It's cold, it's snowing and I'm constantly shoveling. Must be February in New York. The worst sports month of the years (although the Islanders and Rangers have made it bearable) only offering is the constant reminder that the weather is better in Florida and that baseball is almost here. This off season has been particularly odd in that most of us expected the Mets to be gun slinging and picking off free agents while making all types of trades to better this years roster.
Well, Cuddyer, Mayberry Jr. and...oh yeah, that's it. As we scratch our head at the evident lack of activity and ponder whether or not Sandy has done enough to improve the team the players have begun to arrive en masse to Port St. Lucie, many of them having been there for weeks already for the strength and conditioning program.
Time to move past the "disappointing" off season, look forward to what we do have in front of us and imagine what can be. April 6th brings the beginning of 2015 and the Mets jump right into the deep end against the team many people assume is the inevitable NL East champ and World Series contender in the Nationals. A good start is paramount to this team getting its feet under them and most likely to Terry Collins keeping his job. 5-15 to start the year is almost assuredly a one way ticket from Las Vegas to Queens for Mr. Backman.
However, I want the fans to take a different approach. We must remind ourselves that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Rarely do teams go wire to wire without some form of a challenge from a division competitor. A bad start does not entail a bad season. Is it harder to rebound from, absolutely, but it's not impossible.
I can see the headlines now, Mets drop 2 of 3 to Nats to open season, the hot seat is on full blast and fans flock to the airwaves to voice their concern. Reminder, the Mets opened both the 1986 and 1988 seasons at 2-3. In 1969 they opened at 3-7. Leading the first mile of the race is much less important than leading at the wire. Keep pace and don't get lost in the pack. Wins in April count the same as wins in September so as long as you get them it doesn't matter when, it just matters how many.
Mets fans always speak proudly of the teams success on Opening Day. Great, we are the best team on day one and rarely the best team on day 162, so who cares? It's like taking solace in the fact that you beat the Yankees four straight even though you finished with 74 wins. I don't care if I lose to the Yankees all six times this year. I care that we get over .500 and steal a wild card spot.
Slow and steady wins the race, especially in baseball. They play the games for a reason and starting the first week of April we will find out what we have become. Maybe the monks in Laos will serve us some wins in return for the rice they got from Mr. Harvey.
We know the pitching will be good, how good is a question but with the depth they have and the added experience I can see them being better than last year with ease. The tell tale sign for me will be the first time the bases are loaded with less than two outs. Will this offense struggle to plate runs or do we see them turn the corner and become a better situational hitting team. I feel confident that if that bases loaded moment results in a two run double followed by an RBI single this team will settle in and take off. If the opposite happens and two guys strike out, followed by a pop up on the infield we may be in for a long summer again.
Only a few more weeks and it begins again, see you in April.