I don’t know about you – but I’m excited about this year. Okay, so I’m excited about the start of every baseball season, but this year is different. This year there is that nervousness that’s been missing. This year there is that “what if?” factor. This year there are higher expectations.
The past few seasons of Mets baseball have been like going to the local high school production of “Guys and Dolls” – heading in, you have absolutely no expectations, you’re just getting out of the house, you’re hoping that you’ll see something you can sincerely cheer and clap for, but you know that you may see something pretty painful and awful, and you know that the odds of seeing Broadway is a fleeting dream at best.
But this year is different.
We have some big names on the marquee. We have bright lights on the stage. We’ve seen some of the performers in some pretty darn good roles and we’re hopeful that this cast of characters has what it takes to put together a great ensemble cast that will put together a long run instead of having the curtain close prematurely.
So yes, I’m excited. I’m nervous, too. The last few seasons haven’t disappointed me. After all, if you don’t have any expectations, you can’t be disappointed. I haven’t been disappointed by my Mets since 2008 when they were eliminated by postseason play on the final day of the season.
After two straight season ending failures, I didn’t have any expectations for 2009 when Citi Field opened. Not only were we coming off two epic collapses, we just got kicked in the balls by Bernie Madoff. The Mets lived up to my serious lack of expectations by finishing with a 70-92 record. Sure, they teased a bit that year and were three games over .500 as late as June 25th before getting swept by the Yankees at home, but any real hope was already long gone with Jose Reyes mired on the disabled list. Luis Castillo’s dropped ball on June 12th pretty much summed up what it was like to be a Mets fan.
Come 2010, even Obi-Wan Kenobi couldn’t provide any hope, but by then I was OK with it and coming to grips with it. I mean, c’mon – when your opening day lineup included Alex Cora leading off and playing shortstop, Gary Matthews, Jr. in center field and Jeff Francoeur in right, did you really expect me to have any expectations?
But like I said, I was OK with it by then – I was beginning to indoctrinate my oldest one into Mets fandom and began taking her to games (which I know she will someday curse my name for doing it) and my goal was to just get out of the house and enjoy time with my kid. The team actually improved that year to 79-83, but still finished a distant fourth, 18 games out of first and 12 out of the wildcard. They were never really in it and no one believed, even when the team was 10 games over .500 and in second place as late as July 6th.
The team stumbled going into the All-Star Break and collapsed afterward. All this collapse did was confirm to the fan base that the team would couldn’t keep it up to the end, just like they couldn’t in 2007 and 2008. No need to get excited, nothing to see here, folks. Ya Gotta Believe it wasn’t. Actually, we did believe – we believed the inevitable would happen, which it did. We believed Jason Bay would collect a paycheck, which he did. Oh, and we had the Oliver Perez nonsense.
After 2010, Omar Minaya was ushered out and Sandy Alderson was brought in to clear payroll and save the Wilpons from themselves. The glory days of 2006 were in the rear view mirror and entering 2011 we were now four seasons away from that last playoff appearance, and expectations were lower than ever. The team stumbled out of the gate and was 4-11 by April 16th after dropping 7 straight and getting swept in two straight doubleheaders against the Rockies and Braves. It was the same old Mets. Yes, R.A. Dickey got us back to .500 after beating the Yankees on May 20th, but we were never in it.
Then came 2012 and the Payroll Purge. Nearly $50 million in payroll came off the books as Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Francisco Rodriguez were gone. We found some good performances in our own high school version of “West Side Story” as Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in franchise history, R.A. Dickey won 20 games and won the Cy Young, and top prospect Matt Harvey made his debut. But once again, there were no expectations. Attendance dropped to 2.2 million good for only 11th in the National League as disgruntled fans stayed away.
Come 2013, all we had to hang our hat on was the All-Star Game and getting David Wright to start in front of his home crowd… oh, and there was a ton of electricity when the Dark Knight took the mound. But we knew the season was all about some sizzle, but no substance. Sandy Alderson declared “What outfield?” during the Hot Stove season and once the All-Star excitement was gone, we were left to dream about 2014, the season where we were finally expected to move towards contention. Then the news came… Matt Harvey. Elbow. Devastation. So much for 2014.
So last year became another year where the goal was to go to Citifield, have a good time with your kids, and just enjoy the National Pastime. But this year is different. We have Harvey, Wheeler and deGrom. We have a healthy David Wright. We have our own version of the Nasty Boys in the bullpen. We’re ready to believe. We need to believe. I want to believe.
I’m hoping for a blockbuster. I don’t want Howard the Duck. Damn those dreaded expectations.