Monday, April 04, 2005

Applying the Blinders Once Again

I suppose it's time, what with Pedro warming up as we speak, to weigh in on the 2005 New York Mets. It's lots more fun to rag Rob and his Red Sox, but there's a job to do here.

Ah, Opening Day. Much has been written over the years about the sense of renewal that this days brings year after year. The clean slate, the fresh start, the new day rife with new opportunities for success. That's what most see. I, of course, am already into Cynical Mode -- about three months early this year, and I see the cart's wheels already loosening.

In the modern age of free agency, there have been exponentially more cases of foolhardy optimism. We're duped time and time again by our own fallible pseudo-wisdom like "at this point, any change is good," "well, they must know what they're doing," and "there has to be something going on that we don't know." We instinctively bite on the notion that you get what you pay for, and that dollars spent = results achieved. We acknowledge but ultimately ignore warning signs along the way. If a pitcher has a mostly torn labrum, fading stats and an enormous contract, well then quite clearly, that pitcher will be a Cy Young candidate. Naturally.

The last few years have beaten me into this permanently embittered state of Mets fanship, one that skews all good news into sour retorts. Between the Mo Vaughn-sized busts (that's big enough to make Russ Meyer jealous), the prospects that never lose that title, and the misguided management, all of my optimism was delusion. The lingering bile from the last few seasons of baseball has spoiled this Opening Day for me. I have clear images in my head of Beltran in the middle of the pack, Pedro on the DL, Piazza tailing off even more -- and a disaster behind the plate, a slew of injuries, and another underachieving year. Again, I'm not sandbagging this bet with Rob, but 83 wins is as high as I can see the Mets finishing. Maybe it's this pessimism that has biased my prediction, but I just feel like we've been here before.

What worries me most about this season? Is it the startling lack of depth on this club? (The bench consists of Eric Valent, Chris Woodward, Ramon Castro, and Miguel Cairo. Yikes.) Is it the bucket of swill that comprises the bullpen? (But I love that we have Felix Heredia as our blogosphere's punching bag already. This could get good.) Is it the nagging injuries that face every team but seem to plague the Mets consistently? Is it the subconscious dread that the owners may strong-arm Omar into a bad trade? Is it that already there are a few questionable transactions in the log for 2005? Is it that the escalated payroll makes the Mets unquestionable targets for the line of bashing I used to front? Is it that the division may be merciless, or at least significantly more difficult to muddle through than the cakewalk that was the first half of 2004? Who can say, really, what is most worrisome when there are so many things to consider?

What doesn't worry me? David Wright batting eighth. Much has been written about why his placement at the bottom is unfair and unwise, but I'm not worried. He hasn't even played a full season -- this tiny swallow of the rookie treatment isn't going to hurt him. There will be a very easy way for him to move up. Hit his way there. Also not worrying me is the legion of players in Norfolk perhaps better than their Shea-bound counterparts. The Tides look better than they have in years, and this can only be a good thing. There are rising stars top to bottom in the farm system; we know a few may turn out to be Escobars, but as long as some of them live up to their early toutings -- and the think tank stops sending them away for middling starters, we'll be okay.

Well, there really isn't much more cause for prognostication at this point. Game on. Now that I've established that I don't believe in the '05 Mets, it'll take exactly one pitch before I revert to my old self.

Pitch 1: A called strike to Jose Reyes.

The Mets are going all the way this year. 85 wins is the bet. Wild Card. World Series. It's all there for them.

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