Monday, April 3, 2017

The Anger Year

On October 5th of 2016, the Mets season ended with a loss to the San Francisco Giants in the Wildcard Game. Instead of "On to Chicago" for the Mets, it was off into obscurity and another year of watching someone else celebrating a World Series Championship.

As a fan I'm still stewing over the way that whole thing ended and I think I've taken quite a bit of heat about it. I don't necessarily care because this is my blog and I can say whatever the hell I want. Plus, if you disagreed, then you sort of missed the whole point. But that's immaterial here as we finally approach the dawn of a new season.

I haven't written anything here in a good 5 months. Really, there hasn't been much to say. The Mets had one move that had to be made this offseason—resign Yoenis Cespedes—and they did that. Otherwise, this afternoon, when Howie Rose comes out, blows the Shofar, welcomes the congregants to the National League Season in New York and announces the Mets roster, there won't be an opportunity to give anyone a Joe Buck "WELCOME TO NEW YORK!!" Nobody's new. Everyone will have been here before.

I wouldn't call it so much addition by subtraction, even though some faces are gone. Maybe it's addition by attrition. The Mets managed to win a Wildcard last season with a team that was mostly decimated with injuries. Of the five that began the year in the starting rotation, only two were still standing come October. Now that we're back in April, one is gone, two are back, one replacement has emerged, and a face almost long forgotten has resurfaced. And, of course, one still sits in injury-prone limbo.

Mostly, the Mets flew under the radar during the offseason. That flurry of offseason activity really didn't produce anything beyond idle talk. Other teams got all the ink, and moving through Spring training, other teams continued to get all the ink. If you believe what you read, the Mets are probably somewhere between the 9th and 12th best team in the Majors, hardly enough to hang with the Big Boys when it comes time for October.

Of course, two years ago, nobody expected much out of them either.

Oh, but those names, those names, and the potential they hold. We're still waiting for the day when all of the "Big 5" are together at last, and really, that day may never come. But when you look at the Mets and see a rotation that's 7 pitchers deep, you realize that they might not necessarily have to be. Or at least not in the order you might have intended for them to be. Certainly, this afternoon's starter, Noah Syndergaard will lead the charge, much as he did last year, and a rejuvenated Jacob deGrom follows. Matt Harvey continues to have a giant bullseye on his back in the court of fan opinion, but we shall see whether his competitive spirit will once again win the day over the haters. Then, we have Robert Gsellman, who impressed last season in an emergency role and continued to do so this Spring. Finally, the return of Zack Wheeler, last seen in 2014, which may as well be a lifetime ago. What we'll get out of him, who knows, but he's back and he's ready to roll, even if he's going to be under the strictest of innings limits.

Offensively, you won't see flash beyond Cespedes, but that was the case last year too. Much like the pitchers, you just want everyone to stay away from Ray Ramirez. And maybe for Michael Conforto to hit so much he forces a move to be made. Otherwise, you sort of have a good idea what to expect from this group. Occasional line-moving, lots of Home Runs, some streakiness. Some days where they bomb an opponent into submission and others where they hit 4 double plays and leave 13 men on base.

But what I said at the end of last year still feels relevant now: the Mets, and even moreso their fans, need to approach this season with some degree of Arrogance. The Mets fan has been generally conditioned to fear the worst, and with good reason. But look at those guys that won last year. They were the saddest of the sad sacks and for some reason spent the entire 2016 season with their chests puffed out and look where they are now. Odds-on favorite to do it again. So, let's go out and knock them down a peg, shall we? The Mets have done this before. It's nothing new.

I've been thinking a lot about the Big Red Machine in the 1970s and how their arc sort of parallels this era of the Mets. They took some time to come together and made it to the cusp a pair of times, only to lose the World Series in 1970 and 1972, and get bounced by the Mets in the NLCS in 1973. But they persevered and ultimately won World Series Championships in 1975 and 1976 and remain one of the enduring Great Teams of their era. The Mets too have been on the edge twice now only to be turned away at the altar. Granted, the nature of the game is different now than it was then and more needs to align in order to make it but you need to continue to persevere. Those guys were probably murderous come '75 and, really, the Mets should feel that way this year.

Get Angry. Play Angry. Be Arrogant. I don't know if I'm the only one who truly feels that way or not but that's what this season needs to be about. Being on the edge has gone on too long and too many times the Mets have come this far only to stagnate and regress. There's no good reason for anything like that to happen to this group.

As is tradition, I will be on hand for Howie Rose, the Ceremonial Shea Wreath, The Blowing of the Shofar and the Ceremonial Opening Day Car Fire this afternoon with George, marking the 13th consecutive season I'll have done so. I've renewed my tickets—even sprung for better seats this season—so I'll be around, snarling from the Promenade level all year. 20 games the past couple of seasons has turned into 28 or 22 by the time the curtain finally falls on the season and I expect the number this year will approach the former.

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