Zen and the Misery of Being a Met Fan, since their heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the 2006 playoffs, the Mets have experienced historic collapses to miss the playoffs, baffling player moves, an unprecedented number of injuries to star and potential star players, and most insidious, ownership's entanglement with Bernie Madoff, which has caused a shrinking payroll and the inability or unwillingness to make key moves to make the team watchable, much less competitive. So, for the last several seasons, that familiar feeling comprising equal measure of hopelessness and disgust starts gnawing at me by around the All Star Break, and as the season winds down I become completely disgusted. Nevertheless, because I am a Met fan, I endure this agony and misery, still hoping for a miracle. (See The Seven Stages of Being A Met Fan) And, there have been a couple of miracles, although not since Mookie Wilson's grounder dribbled through Bill Buckner's legs in 1986.
I could dwell on the fact that ownership's goal -- particularly given their financial constraints -- seems to be making the team just a little better than mediocre to keep the fan base from rebelling completely. I could dwell on the fact that the Mets have an awful manager who is more likely to undermine promising young players than inspire them. I could dwell on the fact that rather than fill key holes such as shortstop, a lefty reliever and a power-hitting outfielder, the Mets biggest acquisition over the winter was signing a recently-injured 36-year-old Michael Cuddyer, whose primary claim to fame is that he is David Wright's best friend.
But it is spring training! A time of renewal and rebirth; a time when even the lowliest team has hope for the season ahead. Players coming off injury-plagued seasons are returning in the best shape of their careers. Hitters have corrected the flaws in their swing and pitchers have discovered devastating new pitches. And, as we say every year at this time, if "everything goes right" we could have a pretty good squad this year -- maybe even make the playoffs.
Indeed, Matt Harvey, who emerged two seasons ago as one of the most dynamic players and one of the very best pitchers in baseball before blowing out his elbow, is back and seemingly healthy. He will join an exciting young pitching staff which boasts last year's Rookie of the Year Jake DeGrom, fellow phenom Zack Wheeler, and even more great young arms.with more arms-in-waiting in the minors. If David Wright and Curtis Granderson bounce back, if Lucas Duda, Travis d'Arnaud and Juan Lagares continue to improve (or at least don't digress), if Wilmer Flores hits the way scouts say he can and is able to play even a minimally-adequate shortstop, the Mets might actually be fun to watch.
And if everything goes right ....