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Root, Root, Root for the Whole Team

Some Mets I can’t wait to see go. Roberto Alomar in 2003, T#m Gl@v!ne in 2007, Luis Castillo from June 12, 2009 to last Friday…those departures represented addition in my soul via subtraction from the squad. I didn’t much want to pull for them as Mets and I was eventually delivered from that basic responsibility of fandom. There simply came a juncture with all three when the mere sight of each in the uniform of the team I’d called my own since I was six years old saddened to sickened me. It transcended the “surely we can do better for a catcher than Brian Schneider” judgment, wherein you’d like to see a severely limited player replaced by a potentially higher-ceilinged one. You want to root for every Met, yet sometimes it just feels wrong to have to root for someone you have no rooting interest in.

It wasn’t that way with Ollie Perez. Mind you, I’m plenty happy that he’s been instructed to receive his $12 million at an address that isn’t the New York Mets clubhouse. I’m relieved that the new regime extricated itself from somebody else’s lingering mistake. I’m elated, really, that the “24 + 1” construction that became necessary last year when Ollie wouldn’t accept a Bobby Jones/Steve Trachsel-style fix-trip to the minors won’t occur this year. We may have lousy pitchers in the pen in 2011, but we won’t be shackled to them the point of utter uselessness.

Still, I’m not overcome by the urge to dash into Times Square [1] and kiss the first pretty nurse I encounter now that Oliver Perez has been released. I liked Ollie [2] — or wanted to — until he rejected taking the team-first tack [3] of attempting to sort out his continual pitching woes at Buffalo for a few weeks. Would it have worked? We’ll never know. It surely didn’t work having him around cluttering up the roster. He surely couldn’t consistently get batters out for two full seasons. Whether he was acting out of insecurity or selfishness or principle, I lost most of my sympathy for his (well-compensated) plight when he wouldn’t try to partake of a latter-day Norfolk Miracle Cure.

Nevertheless, Perez showed up to camp this spring and I thought maybe he could get some of it back, provide a fraction of the effective innings he gave us in the desperate hours of October 2006 and then often enough in 2007 and 2008 so that he cashed in come 2009. He was never going to be a Mets starter again, but I bought into his potential as a reliever. He wasn’t so old. His success wasn’t so far removed from the present. He had been a lefty with baffling stuff. That’s always too enticing to dismiss cavalierly.

It didn’t happen for him, not how it had to. At his best this month, he flashed signs of adequacy. Then Saturday, facing successive righties on the Nationals, he provided a strain of rocket fuel that the engineers at nearby Cape Canaveral must have envied when trails of it appeared in the Space Coast sky. I have to confess I kind of involuntarily clapped when Jeff Frazier and Brian Bixler took him deep [4]and deeper because I could hear the Band-Aid being ripped off in two easy swipes. It was inevitable Ollie would be going. Now the moment would have to be at hand.

Released from the Mets [5], Ollie can move on (if, in fact, his Blassification [6] isn’t irreversible) and so can we. We are suddenly blessed with a team from which we’re not sitting around waiting for extractions. We’re not reminding each other and anybody who’ll listen that $18 million spent on Castillo and Perez [7] is spent whether they’re here to soak it up or not. Two guys who aren’t them will be here instead. On the first actual day of spring, that’s as fresh a start as we can ask for.

The Mets might be better in 2011 than they were in 2010. They might be worse. They might be tangibly the same when 162 games are over. Right now, however, they feel different in a very good way. I’m beginning to get a grasp on this year’s model. Up until recently, the names that bubbled up from the bargain bin — Young, Capuano, Harris, Hairston, Byrdak — represented a blur of austere allocation and indifferent aspiration. Now they, combined with those who carry on from seasons past, are the Mets to me. There’s nobody here I’m wishing would get lost, which in itself is kind of new: new and most welcome. I haven’t liked not being behind everybody on my team. It’s not why I decided to have a team to call mine.

Let’s Go Mets. All of them.