I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line I began enjoying Major League Baseball's offseason more than the regular season itself. Something about being a Mets fan from November through March is encouraging. At the start of every season the Mets are "the team to beat"...and then all of a sudden the season starts.
Mets fans are constantly given a false sense of optimism and are cursed with an old New York tradition of "waiting 'til next year."
I mean think about it. After the legendary September collapse in 2007 the Mets addressed their biggest need by bringing in the best pitcher in baseball when they traded for Johan Santana. They listened to the fans demands, and then gave us a reason to feel optimistic. The addition of Santana made Mets fans feel like "next year" had finally come.
When the Mets broke down the following September yet again, they blamed the collapse on their shaky bullpen. So what did they do? They went into the winter meetings and signed Fransisco Rodriguez and traded for J.J. Putz who were supposed to take an 89-win team with a shaky bullpen and turned them into a legitimate contender with no glaring weakness.
Mets fans were once again sitting in the drivers seat. Even Sports Illustrated picked the Mets to win it all. I mean really that's not saying much, but you can see where I'm going with this.
This offseason, the Mets have gone about their business in a slightly different way. Although they did make one big splash with the signing of Jason Bay, they haven't added any other big-impact players, rather they've brought in a number of low-risk, high reward guys like Mike Jacobs, Ryota Igarashi, Hisanori Takahashi.
They refused to over pay for aging veterans like Bengie Molina and Randy Wolf, and for the first time in years they have excitement coming out of their minor league system.
Omar has built up the farm system simply by refusing to trade his top minor league talent, and waiting patiently for them to develop. A pretty basic strategy that has seemed so hard to execute over the past four or five years.
Guys like Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, Jennry Mejia, and Josh Thole have been given the chance to develop and pretty soon will make in impact at the big league level.
Add these young players to a core that already include young established players like Wright, Reyes, Bay, Francoeur, Beltran and Santana give Mets fans something real to feel optimistic about. The Mets have youth and athleticism they haven't had since the mid-'80s. Who knows, the starting Mets infield in 2011 could be an all-home-grown unit of Wright, Reyes, Reese Havens, Davis and Thole.
So even with the recent news of Reyes being out 2-8 weeks, and Beltran already on the shelve for the first month of the season, I'm my typical preseason optimistic self; but hey, that's the nature of being a Mets fan. Always believing in the unbelievable and staying true to the team through thick and thin.
That's what makes being a Mets fan in New York so fun. It's hard work. It takes dedication, determination, and a little bit of twisted optimism. I love the Mets youth, their energy, their depth and the future of the franchise. Unfortunately, most of my wildest dreams lay on the shoulders of John Maine and Oliver Perez.