common cause and pulling for each other. Wouldn’t be spring without any of those things.

And then it will be March 10th or so and we’ll have gone through all those stories and guys will be tired of seeing the same three clubs and tired of Port St. Lucie and it will have dumped three feet of snow in New York, about which I am pre-tired, and Opening Day will transform in our imaginations from being right around the corner to being the end of the hallway in Poltergeist.

That happens every year. All of this happens every year.

This offseason, though, has come with an additional helping of Mets drama and turmoil and plain old weirdness. First off, of course, we’re on our third manager since October, which is a trick I hope the Mets never pull off again, and February and March are going to be a drip-drip-drip of more Carlos Beltran [10] stories, reminding us all that the Mets somehow got blindsided by this, as they somehow get blindsided by everything.

The Mets were going to be sold, to a guy who sounds like a hedge-fund serpent even by hedge-fund serpent standards but is not Jeff Wilpon and so we were all fine with that, except then it turned out they weren’t going to be sold, because Jeff Wilpon is determined to become the dictionary definition of Large Adult Son even with substantial competition from the political world, except now they might be sold again, and this time the buyer supposedly won’t have to put up with Jeff Wilpon as part of the acquisition, which would be fantastic (particularly for said buyer) except by now I’m dizzy and dispirited and just want to lie down in a dark room until someone knocks on the door to tell me how it all turned out.

The Mets unveiled a swanky new clubhouse in Port St. Lucie, which is the kind of real-estate press release turned middling story that a certain aforementioned Large Adult Son lives for, and harmless in isolation. But being the Mets, they managed to step on their own anatomy by revealing that the minor-leaguers won’t get to use the palatial clubhouse after spring training, to … remind them of what they strive for? This was greeted with proper derision by the likes of Ty Kelly [11] and P. J. Conlon, who reminded us that life in the low minors is crappy deli sandwiches and cramming into efficiency apartments. MLB’s treatment of its minor leaguers is a cynical crime, as it has been for years; somehow the Mets managed to take a furniture story and remind of their role in that crime.

Yoenis Cespedes is looking good! Or at least looking upright and hitting balls long distances, which is more than we’d hoped for at this point. So the Mets, being the Mets, talked about giving him playing time at first base. Cue the “That’s So Mets!” jokes. I tire of that meme, as I know you do too, but all too often you read something and before you even process it you can hear “Yakety Sax” in your head and find yourself wondering how it is we’ve wound up here yet again. It is so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so very Mets to look at a position they’ve actually solved and immediately think about how to unsolve it, isn’t it?

I’ve probably missed some misadventures, but that’ll do.

What will fix all this? Actual games that count. And that’s why, despite all the above, my shriveled little heart did expand a half-size or so (I’m not capable of going up two sizes, sorry) when I saw Wilson Ramos [12] and Jeurys Familia pop up in little video windows on Twitter. Because meaningless and maddening as the next six or so weeks will be, they’re still better than winter.

And there are other signs of spring. Like my 2020 Topps Mets team set came in the mail today. There are way too many horizontal cards, and reputable scientists will tell you that horizontal baseball cards are a primary contributor to global warming, civic apathy and a host of other ills. But the design is not bad and they come in team colors and the photography’s pretty good and the team card features J.D. Davis looking insane, which is as it should be, and they’re new Mets cards, little pages in what will be the next chapter of our ongoing saga. And my goodness, doesn’t that shiny new Pete Alonso [13] card look perfect, like the actual flesh-and-blood shiny new Pete Alonso we got to enjoy last year?

New cards, new posts, new stories, new games. They’re coming, they’re actually coming. And boy I do need them.