Posted in Baseball

On Hope Springing Eternal

It’s that time of year again: pitchers and catchers have already reported for spring training, and the rest of the squads will be in Florida or Arizona come tomorrow. Normally this is cause for me to rejoice, but as a Mets fan, I’m kind of dreading it. It’s not that I have lowered expectations—quite frankly, I’m expecting disaster, and it has nothing to do with their probable last place finish.

What I think will happen is this:

If David Wright gets off to a good start and the team tanks, he’ll be traded. It won’t be the first time the face of the franchise leaves town, he carries the most value for potential suitors and the Mets really need to replenish their farm system with prospects. Even with the drop-off in his batting average, Wright is still a solid player, though as Fred Wilpon correctly, if indiscreetly, stated a year ago, he’s not a superstar.

The team holds onto Mike Pelfrey who has proven time and again that he’s not up to pitching in New York. Yes, he had that wonderful first half a couple of seasons ago, but how many times have the Mets spread the word in spring training that “This is Pelfrey’s breakout year!” and nothing but nothing happens? When is the team going to face the fact that this guy is utterly mediocre and his true value lies in being trade bait for several young pitchers?

Johann Santana not only doesn’t revert to the Johann of Old, he still has major problems. While I don’t expect Santana to be that unhittable pitcher he was for Minnesota, I’m concerned about how much life he’s still got in his elbow, arm or shoulder (take your pick). This is not the first time he’ll be coming back from major reconstruction, and while he’s certainly savvy enough to compensate for what he’s lost, is he up to a full season, let alone a successful one?

Jason Bay will continue to prove that he should have stayed in Boston where he had a happy home as one of several players who could get the job done at any time. The Mets, on the other hand, have so many holes in their makeup that Bay’s inability to produce makes it impossible to look away. There’s no place to hide for Bay, and if he has a bad first half, the Mets should really consider paying his way out of town.

When I look at the rest of the roster I just shake my head. This is what Bernie Madoff hath wrought: zero resources for free agent signings. Yes, a healthy Ike Davis will be back, along with Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada, all of whom I love to watch, but there’s no there there, is there? And let’s not get started on the rest of the rotation, with the possible exception of Jonathon Niese, nor the bullpen (shudder).

To me this adds up to discounted seats and warm beer at Citifield. I hope I’m wrong.

On another Met-related subject, I want to say a few words about Gary Carter. He wasn’t my favorite Met from the 1986 champion team (Keith Hernandez was), but there’s no way they could have won without him that year, or come so close to a division title the year before. He was superb in handling the pitching staff—Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Bobby Ojeda, Sid Fernandez and Rick Aguilera—in addition to being a powerful clean-up hitter. While I know the curtain calls drove the rest of the world crazy, we Met fans just loved to see Kid belt one, round the bases and pop out of the dugout to acknowledge us. The passing of a summer hero, particularly at a young age, reminds us of our own mortality, but thankfully it also gives us a moment to remember and savor the good times once again. Thanks, Kid, and rest in peace.

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