Spring Training comes with its own measure of swagger. Optimism is the size of a grapefruit. Predictions of an October pennant race sound as sweet as a sun-kissed Florida orange. From Florida to Arizona, managers and coaches spew sweet accolades on the crop of prospects and the 30-something coming back from season-ending surgery is once again fresh and productive, while players gush giddy gibberish sweeter than the citrus of a pomelo.
Isn’t it grand?
It’s part in parcel of Spring Training, the moment all 30 teams hit the reset button. The mood is sweet and sticky. There’s a sense of renewal, hope and promise. This could be the year.
The New York Mets are no different. They are bold and confident for a team that won 79 games last year and haven’t produced a winning record since 2008. In fact, the Mets are wearing their confidence on their sleeves — literally. Last week blue t-shirts were in each players locker. On the front it says: Win: It’s in Your Grasp. On the back: Take the Damn Thing. Jeff Wilpon tried this motivational tactic in 2012 when he had bright orange t-shirts with the Underdog logo printed.
There is also a naïveté that comes with the pending season.
Jacob deGrom, the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year, started talking post season last week:
There’s a lot of hype around the team right now and we know that. We definitely want to live up to it. We want to make the playoffs, win the World Series.
Win the World Series, really? If anyone is setting the bar high for the Mets it’s, well, the Mets.
Tempting isn’t it? Everyone wants a taste of the forbidden fruit. Zack Wheeler has been heard comparing the team to the Giants. Yes, the team that has won three of the last five World Series.
(The Giants) are a little bit ahead of us, but we’re on the same path. It’ll be fun to do the same. You see how much success they have had with young arms and developing players. That’s what we are doing here, we just need to keep going.
If you watch (and listen) closely, the veterans speak differently; there are cautiously optimistic.
Curtis Granderson told the New York Daily News:
I think we are primed and ready … We have got to not believe our own hype, you can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve gotta to go out and play.
But it’s the captain, David Wright, who put all the talk in perspective:
Every year you have got 30 teams saying the same things to the players. Anybody can talk. Now let’s go out there and back it up and win baseball games. The last time I checked you don’t get anything for talking the best game.
Terry Collins set the tone on Day One, raising the expectations of everyone — including himself.
“We’ve been sitting around for four years asking everybody to be patient,” he said. “It’s time.”
Yes, it is, but is the timing right? David Wright is coming off his worst statistical season of his career. Matt Harvey missed the entire 2014 season after Tommy John surgery. Michael Cuddyer is 36 years old and was riddled by injuries last season. Bobby Parnell returns from surgery. Can Curtis Granderson return to form? Who will play shortstop? Do the Mets have enough depth?
Do the Mets have swagger or are they blinded by naïveté? There’s only one way to find out … play ball.