Those of you who have read my articles know how I feel about the beginning of a new baseball season. It is, without a doubt, the best time of year.
Each spring, as the earth awakens from its death-like slumber, I, like many baseball fans, am rejuvenated, filled with a renewed sense of innocence, hope and enthusiasm as I await the return of our national pastime. I wont repeat the reasons why—for further edification, see my article, “Baseball: More than Just Our national Pastime” from March 20th.
What many don’t know is that I am also a staunch Mets fan—have been forever. So while I am certainly brimming with boundless alacrity over the start of yet another baseball season, my affinity for the blue and orange brings with it an unflagging sense of hopelessness and desperation, rendering me suspended in the merciless tentacles of ambivalence.
How am I really supposed to feel?
As I sit at my computer, staring at the two vacant orange seats from Shea Stadium that adorn an entire office filled with Met paraphernalia, the emptiness resonates.
I have accepted for years that my allegiance to the Metropolitans comes with a very steep price tag. Good lord. Three World Series appearances in my 45 years and only one championship? Ugh. Tough to swallow. I have known the perils of rooting for quite some time, yet somehow, I just keep coming back.
Some would suggest that it may be an exaggerated sense of loyalty—maybe. I might offer that my introduction to baseball came at Shea Stadium, where my father and I sat together and enjoyed the universal language of this treasured sport.
This reminiscence reminds me that the Mets are endowed with a sort of mysticism that for me has the power to transcend time, transporting this middle-aged baseball junkie back to a time when things were easier and just made more sense.
Others who are far less sentimental and border on cynical would contend that I am twisted somehow, enamored with the ritualistic suffering most closely associated with one who participates in acts of masochism or values the art of martyrdom.
Perhaps it is a confluence of all three.
In any event, this year, the trepidation I feel seems far more palpable. Any true Met fan knows the reason for this.
The team has been decimated by the Bernie Madoff scandal, and it is only now beginning to recover from it. Jose Reyes’ defection to Miami didn’t help any. And some untimely injuries have only exacerbated the angst and burgeoning feelings of calamity. We even lost Gary Carter, who despite his tenure with the Montreal Expos, holds a special place in New York Mets folklore.
The locusts can’t be far behind.
But the one glaring issue, one that remains largely unspoken thus far because I suspect nobody in Met land wants to admit it, is the imminent departure of the last two New York Met marquee players—David Wright and Johan Santana.
Let’s face it; in all likelihood, come July, the Mets will be reeling, and if most baseball prognosticators are correct, they will also be mired in last place in the NL East.
Invariably, discussions about rebuilding for the future (will it ever really get here?) will ensue, and Mr. Wright and Mr. Santana will no longer be playing for The New York Mets. Their tenure with the team will be reduced to nothing more than a glorified audition—a day-to-day showcase of their skills and potential worth to a team that is looking to fortify its roster.
Let the auctioning begin.
While this appears logical, I suppose, from a business perspective, it will be difficult to watch, especially in the case of Wright. Nothing warms the heart of a baseball purist more than watching a player work his way through the system, only to become a fixture with the parent club, the proverbial face of the franchise. The recent offensive struggles notwithstanding, that was to be David Wright—the player that Met fans had longed for since the days of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.
It will be a dark day in Flushing when Wright departs; the team that continues to languish in the shadows of the baseball empire just across town will be faceless once again.
The only hope is that from the complete dismantling of this team come prospects for the future, like Zack Wheeler who was obtained in the Carlos Beltran deal.
I’m looking at those orange seats from Shea again. I cannot help but smile. I guess I’m as hopeless as the team for whom I root.
Honestly, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. I don't need league domination or 27 championships, although I would certainly not complain if either should occur. No, I’m much easier to please.
I just want to begin the season with some hope, just a glimmer, and not the feeling embodied in the "Family Guy" clip of little Stewie on opening day—forlorn and awash with despair as the play-by-play commentator announces after the very first pitch that the season is over.