On the eve of the first official game of Spring Training—I don't count intrasquad games because there is nothing fun about watching your team beat up on each other—it's time to be optimistic about your baseball team. For baseball fans, March is the month of eternal optimism. Every team in baseball is tied for first place and famous phrases such as "That's why they play the games" and "Championships aren't won on paper" are uttered so much it can make your head spin.
Most Mets fans are viewing the 2012 season as a rebuilding year, and given the offseason the Mets had it would be hard to argue with them.
The team really made no effort to re-sign Jose Reyes, a homegrown talent who spent nine years with the organization and has been labeled by many baseball experts as one of the most dynamic players in the game. They didn't go out and sign a superstar to take the place of Carlos Beltran.
Tons of money was freed up when Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez came off the books, only to be replaced by a couple of journeyman relief pitchers and a middle infielder whose last name brings back bad memories.
Management looks at the offseason very differently. It is their job to look at the team not as fans, but as parents. They are looking out for the team’s future, something that championship-hungry fans never do. The Mets have lost a ton of money over the last couple of seasons. The New York Times reported that the team lost $50 million in 2010.
Also, management has to acknowledge the piano hanging over the heads of the Wilpon family, a lawsuit by the Bernie Madoff trustees that could cripple Mets ownership and possibly put them in a position where they would have to sell the franchise.
That is cause for concern no matter what market you are playing in. Clearly, management decided that handing out $100-$150 million contracts was not in the best interest of the Mets moving forward and it would be hard to argue against that point.
If you listen to Sandy Alderson, he would have you believe that Mets may not look like a championship team on paper, but they are not going to be as bad as some have predicted. Alderson would have you believe that if everything breaks right, the Mets could be right in the thick of a wild-card race come September.
So who should we believe? A frustrated, bitter fan base who utter the phrase "You Gotta Believe" with an eye roll and a shrug of the shoulders; or a GM who tells you "I'm a baseball man, you have to trust me"?
The best way to do it is to break down the team position-by-position and cut through all the blind cynicism/optimism. Here we go.