I was at the gym the other day and I overheard a conversation between two frustrated Mets fans. Apparently they’d exhausted their complaints about the current team, so they went off on Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, the Duaner Sanchez taxi cab incident, and of course the poster boys for the Mets recent failures, Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo. There was no discussion of Bernie Madoff, which is fine as there is enough to harp about on the field without delving into the team’s hideous financial quagmire. One guy went so far as to mention Grant’s Tomb, implying that Citi Field is likely to resemble the depressing late 70’s dog days of Shea Stadium, when Joe Torre’s hapless team was mired in the cellar. This is a bit off base, as Shea never had a Shake Shack or Blue Smoke. Just dirty water dogs and soggy pretzels. Citi Field will still be a good place to chow down — even better, actually, because the lines will be shorter.
I was tempted to jump in and join the bitch-fest, but what’s the point of preaching to the choir? Mets fans, even the most optimistic of the lot, are buckling up for bumpy ride this season (as if the last three years were smooth sailing), and likely the next two or three. With three days until Opening Day (how appropriate that they are opening up on April Fools’ Day), it’s hard, if not impossible, to gather even a small helping of the optimism I usually feel this time of year. Every team starts off 0-0 and tied for first, but I feel like the Amazin’s have been dealt a handicap — already 0-20 and buried in last. Hope springs eternal? More like hope springs a leak.
There’s no conceivable way I can conjure up a winning scenario for this squad. It would take career years from the likes of Wright, Reyes, Pagan, and Pelfrey; inspired comebacks from Beltran, Young, Capuano, and K-Rod; break-out years from Davis, Tole, Niese, and Parnell; and a reinvention of the overly intense Terry Collins as a “player’s kind of guy.” Add all that up — which is pure fantasy to begin with — and you still have a shaky bullpen, weak bench, an ace (Santana) who may or may not make it back this year, a huge question mark at second, and management that has no choice but to shed salary , meaning Reyes and Beltran, even if they’re having All-Star years, are likely to be trade bait by mid-season.
I can honestly say I have not been this down about the Mets since . . .well, maybe never. This spring, with the worsening news about the team’s financial state, the injury to Beltran, and the drawn-out long-goodbye saga of Perez and Castillo, has actually evaporated any drop of hope I may have felt back in January. The Mets teams of the late 70’s and early 80’s, as well as the overpriced, overrated teams of the early and mid-90’s, were rather uninspiring, but at least there was no talk about mountains of debt and the need to find new investors. It was just bad baseball, which usually clear up like a bad case of acne.
I’m picking the Mets for dead last in the NL East, but maybe I can find a silver lining in those dark and threatening clouds hanging over Flushing Bay.
Maybe the Mets inability to spend will force them to build a model farm system for years to come. That’s why they brought Sandy Alderson into this mess, isn’t it? Rebuild with homegrown talent. What a novel concept!
Maybe I’ll get better seats and breeze through shorter lines at Citi Field, which despite the quality of play on the field, is still a great place to spend a summer afternoon.
Maybe there’s be a more positive vibe around the team now that Perez and Castillo are gone — and maybe I’ll finally stop writing about these guys.
Maybe the Wilpons will have no choice but to relinquish majority interest to a new owner who will help turn the tide and set the Mets on the road to recovery.
Maybe a little reverse psychology will help. Since I’ve always been optimistic about the Mets each spring, only to be disappointedby October, perhaps being all gloom and doom from the start will bring them good fortune in the end. However you define “the end,” of course.
Regardless, I’m actually looking forward to this season. No pressure, low expectations. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the best game in the world. And know that as a Mets fan, things will eventually turn for the better.
They will, won’t they?