For most baseball fans, the beginning of the new season represents a fresh start and, as always, renewed postseason and World Series hopes. As a New York Mets fan, I haven’t had that feeling since the start of the 2008 campaign. Of course that was the year in which the Mets choked away a playoff spot for the second straight season. Since then, it’s been a steady dose of mediocrity.
Now, with the Mets and their fans entering the post-Bernie Madoff era the expectations for the club are at an all-time low; the team is almost universally being picked to finish dead last in the NL East. While every other team in the division has improved significantly, the Mets have gone in the opposite direction. The only record that the team is expected to break in 2012 is the one for the biggest one year payroll drop.
While I am disgusted with Mets ownership and the way they have shown total disregard for their fanbase, I am a Mets fan, and I will stick by my team. So rather than dwell on the negatives—like allowing Jose Reyes to walk, or making long-time supporters suffer because of the Wilpons’ bad business deals—I am choosing to look at the positives.
There are none. Unlike 2006-2008, when the team was predicted to excel, this year the Mets are an afterthought. It’ll be nice to be able to watch games and not chew off my fingernails like I did when Guillermo Mota or Luis Ayala would be called on to save a crucial game. Blown saves, a Mike Pelfrey meltdown, or a dropped pop-up won’t hurt as much, as that is what's expected. Small on-field victories will feel monumental.
Barring injuries, the Mets will be fielding shortstop Ruben Tejada, first baseman Ike Davis, and outfielder Luca Duda. Davis and Duda have both shown significant power, and with both players in the middle of the Mets lineup, they could prove troubling for opposing pitchers. Meanwhile, Tejada is being asked to fill the hole left by Reyes.The 22-year-old has a solid glove and has exhibited potential at the plate.
On the mound, starters Dillon Gee and Jon Niese are coming off solid seasons and have also shown promise. Hopefully with less pressure on them, they’ll continue to progress.
David Wright and Johan Santana
Say what you want about David Wright, but he has been nothing but a consummate professional throughout his Mets career. When he’s in a groove, he can be one of the most exciting players in baseball. Through the good times and the bad, Wright maintains a great attitude and always gives 100 percent.
It remains to be seen if Johan Santana can regain his status as one of baseball’s elite pitchers following his lengthy recovery from shoulder surgery. Santana had a good spring and appears completely healthy. In his brief time with the Mets, Santana has proven that he is a fighter and a big-game pitcher. Santana is set to ring in the Mets' new year as the Opening Day starter Thursday at Citi Field, his first regular-season start since Sept. 2, 2010. That alone is enough to provide inspiration and instill confidence in the team.
The Mets have two young pitchers on the 2012 Baseball America top 100 prospects list.
Pitcher Matt Harvey comes in at No. 54. The 23-year-old spent most of last season with Double-A Binghamton and was a part of Team USA at last year’s All-Star Futures Game in Phoenix.
One good move that GM Sandy Alderson made before last summer’s trade deadline was landing the highly coveted pitching prospect Zack Wheeler from the Giants in return for Carlos Beltran. Wheeler is the 35th-ranked prospect by Baseball America and will most likely start the season in Binghamton. The 21-year-old is regarded as the Mets’ No. 1 prospect and one to keep an eye on.
If ever there was a time to invoke a classic Mets rallying cry, it’s now. Enjoy the 2012 season and remember, Ya Gotta Believe...or at least try to believe.