Spring, Hope, and the New York Mets
- Updated: February 2, 2014
My least favorite portion of the year is coming to a close: the no-baseball portion. Like many baseball fans, I’ve been counting down the months, weeks, and now days until our beloved pitchers and catchers report to their camps. I spend all winter anticipating those first sunny photographs of the Mets players as they arrive in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
While there are no games being played, I find myself pouring over the team information online. I scan through the 40 man roster, the list of non-roster invitees to spring training, the list of off-season transactions, and any other articles I can lay my eyes upon. I can’t help but come across articles detailing the predictions for each team in Major League Baseball. Honestly, reading those predictions usually amuses me. They are often written well before the off-season transactions have been completed in full. In addition, every year, there are teams who perform well above or below what these prognosticators expect. That is one of the things that makes baseball fascinating, in my opinion: What you see on paper, and what actually happens are not usually one and the same. I remember at the outset of the 2013 season, I heard a lot of predictions of a Blue Jays-Nationals World Series. In baseball, you just never know.
Before I go any farther here, I must put this out there: I have been told that I am the most positive Mets fan alive. Usually, it comes across as more of an accusation, because people can’t believe and are quite shocked, apparently, that a Mets fan can be so positive. My response is this: I am very aware of the issues that our roster is facing. I am aware of the weak spots, the shortcomings, the problematic areas that we’ve seen, and may see again during the 2014 season. I am also aware of the strengths we have, and I choose to focus a larger amount of my time thinking about those things. So now that you’ve been warned, I will proceed. I’d say this might be my response (my long-winded response) if someone asked me why they should have hope for the Mets to have a solid 2014 season. Well, here’s why.
Article after article can be found online about where the Mets’ starting rotation stands, as we head into the new season. Let me tell you, I am fairly excited about this topic. We already know we have the young Zack Wheeler, poised to have his first full season with the club. He appeared to be gaining in confidence and dominance as he finished out the 2013 season. It would not surprise me in the least to see his K total growing with each start, throughout the season. With Mr. Harvey unavailable most likely all season (despite his statement that he hoped to return at the tail end of 2014), Wheeler is under more pressure, but is also given the opportunity to make a big statement about where he belongs in the rotation. I am extremely eager to watch how his season unfolds. He will have my full attention this season, to say the least!
The rest of the rotation looks quite promising. The acquisition of veteran righty Bartolo Colon will help fill the vacancy left by Matt Harvey’s absence (not that he will match his dominance, but will hopefully be solid and eat up the innings when he starts). Jon Niese and Dillon Gee are both becoming more consistent and dominant as their careers progress, it seems.
The remaining position in the rotation is the one that will be fun to follow during spring training. There are several starters who will be competing for that spot, including veterans John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka (please keep in mind how dominant Dice-K’s final 4 starts of 2013 were). To balance that out, of course, we have those promising young pitchers who are eager to break into the season with the big league club, as opposed to AAA (I’m looking at you, Mr. Montero and Mr. Syndergaard). Regardless of which pitcher grabs the initial 5th starting spot, we know there are more potential aces-in-training, waiting in the wings.
The rotation is one of the main story lines for the New York Mets in the 2014 season. In addition, there are so many players whose 2014 success levels remain to be seen. Many players will have a lot to prove. Of course, a prime example of that is Ike Davis. Ike is a guy that has shown us both extremes. He has shown a lot of talent and promise, but has also had some of the roughest times in the past 2 years, especially. I remember in 2012, during the last half of the season, I would watch highlight videos of the home runs he hit, and comment on what a gorgeous swing he had. Can he channel that again in 2014? I know the majority of people are skeptical (rightfully so), and the Mets management is likely in the same boat. He’s got a lot to overcome and prove this year, starting in Port St. Lucie. Ruben Tejada, the Mets young shortstop, is in a similar situation. His 2012 season had some Mets fans saying, “Jose who?” But those chants were silenced during his dismal 2013 season. Which Ruben will be appearing this year?
In the bullpen, both Bobby Parnell and Vic Black are very capable of keeping that Cholula-Meter working overtime with their pitch speeds. Mr. Parnell says he is feeling 100% after his surgery last season. A full-strength Parnell as a closer? Yes, please. Vic Black, a recent addition after the Buck/Byrd trade last year has shown much promise. He continues to work on his command, and will also be a handful for opponents in late innings.
Those are the types of variables that will be pivotal in the Mets’ success or lack of success this year. We’ve also added a legitimate outfield power threat in Curtis Granderson. Having him bat behind David Wright in the lineup should give Wright’s already solid offensive numbers a boost. Daniel Murphy has developed into one of the strongest hitters on the team, and when he is hot, he’s on fire at the plate. Mr. Murphy has also been improving his defensive skills, and will certainly continue to do so.
The outfield situation is still somewhat uncertain, but in a good way. We have several strong defensive outfielders vying to be everyday starters. Mr. Lagares showed his glove skills in 2013, and Eric Young Jr. was not only a Gold Glove finalist, but also won the NL stolen base title. The addition of strong- armed Chris Young, and competition for those positions by the AAA crew, including the sure-gloved Matt den Dekker, will make for a fun spring training (yes, I watch all those games, too!).
But, I ramble. Why hope? On Opening Day, we are in first place. There are so many story lines to follow from Spring Training, through the season. I haven’t even scratched the surface in mentioning every player and position that are deserving of discussion in 2014. There will be players who match their potential, players who even exceed expectations. There will be new faces mid-season as the AAA stars get that call. There will be those who step up when they’re needed most. Guys who had an off-season in 2013 will hopefully be back on track in 2014. New players have been added, and as I have learned from my years and decades as a baseball fan, the chemistry of a team is crucial. Let’s watch and see what they have this year. Let’s see how the reshaped roster gels and works together. Give them a chance to prove themselves, earn each win, and prove the predictions wrong. It has happened before, numerous times. It will always happen. Who is to say whether that will be the 2014 New York Mets?
I’ll be watching.