What makes it interesting: The period of time between 1978 and 1982 has been mostly known as the Black Hole of Mets Baseball. There hasn't been much debate about it being the worst era in Mets History. That period of time was so hopeless that the Mets often closed the Upper Deck at Shea Stadium because it just wasn't worth it.
The period of time between 2009 and the present day could rival that era as far as dreariness and hopelessness. The Mets opened a brand new ballpark and immediately fell flat on their faces, as ownership and management bumbled their way through an endless string of injuries and financial issues. They never did close the Promenade Level at Citi Field, although there were multiple occasions where they probably wouldn't have been blamed for doing so (rather than shutter the level completely, they often simply shuttered the concession stands and let fans sit there and starve). I'm restating the obvious, but it's been a difficult few years to be a Mets fan. It's gotten to the point where the high hopes of Opening Day have basically been non-existent; everyone knows that the best the Mets can hope for in 2013 is probably a .500 record and a 4th place finish.
Yet with Spring Training officially underway for 2013 today, I can't help but feel somewhat optimistic about the Mets. Not because of the present, but because of the future. Much like the down years of the late 70s and early 80s gave way to a run of success, it's not outlandish to believe that these Mets are on a similar course. The Mets won't turn any corners in 2013, and I don't think anyone believes otherwise. But a number of calculated trades and high draft picks are beginning to take over the team, and the Mets are banking on them to lead the Mets back to respectability. Travis d'Arnaud is one such prospect. Though the Mets acquired d'Arnaud in a mostly unpopular trade for R.A. Dickey, the motives of the trade couldn't be questioned. The Mets, in 2013, will still be shedding some bad contracts and dead weight. R.A. Dickey, though an undeniable Fan Favorite, was also unfortunately the Mets most marketable commodity: A Cy Young Award winner at the top of his game. The Mets could have kept Dickey, but it wouldn't have done them any good in 2013. Dickey won 20 games in 2012, but that didn't translate to team-wide success. Instead, he helped the Mets by proving himself valuable enough for the Blue Jays to part with d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, another prospect who, though still a couple of years off, also holds a bit of upside.
d'Arnaud, to this point, has only distinguished himself by twice being dealt for Cy Young winners. A 2007 draft pick of the Phillies, d'Arnaud went to Toronto in the Roy Halladay trade in 2010. He's had multiple seasons derailed by injuries, but when healthy, he's managed to hit for both average and power, and proven himself a capable Catcher. This has been enough for MLB.com to name him the #6 prospect in Baseball. It has been enough for d'Arnaud's arrival in Port St. Lucie to be met with more than just a little fanfare. It's not what may happen this year that has fans excited. It's what's about to happen. It's the feeling that after so many lousy years, the Mets may finally be ready to turn the corner. The era of Jason Bays, Manny Acostas, Pat Mischs and Josh Tholes are done. The era of go-nowhere kids like Jeremy Hefner and Collin McHugh are going. It will be players like d'Arnaud, along with Zach Wheeler, Matt Harvey and Syndergaard who hold the future for the Mets.
Though d'Arnaud may not begin the season with the Mets, he's probably going to be in New York before too long. What happens from there is anyone's guess. But if the calculated gamble Sandy Alderson took in acquiring him pays off, he should be here for quite some time. It may not work, but for now, it's something worth getting a little excited about. Optimism isn't a feeling that's existed for the Mets in several years.