Doug’s Dugout: Big Hopes, Big Injuries, Bigger Heads

In Doug’s Dugout today we discuss: Opening Day, how to follow the Mets this season, and the sad case of Barry Bonds.

Are there any two words sweeter to a baseball fan than, “Opening Day?” On Friday, we get to utter it, with one caveat: It’s a night tilt. How awful is that?

Opening Day falls on a night. It’s sad how baseball has sold the game out from the fans, but that is another a rant for another day. By the end of spring training the players’ are not the only ones pining for the opener. How many reports about who looks good and who doesn’t can a person take? Moreover, this spring has had all the sizzle of a bowl of soggy corn flakes for Mets fans.

Unless you are entertained by reports from death row that were delivered ad nauseam about the plight of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. The question was not if they’d be released, but when.

Sadly, too many trees were sacrificed in the endless chatter. I’ll give it to new Mets GM Sandy Alderson; he did not let the fans or media dictate how he ran his ballclub. That’s an ex-military man for you. He stood firm and gave the deleted pair every length of rope to hang themselves.

The Perez bullpen experiment – the last straw (imagine a pitcher who can’t throw strikes relieving?), and Castillo only had a fighter’s chance because the second base competition looked like the auditions for American Idol in scope and delusion.

I was rooting for Ron Hunt to make it. Maybe Brad Emaus turns out to be this year’s R.A. Dickey, the feel good story of 2010?

Other than that, the camp was about rehabbing arms and knees, and the usual optimism in the sun. If you look at the upcoming season as a complete picture it probably will not be pleasing to the eye. That’s why experienced Mets fans, who lived through hard times in every decade of existence, can offer this advice: Watch the games in a vacuum.

Meaning, enjoy and savor each win, big hit by youngsters, such as Ike Davis and Josh Thole, and satisfying start of Jon Niese. Don’t worry too much how many games Carlos Beltran and his balky knees will trot out to right field. The dye has been cast – he’s is a goner. Maybe by July, but definitely at the end of the season. That doesn’t mean you can’t root for him to be productive (it behooves Mets fans to hope he goes out in a blaze and the team can get some used knee braces in return).

The latest news of Jason Bay’s rib injury so close to the opener, I admit, is a punch in the bread basket. However, do you see him as a core player down the road? Didn’t think so. Let him get his 20 & 80 in silence and move on, with whomever is ticketed out of town. Mets fans have spent too much of their time concerned with the rehab of star players.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the Mets will field a team of players who all can bust it for 150-plus games or 35 starts and not breakdown (think youth). That’s what I’m rooting for. The injury news, so prevalent, can’t be what following a team is all about.

Let me wrap this segment up with a short story: When the Mets first caught my fancy In the middle sixties they were broadcast on Channel 9. One summer night the game did not have my undivided attention (as expected for a seven-year old) when screaming emanated from the old Philco TV. The speakers vibrated and my attention was now drawn like a magnet to metal.

I believe it was Lindsay Nelson who shouted, “The Mets have knocked Sandy Koufax out of the box,” he said multiple times. I saw a pitcher walking with his head down from the mound towards the visiting dugout at Shea Stadium. I realized right then the Mets had in the context of one game/inning accomplished a miraculous feat. I had witnessed history that night.

(Koufax tortured the Mets in his career along with Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, and Steve Carlton-except for the night lefty struck out 19 Mets in 1972, but Ron Swoboda won it with a pair of two-run homers. Beating the best was fleeting that season but the memory has stayed with me a lifetime.)

Watch the games in a vacuum my friends, it will help you keep your sanity in a troubling season. Prediction: Mets win 74 games.

I don’t need sordid testimony from Barry Bonds’ mistress to know he was abusing steroids. Just look a the pictures; they reveal the truth. His body type transformed from a lithe 175 lbs to a linebacker-sized 240 lbs by the end of his career. You can weight lift till the cows come home without those type of gains. Moreover, he needed a larger cap as a Giant. “If it does not fit you must convict.”

He’s been gully in the court of public opinion since he started amassing huge biceps and home run totals after his 35th birthday. At the end of this trial, when he is (hopefully) incarcerated for lying to a Grand Jury, Bud Selig should have his home run records removed from the book and Hank Aaron take his rightful place on the mountaintop. And, I should have been one of those office workers from my hometown Albany, that won the $315 million mega bucks recently.

Enjoy the season Mets fans. Keep the faith.