I thought if I just make it through the winter and finally get done with all that shoveling, the warmth of spring and the start of baseball will ease the pain and make the North Pole−like blizzards a distant memory, and it will be smooth sailing from there on out. But apparently I’m the Mets of people (or is it the Mets personified?) – they thought last year’s injury nightmare was behind them only to have it all start over again this spring, and I had that “here we go again” feeling, too. As soon as I dug myself out of the snow (and thought, “It can’t get any worse than this, can it?”), I had to spend a boatload of money (that I don’t even have) to get my broken-down, good-for-nothing car fixed (twice), and then Saturday’s hurricane hit, and my basement was submerged (I think I found Nemo) and much of the siding on my house was ripped off in the gale-force winds. Let’s face it, if the Mets had a basement it would have flooded, too. And their house would have been ripped to shreds. And a fallen tree would have crushed their car. But as I was mopping and bailing for about 10 straight hours, I popped open a can of beer and threw on some music – Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, the Beatles, the Killers – and I turned into Mr. Brightside (though I don’t think that song is about one’s house being ruined in a storm). And I still had my power and my next-door neighbor’s tree that fell over didn’t crash into my house (or his). So at least I had that going for me.
And so I’ll be Mr. Brightside concerning the Mets today, too. Down in sunny Florida on Saturday, Oliver Perez threw four no-hit innings. Sure, he can pitch two innings and let up eight runs just as easily as he can pitch eight innings and let up two runs in any given week, but let’s stay positive and feel good about his last outing. Maybe he’ll actually turn a corner in his career and be a consistent, quality starter (ok, that may be taking things too far). The next day, ace Johan Santana threw four shutout innings of his own. As long he’s not injured, you don’t really have to worry about him getting hit hard in spring training, but getting good results is better than getting hammered. And he seems to be able to throw all of his pitches effectively now, after last season’s arm problems limited his arsenal. Newcomer Hisanori Takahashi has not allowed a run all spring and could find himself as the long man in the bullpen (note to self: Do not call him a Japanese import). Kiko Calera recently made his spring debut, and Frankie Rodriguez is scheduled to pitch today. Jenrry Mejia is giving Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya something to think about. But we won’t mention John Maine and Mike Pelfrey today.
On the offensive side, David Wright has hit three home runs so far this spring. That’s not exactly overwhelming, but imagine if he had gone homerless for all of March – that would be weighing on him during his every waking hour, and he’d turn into a head case. Jason Bay and Daniel Murphy banged out homers over the weekend. A few pieces of the team’s future – Ike Davis and Fernando Martinez – are hitting like crazy in the preseason. And six out of the eight starting position players are healthy. For the Mets that’s saying a lot. They’re still only on their backup shortstop, not fourth stringer like last year.
Carlos Beltran is already talking about resuming baseball activities, maybe in mid-April, and Jose Reyes doesn’t need surgery or even medication, only rest. Maybe they’ll both be back sometime in May when they’re scheduled to return. Does everything have to be the worst-case scenario for the Mets? Can’t some things just be routine? And with Reyes out we’ll get a look at youngster Ruben Tejada. Maybe he’ll give the team an unexpected spark and keep Alex Cora (with his limited range) on the bench, where he belongs. And did anybody really expect anything out of Kelvim Escobar? If he pitches any quality innings at all, it will be a bonus.
So as Igor once said in Young Frankenstein, “It could be worse. It could be raining.” Of course as soon as the words were out of his mouth it immediately started raining. But for today, I’ll dry out and look on the bright side.